Board game movies have been a hot topic the past few days, thanks in no small part to the trailer debut of Battleship. That Hasbro classic was just one of seven titles all set for the big-screen treatment at Universal – except now that list of titles is smaller.
Deadline is reporting that Universal dropped a third title from the monumental 2008 deal: Gore Verbinski’s take on Clue now joins Magic: The Gathering and Monopoly (which is still being developed by Hasbro as a potential directing project for Ridley Scott…) as board game movie projects looking for a new home.
The timing of the move to dump Clue seems a little odd – and our initial reaction was that Universal was cooling off on the idea of board game adaptations given the reaction to the Battleship trailer (which many heckled for not only including a Transformers-esque alien spacecraft, but also for Taylor Kitsch’s awkward facial contortions), but the studio says this is not the case. Instead, Universal insiders tell Deadline that the studio has decided to narrow their focus down to the four films that work best for them.
That list features adaptations of Battleship, Candy Land (which the writers are describing as “like Lord of the Rings, with edibles”), Stretch Armstrong (Taylor Lautner is attached to play the rubbery title character – seems almost fitting), and Ouija, which takes the ever popular parlor toy and builds a horror film around it without Tawny Kitaen.
What does this mean for Verbinksi and his planned film version of the popular sleuthing game? Not much, as it turns out. While Universal is out, Hasbro is now funding the development of the project alongside Verbinski’s Blind Wink production company. The film has hired writers (Flash scribes Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama) and Verbinski still intends to direct. Early word is that the script retains the murder mystery vibe of the board game, but makes it bigger – moving beyond the mansion and placing the story on a global stage.
Any concerns that the Universal/Hasbro relationship was showing signs of strain appear to be unfounded. Hasbro is apparently okay with these decisions because it allows the game-maker -- who became an instant Hollywood player thanks to the success of Transformers and G.I. Joe -- to develop these projects on their own, then return to the studios. Adapting a board game into a feature film isn’t easy (as Battleship so capably demonstrates), and it seems like Hasbro wants to make sure their vision of what these titles represents makes it to the screen. These moves give them that opportunity.
That being said, the whole burgeoning “board game to movie” subgenre’s future lies heavily on the shoulders of Battleship. If Peter Berg’s $200 million film bombs, the road to the silver screen becomes infinitely more challenging for the likes of Candy Land. While sources say that Hasbro and Universal are the best of pals at the moment, it will be interesting to see how that relationship changes should a mega-budgeted event picture like Battleship come up short at the box office and Universal cools on the idea of moving forward with these other films.