Short Attention Span Review™
The makers were trying to create a serious science fiction movie. They succeeded. Battlefield Earth is a seriously shitty science fiction movie. I suppose you could watch it as both science fiction and comedy, thus killing two birds with one stone, but don't! Avoid Battlefield Earth like the plague!! My job is done here. Peace, out (drops mic).
The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on August 21, 1998.
Here are some updated thoughts: I just re-read this old review. Uhhhh . . . did I really call the Battlefield Earth book “great?” Granted, it’s been 30+ years since I read it. Perhaps in 1998 I was using a bit of hyperbole just to try and get across how bad this movie is. It’s almost, ALMOST, so bad that it’s good. You know those types of movies. But this isn’t one of them. It’s close, but it doesn’t meet the criteria because its makers were trying to create a serious science fiction movie. They succeeded. Battlefield Earth is a seriously shitty science fiction movie.
I cannot think of a better torture than sitting through the movie (if you can call it that!) that is Battlefield Earth. Two hours of plotless narrative, annoying music, crappy special effects and two hours of a bothersome John Travolta makes this film one of the worst of the last ten years.
I read somewhere that no one in Hollywood wanted to touch this film, so John Travolta (who also acts as a producer) had to pull some chains in order to have it done. And after sitting through the film, it’s easy to see why every Hollywood honcho wanted to stay away from it. It reeks of stupidity and self-service. They have destroyed what I hear is a great book in order to make one of the worst disasters of the last decade (its worst than Wild Wild West, The Avengers and The Haunting combined). John Travolta stars as Terl, an alien from the planet Psychlo who is stationed on Earth. A thousand year earlier, the Earth was destroyed by Psychlos. Only a few humans remain, hidden in the forests and mountains. The rest of the living humans act as prisoners for the Psychlos. These mountaineers have returned to the primitive era; they act like ape men, and they look like them too. One wonders how humans could lose their ability to think and talk.
One of these mountaineers is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), an adventurer who runs away from home in order to find a better place to live. Of course, Tyler is captured by the aliens. But he won’t comply to their rules; so in order to make them more compliant Goodboy goes through a process where he is put in a machine and learns everything about his race and about the aliens who threaten humanity. Poor choice on the Psychlo’s part. Goodboy becomes so intelligent that he decides to take back his planet through an uprising.
Director: Roger Christian
Genre: Science Fiction / Comedy?
Media: Film, 117 minutes
Budget: $73 million
Year: May 12, 2000
Fine, the storyline sounds okay. It’s not great, but it is interesting. But the film is so clumsily made that the audience in the showing I saw couldn’t stop laughing. There are just too many mistakes in the film. For example, the film wants us to believe that in a couple of weeks, these cavemen could learn how to fly harrier jets! They learn how to fly through a flight simulator. The problem? There is no electricity in the crumbled building where they practice these exercises. So how can this flight simulator work? Also, these jets are over a thousand years old! Yet, they still look brand new and they function perfectly. This brings on another question; where did they get the fuel to make them function?! The film is a chain reaction of mistakes; one mistake brings on a new one, and this new ones bring on another and so on. The film is so poorly written that it never feels intelligent, nor does it feel believable. Don’t even get me started on the dialogue! The screenwriters must have been first graders, because every single character talks like a man who has an IQ of twenty.
Even the the fall back of all poor directors and producers, special effects, are not all that great. For starters, these aliens are supposed to be giants compared to men. So how do they make the actors look taller? The costume designers had them wear tall boots that look like something out of a Spice Girls video. As a matter of fact, the entire film has a direct-to-video look that, I’m sure, was not intentional. It looks cheap and badly done. The only good thing about the film are the sets, but even then, you can see that they are really miniature models.
One more comment on the film. I have to mention Battlefield Earth proves how self-centered and egocentric John Travolta really is. All the Psychlos are made to look ugly, with the actors are covered with layers of latex and make-up. But the only alien not made to look so ugly is John Travolta. He is very recognizable in this film. His is the only alien who isn’t ugly. That tells us a lot about the kind of actor Travolta really is.
How can I describe the badness of this film? The only thing I can think of is, it reeks! There’s nothing remotely smart or interesting about this film. As a matter of fact, Battlefield Earth is a lot like last year’s Wing Commander. Both were based on cult phenomenon (BE is based on a book and WC on a computer game) and both ended being terrible. Avoid this film like the plague. Instead, save your money for the upcoming Titan A.E. or for The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.