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Movie Review

Battlefield Earth

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi action

Reviewed by: Emmett W. Elliott
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults and teens
Genre:
Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Battlefield Earth poster
Featuring: John Travolta, Kim Coates, Barry Pepper, Sabine Karsenti, Forest Whitaker
Director: Roger Christian
Producer: John Travolta, Jonathan D. Krane, Elie Samaha
Distributor: Warner Brothers

“Battlefield Earth” is a sci-fi special effects dependent action flick adapted from the book of the same title by L. Ron Hubbard, whose novels formed the foundation for the Church of Scientology. The movie denigrates human life, and contains some foul language and excessive senseless violence. The sonic-booming soundtrack distracts from the action sequences. Compound the noise with the numerous flashy effects, tilted camera angles, and an irrational screenplay, and you may empty the aisle with a migraine.

Director Roger Christian presents the post-apocalyptic tale about primitive humans staging a revolt against their evil alien oppressors. In the year 2000, the alien “Psychlos” conquered Earth destroying most of God’s creation. The movie picks up in the year 3000. Earth remains a vast wasteland, and humanity exists on the brink of extinction surviving as spear-carrying hunters and gatherers or as slaves to the sinister Psychlos.

Scene from Battlefield Earth (photo copyrighted).

The hero of the movie is the grunting Johnnie (Barry Pepper) who abandons his female, Chrissie (Sabine Karsenti), to see the world. Along the way, Johnnie encounters fellow scantily clad hunters: Rock (Michel Perron) and Carlo (Kim Coates). They are quickly captured by the Psychlos and compelled to labor in the “Human Processing Center.” While in captivity, Johnnie assumes the role of Moses to deliver the human slaves from the bondage of Pharaoh. I mean from the bondage of the disgruntled chief of security and Psychlo road scholar, Terl (John Travolta).

As “fate” would have it, Terl’s ridiculous executive assistant Ker (Forest Whitaker) detects a gold deposit in Colorado. They withhold this discovery from their superior, Zete (Michael Micrea), and devise a treacherous plan: instead of using Psychlo labor use the “rat-brains” to mine the gold since no Psychlo would suspect such a stupid endeavor. To teach the “man-animals” how to mine, Terl beams a Psychlo education into Johnnie’s brain. Johnnie receives too much knowledge, however, after Terl drops him off at the Denver Public Library where Johnnie is left to read a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence!

Johnnie’s newly acquired information amounts to a single human’s evolutionary leapfrog over the Psychlos. He outwits the Psychlos by organizing the humans to gain “leverage” over Terl. While the crude humans gather enough “leverage” to win the battle between the survival of the fittest, Johnnie buys them valuable preparation time. Instead of the humans having to mine for the gold, Johnnie simply flies out to Fort Knox where countless bars of gold await him.

The nonsense proceeds at an exponential rate. For example, Terl informs Johnnie that the Psychlos annihilated Earth’s defenses in a measly nine minutes. Later in the movie, Johnnie locates a military base full of pristine fighter jets with ample firepower to combat the improved technology of the Psychlos! Never mind boot camp, the scruffy revolutionaries become flying aces within a mere seven days of “learning machine” training! The laughable revolution unfolds at warp speed as loincloth wearing “man-animals” repeatedly proclaim “piece-uh-cake” throughout the final battle.

Travolta may hope for a toned down sci-fi version of “Pulp Fiction,” but the awkward stilt-walking Psychlos (complete with decayed teeth, vampiric press-on nails, and facial stubble) are so uncool sporting dreadlocks and nose-clamps that the gorillas from “Planet of the Apes” remain more credible captors. Add all of the silliness together and “Battlefield Earth” is a solid contender to win the dubious distinction for being the “Wild Wild West” of the year 2000. The movie relies completely on special effects, but the grossly flawed plot mutates the big bang of “Battlefield Earth” into a galactic dud. Now, where did this “rat-brain” place his aspirin?


Viewer Comments
A novel and a movie are not synonymous. So comparisons of this movies with the novel of the same name are pointless. They are not interdependent. Special effects don’t create compelling drama. And a foolishly plotted script coupled with apparently requisite bad acting and ridiculous production design make this a waste of time and money for anyone who cares about cinema. This is just another movie that posits a world without God, a world in which good and evil are interchangeable. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Michael, age 39
This movie was just way to cool, I liked it and I would reccomend it to most people (except little kids, they might be scared of some scenes.) There is very little profanity and no sex, I thought it had a great story line, the acting was a bit bad, but the story made up for it. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Paul, age 16
I don’t think this movie was as bad as all of that. Yes, the noise was irritating. But I read “Battlefield Earth” years ago and did not feel let down by the movie. The problem I think is that not many people have read the book, and it is hard to condense a 1,000 page tale into a 2 hour movie. My Ratings: [3/3]
—C. Slimp, age 29
All of our family have read the book, except for our 17 year old son. Although it makes a few vague religious references, in the main the book is just a great story. So we were excited, if cautious, about the movie. Recommendation: If you’ve read the book, don’t waste your time on the movie, it bears very few similarities, and indulges in many of the absurdities mentioned in the review. In addition, the characters were barren, absolutely one dimensional. The whole feel of the movie was dark. The only one of us who thought the movie was okay was our 17 year old son, but like I said, he hasn’t read the book. If you absolutely have to see this movie, save your money and rent it when it comes out on video. My Ratings: [2½/1½]
—Melinda Hubl, age 39
This film reminds me of so many B rated movies that never made it to the big screen. It was a waste on money. Dark, it only made you wonder what evil thing was next. Hard to even cheer for the good guys. Don’t waste your money or your time. My Ratings: [1½/1½]
—John Fox, age 47
Sci-Fi fans will be very disappointed at the latest offering from Warner Brothers “Battlefield Earth.” It is a very dark and depressing apocalyptic view of Earth… There is not a lot of scientology in this film… full of worn out clichés, poor dialogue, and the special effects look like George Lucas had a garage sale. The costumes also lack originality and Star Trek fans will easily make the comparison of Psychlos to Klingons. The movie opens with the statement “Man Is an Endangered Species.” It goes on to talk about gods and demons. The remnant of humans are convinced that the gods have left them and they are dedicating their lives to please them so they will come back… The violence in the film is dark and brutal… The other negative elements include scenes with alcohol consumption. On the positive side, there is very little language and one sexual innuendo. These positive elements to not justify viewing this film… My Ratings: [2/1]
—Douglas Downs, age 44
…The acting was very bad, John Travolta was a terrible actor and didn’t take his part seriously at all as well as all the other actors… It was a bad movie. I didn’t see what all the hype was about… The special effects were pretty impressive, but that was the only thing decent about the movie… I didn’t find it preachy as I thought it would [in Scientology]… My Ratings:[2/1]
—Sam Rhodes, age 25
…Travolta’s ego stroking mugging pretty much destroys any hope the film has of succeeding, which is ironic, because his determination to get the film made is about the only reason it exists… There was some controversy before the release of this film, mainly due to the fact that Travolta is a devout Scientologist, and that the novel the film is based on is seen by some as a Scientology primer. In terms of objectional content, there are no significant Scientology based undertones, and only a handful of cuss words scattered throughout the film. The only sexuality in the film is a scene when Terl shows off his administrative assistant (Travolta’s wife, Kelly Preston, under a lot of makeup) to a Psychlo colleague. He has her show the colleague her sizably long tongue, which she darts out toward his crotch area in order to get across the point of how it could be effective in the bedroom. Otherwise, the film has no other morally objectional aspects, unless you count wasting millions of dollars on a terrible movie to be amoral… My Ratings: [3/1]
—Nick Graham, age 20
Movie Critics
John Travolta and his fellow nine-foot tall aliens look like a bad cross between the restyled Klingons from ‘Star Trek’ and the platform shoe wearing members of the rock group KISS… Violence… extreme… While some dismemberment takes place… there’s nearly no blood or gore (although a previously severed head is briefly seen)…
—ScreenIt
John Travolta, celebrated Scientologist and actor, has for many years desired to bring the sci-fi novel BATTLEFIELD EARTH, written by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, to the big screen. Now that he has, it is difficult to imagine anyone else sharing his enthusiasm for the project…
—Michael Elliot, Crosswalk
…Since I began writing reviews, I have never walked out on a film, but Battlefield Earth would have been a contender had I been so inclined…
—James Berardinelli, Reel Views
…violence in the film is excessive and exploited to entertain…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…a bombastic concoction of miscued camp and underachieving action. Travolta is only intermittently engaging as the chief imperial alien, and the FX, while passable, can’t improve the flavor of this cinematic vat of cheese…
—E Online
…‘Battlefield Earth’ is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way. The visuals are grubby… This movie is awful in so many different ways…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…truly an insta-camp idiot’s delight… proves that even members of the $20 million-per club can push audience goodwill to the breaking point…
—Variety