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BATTLEFIELD EARTH - ISHTAR OF THE APES?


Critics actually prefer bad movies. They are much more fun to write about - which is why critics must be secretly thanking Warner Bros. and actor John Travolta for having made Battlefield Earth. 

I can't remember the last movie that was this badly mauled by the critics in a feeding frenzy - probably Showgirls, or maybe Waterworld. Of course, reviews of bad movies are more fun to read as well, which is why I gathered all these excerpts from several reviews of what one critic referred to as "Ishtar of the Apes"  . . . 

 "Battlefield Earth" is one of the worst films ever made. It's that simple. It's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" made with 60 million dollars. Had Ed Wood actually made it, people would expect an apology. When the cultural impact of this fiasco finally sinks in, John Travolta will be lucky if he can get a job plucking the gray hairs out of Ron Palillo's ass.

The only thing I can figure out is that the Church of Scientology decided that they wanted to ensure nobody else joined up. This movie is like watching the Pope accidentally catch on fire while giving Easter Mass. If that's not a time to rethink your spiritual choices, what is?

The primary special effect in the movie is accomplished by filling buckets with dirt and pieces of concrete and then tossing them across the screen. Director Roger Christian has a hard-on for flying dirt like you would not believe. The guys who wrote this should be forced to dictate everything for the rest of their lives so that they can never again touch pen to paper or finger to keyboard and declare themselves writers. If Christian can get a job as a Sears portrait photographer after this movie, Congress should make the use of cameras punishable by death. Every single scene is at an angle, which gave me the urge to slide off my chair and smash my skull into the floor. Action scenes look like they were shot inside a paint mixer.

If egos were farts, one imagines John Travolta could destroy an entire planet himself by devouring a single frozen burrito. That this film even got made is clearly one testament to that fact, and that they're already planning a sequel is another.
-
Mr Cranky Rates the Movies

Pretty much the "Showgirls" of sci-fi shoot-'em-ups, the new John Travolta starrer proves that even members of the $20 million-per club can push audience goodwill to the breaking point -- and that point may soon be synonymous with "Battlefield Earth." Few career revivals have enjoyed as heartfelt a welcome as that attending Travolta's when "Pulp Fiction" ended his long slump six years ago. But this bombastic, frantic, frequently ludicrous "dream project" of the actor (for which he takes co-producer credit with his manager, Jonathan Krane, and Elie Samaha) is truly an insta-camp idiot's delight. Pic could reap OK coin, given its heavy marketing push and turbo-action nature, but there may not be enough undiscriminating young male viewers in the world to recoup costs. There's also another hurdle: Contrary to prior evidence, it is possible to make a popcorn pic too dumb for the peanut gallery.
- Variety.com

The first thing to talk about with "Battlefield Earth" is not the subliminal messages allegedly sneaked in by the Church of Scientology. (If they're there, they don't work.) Nor is it John Travolta's unintentionally (I presume) hilarious performance as a villain who's part community-theater Iago and part Rastaman pimp. It's hair. There's more of it in this movie than in the sink trap at Supercuts.
- Andrew O'Hehir,
Salon

Scientology is supposedly about unblocking yourself and opening the road to success, which is sort of what happens to the movies' hero, Jonnie, one of a planet of human slaves, suffering for the past 1,000 years under the yoke of the fiendish Psychlos. And Travolta plays the worst Psychlo, Terl, somewhat in the sneering style of Vincent Price. Whenever he plays a particularly mean joke or evil trick (which he calls "gaining leverage") he laughs boisterously. So does Whitaker's Ker. In fact, most of the Psychlos spend much of the movie laughing fiendishly, often at the antics of the humans whom they consider incapable of thought.
- Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

The Psychlos make the situation look very dire indeed, cartoonish spokesmodels for the dastardly unpleasantness that aliens will wreak upon the earth. This unpleasantness, not incidentally, resembles that narrated by L. Ron Hubbard in his Scientology tracts, in which aliens have poisoned earth and its inhabitants long long ago, and so caused the need for much "cleansing" of spirit and mind, monitored by experts for regular fees, of course.
- Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters

"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 and drab. The characters are unkempt and have rotten teeth. Breathing tubes hang from their noses like ropes of snot. The soundtrack sounds like the boom mike is being slammed against the inside of a 55-gallon drum.

Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in "The Fugitive." I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies. There is a moment here when the Psychlos' entire planet (home office and all) is blown to smithereens, without the slightest impact on any member of the audience (or, for that matter, the cast). If the film had been destroyed in a similar cataclysm, there might have been a standing ovation.
- Roger Ebert

There are only two ways to react to a film this completely awful — you can either flee in abject horror, or better still, you can embrace it in all of its cheesy, stupid glory.
 - Deseret News 

The movie also has that Dune-ish sense of a massive novel being shredded down to manageable size. Characters and references flash by without set-up or follow-through, adding to the generally incoherent nature of the thing. As was the case when Dune was released, plans for a sequel are already in the works (the movie only covers the first half of Hubbard's opus). The public never did clamor for that Dune sequel, and Battlefield Earth seems likely to repeat that story -- but then everything else about it seems like a repeat, anyway.
- Film.com (Robert Horton) 

How did this stinkbomb get made? Short answer: John Travolta's ego. Travolta has said it has been his dream to make a movie out of L. Ron Hubbard's novel, and apparently nobody in Hollywood was powerful enough to stop him.

Some will question the Scientology link -- Hubbard, of course, founded the Church of Scientology, of which Travolta is a well-known member -- and whether "Battlefield Earth'' carries any Scientology subtext. Frankly, I could barely wade through the movie's text, and am disinterested in deciphering whatever subtext is there. Few moviegoers, I suspect, will care enough to try.
- Film.com (Sean P. Means)

Let's be fair: Battlefield Earth has already taken more of a drubbing than any three movies that will be released this year largely (if not entirely) because of its connection to Hubbard and his unique religious legacy. The plain truth is that it's no more a waste of celluloid than half the other nonsense Hollywood shovels our way, and several orders of magnitude more watchable than such comparable fare as 1999's Wing Commander or last January's Supernova. Younger, less discriminating viewers (5-year-old boys) will eat it up.
-
Mr Showbiz

The summer movie season has barely begun and already it has its first 10-ton turkey. Battlefield Earth is a sluggish, soporific dud, the dreariest big-budget science-fiction adventure since Dune. The film strives for the cheeky spirit of a high-toned B-flick: It's crammed with slick-but-chintzy special effects and has a campy sense of humor. But practically every scene in the movie falls miserably, painfully flat.
-
Philadelphia Inquirer

30 minutes into this wreck of a motion picture, with thunder crashing in the sky above, the power went out, mercifully relieving me of my immediate responsibility to endure the rest of the movie. 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. On this occasion, fate and the local power grid allowed me to make an early exit without blemishing my record.
- James Berardinelli

And now the news: It is twenty two years since Ed Wood's death and nineteen more than that since Wood created what is acknowledged by many to be the worst movie of all time, Plan 9 From Outer Space. Rumor has it that somewhere six feet under Californian soil, the corpse of Ed Wood is exhibiting a huge smile of satisfaction, having heard the hysterical howls of the crowd watching Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 with Cranky. In other news, Tim Curry will curse the name John Travolta forevermore, for upstaging Frank N. Furter with his portrayal of Terl, the Psychlo.
 -
The Cranky Critic


 



 

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