Will critics sink Battleship? Though they've dropped an arsenal of damning reviews on the film, the $200 million behemoth seems destined for a Transformers-sized opening at the box office, says The Hollywood Reporter. Based none-too-tightly on the Hasbro board game of the same name, Battleship finds Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgaard, Liam Neeson, and Rihanna engaging in naval warfare against a fleet of grumpy space aliens. Explosions dutifully follow. (Watch a trailer below.) Does the widely excoriated film, which begins midnight screenings Thursday, have any redeemable qualities? Here, six things the kinder critics managed to praise:
1. The magnificently relentless barrage of effects
The special effects are legitimately impressive, says Alex Suskind at Moviefone. There are "breathtaking views from space, eye-popping explosions," and a terrifying attack sequence set in Hong Kong. The relentlessness of Battleship's crash-boom effects is "so utterly shameless that it achieves a certain grandeur," says Nick Pinkerton at The Village Voice. "Every generation needs an Armageddon."
2. Amusingly cheesy dialogue
"If you love laughing at lines like, 'You say E.T. wants to phone home?'" then "you're in for a real treat," says Suskind. Other choice, risable lines, notes Megan Lehmann at The Hollywood Reporter: "Let's see if we can buy the world another day!" and, of course, the ominous, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
3. The payoff involving Battleship the game
An alien-invasion-naval-warship-romance-battle-epic will remind few people of the plastic pegs kids use to play the eponymous board game, says Bill Goodykoontz at the Arizona Republic. But the movie does give a "funny nod" to the game's "E-4," location-guessing strategy. "I won't spoil how," says Suskind, but just know that the reference is there, "and it's glorious."
4. Friday Night Lights nostalgia
Director Peter Berg also helmed Friday Night Lights, the expertly nuanced television series, says Goodykoontz. Against all odds, tiny hints of his understated FNL style show up in the noisy Battleship, which help elevate it slightly above Transformers-level dreck. But the best part: He cast fellow FNL vets Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons in the film, and it's a trip to see them acting with each other again.
5. The homage to the Navy
Though the implausible enemy is an alien race, the naval combat strategy depicted in Battleship is engrossingly real, says Roger Ebert at his blog. As such, says Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, the film serves as "an unexpectedly sincere salute" to the U.S. Navy. Berg even employed former U.S. Navy Sailors as extras, says Suskind. "There's nothing more patriotic than that."
6. Liam Neeson
"We can only thank God for Neeson, who lends more authority and vigor to the film than it deserves," says Pete Hammond at Box Office Magazine. The Oscar-winner plays the commander of the Navy's Pacific fleet, who also happens to be the father of the girl Kitsch's character has his eye on. "Too bad he's so underused."