So I finally got around to watching Battlefield Earth, and I have to say it wasn't as bad as I expected. Of course, given all of the abuse heaped upon this adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's most lengthy novel, it could hardly have lived down to such low expectations. It is certainly true that the film has some major problems - particularly Travolta's over-acting and a storyline riddled with inanities - but I can't deny that I didn't feel some measure of excitement watching humanity stand up in the face of alien aggression, and I don't think anyone will deny the fact that the special effects budget was money well spent. Still, as Ron White likes to say, "You can't fix stupid," and the storyline of Battlefield Earth is all kinds of stupid.
It doesn't say much for the Earth that it fell to the invading Psychlos in just nine minutes. A tall, strong, and particularly vicious race of humanoids, the Psychlos are far too paranoid, conniving, and self-serving to work well together absent the discipline of military rule. Terl (Travolta), the head of security on Earth, is the perfect embodiment of all the Psychlos' bad qualities. Angry that his intelligence and skills are being wasted on the Earth outpost, he works out a scheme that will allow him to return home filthy rich. Having discovered a rich deposit of gold in an irradiated area the Psychlos cannot enter, he experiments with training a small group of human slaves to mine the gold for him. In the year 3000, humans are a desperate lot who have reverted back to Stone Age life; those not serving as slaves live in isolated pockets of arid land, knowing nothing of their history. So convinced is Terl of humans' innate worthlessness that he gives one man, Jonnie (Barry Pepper), access to America's forgotten history after teaching him the Psychlo language.
This is where things really start getting silly. For one thing, you have to wonder why the greedy Psychlos haven't discovered all the gold in Fort Knox, especially since someone conveniently left the vault open, after all the hundreds of years they've been there. You also have to wonder why the ignorant humans don't say "Where's that?" when they're told they're going to Texas and other place names that they should have no knowledge of. Most of all, you have to question how a bunch of illiterate, caveman-level humans can learn to fly jet aircraft in the space of a week.
There are some fun bits to the movie, such as Terl's firm belief that humans will do anything he wants when offered the delicacy of a live rat, but Travolta's overacting and tendency to burst into inane laughter at any moment tend to ruin all of his scenes. And if I ever hear anyone else mention the word "leverage," I hate to think what I might do. The bottom line is that Battlefield Earth is a really stupid movie - but it's the kind of bad movie you can really enjoy laughing at. Believe me - I've barely scratched the surface of this film's absolutely ludicrous foundation. This much unintentional hilarity really shouldn't be missed.
on January 23, 2004
Few films in modern history have undergone a drubbing resembling the one endured by John Travolta's "Battlefield Earth." The star of "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease," and "Pulp Fiction" doubtless wished he never made a comeback when he read the reviews for this film. "Battlefield Earth" the movie, as everyone probably knows, was based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Since Travolta swears fealty to Hubbard's movement and is one of its most well known members, he wanted to bring the author's vision to the big screen. There's nothing wrong with that. But in an effort to lionize the leader of a controversial creed, Travolta stumbled big time. After viewing the film, I agree with the abuse critics heaped on this picture, but only to a certain extent. "Battlefield Earth" is an atrocity, a mind blasting heap o' badness best left rotting in a bargain bin at the local video store. I am not willing, however, to categorize this picture as one of the worst films in cinematic history. Fans of B movies will agree with me on this point. There are PLENTY of films out there far worse than this one.
In the year 3000, the planet earth is no longer a safe home for human beings. Some thousand years earlier, a race of hostile aliens from the planet Psychlo invaded our world and destroyed our civilization in a matter of minutes. For the next millennia, these rapacious invaders have systematically reduced the surviving humans to a state of stone age existence. In fact, the human race is dying out due to the continuing harassment of the Psychlos, who have built a base on the planet in order to mine the most precious resource known to the aliens: gold. When not hunting down humans for sport, the Psychlos plot against each other to better their position in their social hierarchy. Earth as we know it today is long gone, but there is one man who may yet rise against Psychlo tyranny and restore humanity to its rightful place on earth. This man is none other than Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), a mouthy upstart who frequently violates village rules about wandering into dangerous Psychlo territory. Predictably, Jonnie soon roams too far from the safety of his community and finds himself captured by these aliens.
The leader of the Psychlos on earth, and the creature who will soon face down Jonnie and his rapidly growing band of resistance fighters, is Terl (John Travolta). Terl is a conniving thug, always shouting and threatening his underlings--especially his assistant Ker (Forest Whitaker)--whenever he isn't brown nosing the brass during their infrequent visits to the planet. As for humans, the Psychlos never take them seriously. They treat them like animals, brutalize them, and keep them locked up in huge cages. Terl chuckles over these pitiful brutes, never realizing for a second that these "animals" are capable of complex emotions and rational thought. At some point in the film, Terl decides Jonnie possesses an ability to learn and allows the little man to plug into a machine that teaches a potential enemy everything about languages, mathematics, geometry, and weaponry. In a series of illogical leaps that stagger the imagination, Jonnie and his fellow barbarians manage to wage a successful war against Terl and the Psychlo invaders. Heck, these guys, who just minutes before could barely figure out how to sharpen a stick, successfully plan, organize, and launch a massive assault against alien hegemony. The wonder of it all!
The first part of the film had me wondering what all of the fuss was about. There were a few obvious problems to contend with, such as the chase scene in a thousand year old mall where Jonnie crashes through several panes of glass without cutting himself to ribbons (let alone the unbelievability that these glass panes could survive for a millennia with nary a crack), but these problems were little different from thousands of other movies. A few parts of the picture, particularly the very cool special effects used to create the information transmission pod that Jonnie uses to learn about the Psychlos, looked great. Even the battle sequences in the grand finale were far above average as far as science fiction movies go. So what is the problem with "Battlefield Earth," the problem that turns the stomachs of the most jaded film critics? It's simple, really. Travolta's vanity flick is dumb, even dumber than most big budget films these days.
The biggest problem is the script. There are so many plot holes in "Battlefield Earth" that even I could have done a better job. The worst stupidities occur towards the end of the film when Jonnie recruits primitive humans in order to wage war against the invaders. Tyler and his allies breeze around the former United States like they owned the place, openly planning for war against their enemies. Totally unbelievable are the scenes where Jonnie finds thousand year old military depots loaded to the brim with pristine jet fighters, tanks, bombs, firearms, and nuclear weapons. When looking for a specific page in a manual about arming a nuclear weapon, one of the illiterate human beings bumps an overhead projector, the machine comes on, and there is the one page necessary to use the nukes. Impressive coincidence or major plot disaster? You be the judge. When I saw tribal members using flight simulators so they could learn to fly jets, I wrote the whole movie off as a lost cause. These examples are only a few of the serious problems that plague the picture; I won't even mention the annoying cinematography, the ridiculous appearance of the Psychlos, or the endless sci-fi clichés that appear regularly. Only lovers of disaster films and B movie nightmares should waste time viewing this crud.
on November 3, 2003
Based on a portion of the L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi pulp bestseller, BATTLEFIELD EARTH presents the story of earth some one thousand years after it has been colonized by invaders from outer space, who seek to rob the earth of its precious metals. The human race has been almost eliminated: most have been exterminated, a few have been kept for slave labor, and a handful survive in pockets of tribal communities. When one member of a tribal society (Barry Pepper) is captured for slave labor, a combination of circumstance and personal heroism provide him with the opportunity to lead a revolt.
All that sounds very well, but there are three things wrong with the movie: John Travolta, the script, and everything else. Travolta's work has always been up and down, sometimes great and sometimes truly dire, but his appearance here as the evil invader Terl is easily the single worst performance he has given in his entire career. No matter how you look at the thing, Travolta is as much like a bad guy from outer space as banana pudding--and really, I do believe that any self-respecting dish of banana pudding could have done a better job.
As for the script, it's really one of the strangest things I've ever heard. In scenes with the aliens (called Psychlos), the dialogue actually sounds rather like a bad parody of a Noel Coward drawing-room farce. The dialogue for the humans is equally absurd, playing out like a cross between BRAVEHEART and the more uninspired pages of a Barbara Cartland novel. And while I'm willing to suspend disbelief to a certain extent, the plot has zero plausibility--even to the point of insulting viewer intelligence.
As for everything else, to give the film its due there are occasional design ideas and shots that seem interesting--but they are buried under a ton of very bad ideas that have been very badly executed. The costume and make-up designs for the Psychlos look rather like bad drag at a leather bar for the fashion-challenged, the lovely braids of our hero and his tribe seem to have been lifted from Malibu Barbie, and all the big-scale special effects are very obviously miniatures. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'd gouge my eyes out with a kitchen spoon before I'd sit through this debacle again, but I will say this much: someone would have to pay me, and even then I'd demand a remote control with a fast-forward feature.
As for the DVD package, the transfer is okay--but I did notice that the soundtrack was noticeably off for several minutes of the film, and oddly (and typically) I wasn't entirely sure if this was a flaw in the DVD or if the director/producers actually intended it to be that way! There are also several short documentaries, all of them very repetitive and very ironically self-congratulatory about what a great film BATTLEFIELD EARTH is. As for the audio commentary track, I really couldn't be bothered to sit through the movie a second time to listen to it. My recommendation? Well, if you're like me and you just have to see the film to find out if it's really as bad every one says it is... go ahead. But for all others, just trust me on this one, okay?
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on January 2, 2004
Oh what can you say, everyone else has already summarised it... without a doubt one of the worst films of all time. Based on an equally banal book. If you see it don't say you weren't warned! Not even so bad that it's good, it's past that, it's just plain bad. Bad acting, directing, pacing, a ridiculous story and plot holes the size of Jupiter.
On the plus side the disc makes a great coaster.
on February 7, 2001
Go ahead and rent it if you like Sci-Fi and like Travolta (even at his worst) and all the other movies are checked out. I actually rented it tonight for those reasons. I started laughing as soon as I saw Travolta's character on the cover, and I knew I had to see it. It was apparent from the start that it was going to be bad.
It'll keep you entertained for the length of the movie--there's enough action for that. But check your brain at the door as you watch ignorant human cave dwellers flying fully functional combat planes on fully functional fuel after just a few days in a fully functional simulator.
on April 22, 2012
Having read the book, I can say that they really butchered this movie by taking out far too much of the original story. As a result you get a story that feels rushed and incomplete. (Not to mention that to save time they took some serious liberties with the story.) It should be noted that the movie is only about the first half of the book, and even that part of it is much different in the book.
I really think that this should have been a TV series, where they could explore it all in depth over time. Each episode could have exposed a bit more, and they could have gotten four or 5 seasons out of it.
Instead you have a movie that is not awful, but it's not that good either. I'd suggest it as something to pick up on the cheap after having read the book. That way you can get a taste of how this would have played out had they followed the book more closely.
on September 18, 2011
Being made from a book by L. Ron Hubbard, I suspect Travolta's involvement in this debacle stems from his involvement in Scientology. A grade 9 student could easily have written a better script then the one made for this movie. Maybe the whole movie was a group project for Scientologists. Humans have survived being conquered and now its the year 3000 and humans are like cavemen. Somehow after one caveman gets educated he's able to teach and rouse the others to rebel against the aliens successfully. A bit far fetched. Some decent special effects. This is maybe the worst movie I've seen with an 'A' list actor headlining it, but its far from the worst movie I've seen.
This is the worst science fiction movie that I have ever seen, which is saying a lot. Shortly after it first came out, I read the book, Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, and enjoyed it. It was written in the style of science fiction in the early years of the twentieth century and had an engaging plot, although the ending was absurd.
This movie only loosely follows the book and the plot is a joke. The ending is even worse than that of the book, which was pretty bad. Giant aliens invade Earth, killing off nearly all humans and enslaving the rest. John Travolta plays the leader of the aliens, whose subordinates are very disloyal, and he has a thirst for gold. The remaining humans lay a trap with the gold at Fort Knox and manage to defeat the aliens. However, along the way the plot was so disjointed that I was not sure what was occurring.
Some ask why Travolta made this movie. If memory serves me correct, he is a follower of the Scientology religion, which was founded by Hubbard. That no doubt explains why he would be involved in such a waste of film and his acting talents.
on March 2, 2004
You would have to have a "rat brain" to enjoy this film. I still can't believe they spent $70 million to make this movie. The acting is atrocious, the special effects are simple and make Stargate SG-1's special effects look cutting-edge, not to mention that I value my personal time a lot higher than the $4 I spent on this rental. I almost gave this film an additional half-star merely for attempting to bring such a huge novel to the screen. I love science fiction films, James Cameron's "Aliens" still ranking as one of my all-time favorites, so don't think for a second that I'm trashing this just because I despise the genre. I love the genre. What I despise is low-quality filmmaking on every level, which is what we have here. After viewing this film there was little doubt as to why it shares the record for the most Golden Raspberry Awards ever won. It shares the record with "Showgirls." "This is a warning from the Emergency Broadcast System. This is not a test." If this had been a test you may have purchased this DVD. God help you if you do.
on January 21, 2004
This film should get zero stars, but for some reason Amazon apparently isn't that cruel so you have to at least give it one star.
After decades of being celebrated as the worst filmmaker ever, and having "Plan 9 from Outer Space" occupy that lofty position of worst film ever, and his film may be in danger of forever losing that status. I actually paid to see this film when it was in theaters, even though I was well aware of how it was being slammed as the worst film of the year at the time. And, boy, it easily was the worst film of that year and maybe any other.
Unlike Ed Wood's films, which at least always had this weird energy about them, this movie is just bad in every possible way. And its not one of those "so-bad-its-good," like the first Charlie's Angels film. No this is just bad all the around and worse, it's plain boring and stupid. It doesn't even merit considerationm as being campy, highI've never read the book, but if the source material is this awful, how did they ever sell more than few copies of that book?
Even more interesting is the fact that John Travolta has occasionally declared that he intends to make a sequel. If that happens I have a feeling John will be ponying up all the money out of his own pocket. And let's talk about Travolta. Has he ever done a worse acting job? Was he just on a mission to once again tank his career so that he could get around to making a decent film and claim another career revival?
Everyone attached to this film should be embarrassed. and talk about plot holes! At one point one of the aliens makes a statement along the lines of when they invaded earth, earth's defenses only lasted nine minutes. Yet late in the film, when the humans learn how to fly fighter jets, the humans take them on in the exact same equipment that had not be sufficient enough to make a war last more than nine minutes. And win!
Watch this movie only if you want to punish yourself or if, like me, curiosity gets the better of you. But whatever you do, try to watch it for free so you don't feel totally ripped off when it ends. I'm still kicking myself.