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A Tale Of Two Battleships: Universal Sues The Asylum

By Rob Payne | Industry | April 30, 2012 |

By Rob Payne | Industry | April 30, 2012 |

Finally! Universal’s big screen adaptation of Hasbro’s perpetually popular board game “Battleship” is targeting another Battleship and not wholly unnecessary space aliens, who have mastered inter-stellar travel and so ought to have no problem invading Earth and obliterating any army, even the perfection that is the U.S. army, in its path. Indeed, the studio behind director Peter Berg’s upcoming blockbuster, Battleship, is suing the latter-day Rogers Corman, Global Asylum, for its forthcoming DVD “mockbuster” American Battleship. Universal is yelling about copyright infringement, while toymaker Hasbro remains quiet — likely because the alien-invasion-premised American Battleship is probably much closer in spirit to the Battleship movie than either are to the licensed original board game.

Here’s Universal’s official statement:

“This action arises out of Global Asylum’s knowing and willful violation of Universal’s rights with respect to Universal’s highly anticipated motion picture Battleship, and Global Asylum’s blatant infringement and unfair completion in advertising and promotion for sale, in the United states and in Europe, a straight-to-DVD knock-off that features substantially similar artwork, packaging, release dates, and film trailers as Universal’s motion picture.”

You can compare the films’ artwork above and the trailers here and here. It’s also worth noting that the plaintiff’s product will be released May 18 and the defendant’s on May 22. None of this is new to the Asylum’s parody-based business model, though many of the movies they rip-off are also successful. Currently, Battleship is doing gangbusters overseas, so it’s interesting that this lawsuit is happening now. Hmm…

Here’s Global Aslyum’s official response:

“The Global Asylum has promoted the feature film American Battleship for nearly a year while Universal raised no concerns. The timing of Universal’s recently filed lawsuit coincides with mixed reviews of its big-budget film, Battleship — the first movie based on a board game since Clue. Looking for a scapegoat, or more publicity, for its pending box-office disaster, the executives at Universal filed this lawsuit in fear of a repeat of the box office flop, John Carter of Mars. The Universal action is wholly without merit and we will vigorously defend their claims in Court. Nonetheless, we appreciate the publicity.”

The unfortunate misnomer of the John Carter title aside, that’s one of the best counter-statements I’ve ever read and it serves to raise my level of respect for the schlocky studio. Yes, Global Asylum, and it’s distribution partner The Asylum, makes bad movies. Terrible movies. But they don’t hide behind that and their output is largely successful, financially, because they embrace that awfulness. It isn’t their fault people like to watch bad movies. At least they don’t pretend at quality, like so many Hollywood failures whose only real advantages are bigger budgets and brand name stars. Some times cleanliness isn’t next to godliness, shamelessness is.

And, hey, where were the lawsuits when Battle of Los Angeles was released…

…or 2012: Ice Age

…or Almighty Thor

…or Titanic II

…or Paranormal Entity

…or 100 Million BC

…or Snakes on a Train

…or The Da Vinci Treasure

…or after any number of co-opted titles and properties? This lawsuit must come down to the fact that nothing about “Battleship” is in the public domain, besides, y’know, the ships themselves. Naturally, this raises the question that could settle the entire ordeal: Who is the Liam Neeson in American Battleship, Carl Weathers or Mario Van Peebles?


My money’s on Van Peebles. Mostly because of the hat.

Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his ware can be purchased here (if you’re into that sort of thing). He almost included Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes, but realized any lawsuit would have proven the legitimate adaptation paled in comparison to the rip-off.

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