Battlefield Earth (2000)
Directed by Roger Christian
Cast: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates, Sabine Karsenti, Kelly Preston.
2000 117 minutes
Rated: (for violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 13, 2000.
Every once in a while, a film comes along that causes me to disregard all of my writing skills because, when truth be told, just thinking about it seems to notably decrease my IQ. There is no way to be intelligent when discussing a movie so repugnantly atrocious and unintelligible as "Battlefield Earth," reportedly John Travolta's dream project for ten years and based on the cult sci-fi novel by L. Ron Hubbard. Incompetent in every way possible, it is a collision course of non-ideas, zero-dimensional characters, shoddy special effects, blase performances, and a complete disregard for anything that could possibly make any kind of sense to a human being watching such an embarrassment.
The plot is fairly incomprehensible, but it goes something like this: Set in the year 3000, when "man is an endangered species" on Earth, a 9-foot-tall alien race known as the Psychlos have wiped out almost all human existence, with only a minority of earthlings left to do the Psychlos' bidding. Jonny Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper, and yes, that's his character's real name) is captured by the Psychlos, headed by Terl (John Travolta) and his henchman (Forest Whitaker), and sent to Ft. Knox to steal all of the gold that has been locked up in a vault for the last one-thousand years. I think that's some of the plot; I can't be too sure.
Thinking back on "Battlefield Earth," the movie is a giant, 2-hour haze, not only because I was struggling to keep focus on the film and not drift into slumber for the middle section, but because the picture is a jumble of already bad ideas that were made far, far worse when actually translated to film, under the phenomenally inauspicious helm of director Roger Christian. There are no characters to care about (or even get to know), the villains are disposable and unthreatening, and the action sequences about as exciting as the entirety of 1982's "My Dinner With Andre." Let's not forget the laughable matte paintings, which looked more realistic in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz." Or the screen wipes that, without fail, were used as the transition from each scene to the next, a 'la "Star Wars," ad nausea.
Prior to its release, John Travolta set off on a countrywide promotional tour to support this film, but my question is, had he even seen the finished product? Was he really there when filming was underway, or was that his evil doppleganger, out to sabotage his career a second time? You'd have to see "Battlefield Earth" to believe it, but don't, under any circumstances, see it. Some movies have the quality of being so bad they are entertaining. "Battlefield Earth," on the other hand, is so bad it's depressing. I would never throw around such words lightly, but on the evidence presented here, it may very well be one of the worst motion pictures I have ever had the misfortune of sitting through. A disaster of epic proportions!
©2000 by Dustin Putman