Battlefield Earth (Roger Christian, 2000): Canada

Reviewed by Jian Gedrick.

Tim Burton may want to consider reviving his career by directing a movie about the making of commercial and critical disaster Battlefield Earth. John Travolta’s staunch pursuit and enthusiasm for creating this infamous turkey is strongly reminiscent of Burton’s classic Ed Wood (one man’s determination in completing the movie of his dreams no matter how fantastically dreadful the outcome). In what catastrophically ignited in his face,Travolta used the ‘pinnacle of his power’ to bring this sci-fi action failure into fruition by teaming with the embezzling, independent production company Franchise Pictures, hiring Star Wars art director Roger Christian to direct, and serving as producer and lead villain.

The film takes place in the year 3000. Earth and humanity have been ruled for the past thousand years by Psychlos, a humanoid alien race led by Teryl (Travolta) and his stooge Ker (Forest Whitaker). Teryl is exploiting humans to mine for gold until one of them, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), leads a prisoner revolt against the oppressive aliens. Based on the novel of the same name by L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, public concerns were raised about whether viewers would be influenced by hidden messages of Scientology, but it was quickly realized such concerns are impractical.

The only effect one can get from watching this is tremendous disbelief at how bad it is; Battlefield Earth notoriously reaches a badness of extraordinary proportion. It is a crash and burn on every technical level: a story riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies, trashy sets and effects, ludicrous dialogue, hammy performances, cacophonous score, choppy editing and awkward wipe transitions, aliens masqueraded as grubby Rastafarians transparently trudging on four-foot lifts. Worst of all, Battlefield Earth is very off-putting to view with its incredibly unsightly visuals. This is probably the closest to what ‘gangrene vision’ would look like if it existed, yet even then the film is able to outdo itself in its ugliness by including overabundant Dutch angles and tedious slow motion.

John Travolta once claimed, “the film would be like Star Wars only better,” but there really is not a hope of successfully comparing Battlefield Earth with any sci-fi film, classic or mediocre. This is about as bad as a sci-fi film gets. Meticulous calculation would be to make a film of the same abysmal caliber. In fact, it’s so far on the lower end of the spectrum, it’s almost hard to believe Battlefield Earth and 2001: A Space Odyssey were made by the same species.



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