In the year 3000, man is no match for the Psychlos, a manipulative race of aliens on a quest for global domination. Led by the seductive and powerful Terl, the Psychlos have taken all natural resources for themselves and left mankind behind to rot. It is after humanity has given up the fight against this alien race that a young man named Tyler decides to leave his desolate home high in the Rocky Mountains and take a final, courageous stand.
Directed by: Roger Christian
. Starring: John Travolta
, Barry Pepper
, Forest Whitaker
, Kim Coates
, Sabine Karsenti
, Michael Byrne
, Christian Tessier
, Sylvain Landry
, Richard Tyson
, Christopher Freeman
, John Topor
, Shaun Austin-Olsen
, Tim Post
. Music by: Elia Cmiral
Let's get right down to it; Battlefield Earth is a terrible movie. Almost everything about it reeks of incompetence and even as dumb entertainment, it's still quite insulting. Only the extremely undemanding sci-fi action fan would enjoy this (or those under the age of 10) and even then they'd probably say it was nothing very good. Director Roger Christian and John Travolta should just get over it and stop claiming they think it's a genuinely good movie (Now that I've said that, the same goes for George Lucas, who claimed this was a good movie). So, you have to wonder why my rating for it is above star. Well, that's quite plain and simply; Battlefield Earth is unintentionally funny to a high degree. So was Batman and Robin, but it's to a more absurd effect in this movie since the actors involved actually think it might be pretty good.
The story begins in a semi-interesting fashion. It's the year 3000, and man has long been conquered by the Psychlos, an alien race out to look for gold, and Earth is a prosperous mining site. What's left of humans reside in small villages, reduced to living like cavemen. One of them, Jonnie Tyler (Barry Pepper) is dissastisfied with the way he lives, and he leaves his home and mate (Sabine Karsenti) in search of better land.
He comes across two hunters, Carlo (Kim Coates) and Rock, and they lead him into the ruins of a city, where they reside for the night in a destroyed mall. As they're feasting, a Psychlo hunts them down, kills Rock, and takes the other two as prisoners to be used as slaves in the Psychlo center, which is located in Denver.
Simultaneously, the Chief Head of Security, Terl (John Travolta), is upset with the Home Planet because he has been ordered to continue his position on Earth for another 50 cycles. He discovers a vein of gold in a mountain not far away and schemes to steal it with the help of his partner, Ker (Forest Whitaker), who is mainly to be used as a scapegoat.
Terl decides to use "man-animals" to do the mining and chooses Jonnie because he considers him the most resourceful. He places Jonnie on a Learning Machine, which gives Jonnie an indefinite amount of knowledge about Psychlo culture, language, and history. As a result, he and the other humans in captivity connive a plan to rebel and take back the planet.
Where do I begin? Let's start with the actual story. Dear Lord, I can only imagine if this were a satire or parody of science fiction films in general. I mean, take a look, the movie "borrows" from Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Independence Day, Star Trek, and The Matrix. Each element taken from each film is repeated and executed in such an awful manner, I couldn't help but laugh.
Take a look at the Psychlos, who are obviously Klingon-rejects. The first sight of one, especially Travolta and Whitaker, had me giggling uncontrollably. This was to be Travolta's masterpiece? You've got to be kidding me. Of course, I haven't even actually begun to delve into the plot.
Now, I've read the first 100 or so pages of the book and I just couldn't get through it so I'm guessing the movie and book are fairly alike. I can't imagine why the novel gets such acclaim. But, anyway, the Psychlos are such an idiotic alien species it's hard to imagine they could conquer humans, much the less the ability to teleport or transport through space. They're about 9 feet tall, which makes them pretty ineffective when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. Sure, they can hit pretty hard, but that's no good when the enemy can shoot them. Well, sure they have guns, but their aim is worse than any James Bond villain, since the only time they hit their targets is when it's a member of the "expendable" human cast, which is surprisingly pretty small for a movie called Battlefield Earth (all the fighting's in Denver, by the way).
Travolta's Terl is perhaps the biggest idiot of them all. He actually has a human being put into a learning machine, thus making him accustomed with everything Psychlo (but also teaches him Geometry at no extra cost), and he also leaves him and all his friends alone to mine some gold for two weeks, then never even bothers to question why the gold he gets is perfectly smelt, even though these people never even had the tools capable of doing so.
The climax is ludicrous (a couple of moderate spoilers here), and will surely live in major Hollywood infamy just like the conclusion(s) to Jaws: the Revenge. Basically, what we are to understand is that cavemen can learn to fly 1,000 year old harrier jets in less than a week. Boy, that means I can do the same thing, too! And since I have a significantly higher amount of knowledge dealing with technology than these men, I can learn it in all of one day! And hey, these guys even learned how to fly these ancient machines with the help of a flight simulator that seems to run on a very, very durable battery.
The final battle scene is basically a rip-off of the three-way action sequence at the end of Star Wars: Phantom Menace, and not done nearly a tenth as well. Basically, we have some aerial dogfights, some infantry combat, and our hero Jonnie taking on the villain Terl in a one-on-one fight (no lightsabers, just an explosive collar). The entire sequence, which goes on for approximately fourteen minutes, is badly directed. Director Christian shoots virtually every scene on a tilted angle and films all the gunfights in slow motion. Of course, there is that one scene where Jonnie runs down in slow-mo with the Psychlos shooting everywhere, with all the bullets collapsing pillars around him. An obvious steal from The Matrix, and I laughed hard when I saw it. How can this not be parody?
I have a couple of things to say in the movie's favor. I did like some of the overhead shots of the Psychlo center and some of the visuals are fairly impressive. The ruins of Washington, D.C. do have a grand scale to it and the movie's strive to be an epic is somewhat admirable, but all the funnier now that I recall the film's silliness. I also liked two of the performances, coming from Barry Pepper and Kim Coates, both of whom leave with most of their dignity intact. Though Coates does end up being the guy who talks in a real archaic manner in the beginning, saying things like "I see you have been fortunate in the hunt, I hope you thanked the gods" to shouting modern-day phrases by the end of the movie like "piece of cake!" and "Oh, yeah!"
Who am I kidding? That brief paragraph is probably all the nice things I have to say. The other performances are simply terrible. John Travolta and Forest Whitaker deliver probably their all-time worst performances, acting more like two goof-balls working in an office than the lead Chiefs of the Psychlos on Earth. Kelly Preston is simply laughable in her 30 second stint. Sabine Karsenti as Pepper's love interest is pretty bland, and she also looks a bit like Alanis Morrissette. Oh, yeah, and when Jonnie frees all the slaves and leads the revolt, she says to him, "I always knew this was going to be your destiny!" Hmm, anbody care to see what's wrong with that?
Battlefield Earth is, simply put, a misguided monstrosity that bombs in almost every conceivable manner. Like Dune, it takes a perfectly large sum of money and wastes it by churning out a cinematic disaster. But to Earth's credit, the fact that they seem to just be beggin for the return of MST3K gives me the chance to be slightly more lenient on them, hence the 12 rating I gave it, not to mention all those unintentional laughs.
Travolta still wants to make a sequel, and it looks like Roger Christian is willing, too. Of course, the idea will probably soon dissipate, since it's unlikely anybody will finance the film or the fact that Barry Pepper would even bother returning. Though it would be hilarious to think that if a sequel was made without Pepper, the filmmakers would just "Speed 2" the whole thing by replacing him with another up-and-coming actor and feature Chrissy acting so upset about the way her previous boyfriend just kept on acting like a wild daredevil.
Review by jiangliqings from the Internet Movie Database.