STARRING: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates, Richard Tyson

2000, 117 Minutes, Directed by: Roger Christian

Description: Adapted from the novel by sci-fi author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and set in the year 3000, the film features Travolta as a burly, dreadlocked alien from the planet Psychlo, the Psychlo security chief who conquers Earth and hatches a secret scheme to steal all the gold from Fort Knox (which sits conveniently in wide-open vaults).  Barry Pepper (the praying sharpshooter from Saving Private Ryan) is Jonnie, the human slave who leads an uprising against Terl's tyranny.

If Hollywood's maxim is that no one ever grew poor from underestimating audiences' IQs, then Battlefield Earth must be their wet dream project. It is a movie made for five-year-olds, by five-year-olds. The movie calls for cavemen (like in Quest for Fire, only cleaner) to learn to fly 1 000-year-old Harrier jets within seven days.

It has characters calling each other "rat brain", an insult any five-year-old playing on the schoolyard would find amusing. Watching Battlefield Earth is akin to a fall I recently had on my mountain bike. I saw the whole accident play off in my mind's eye milliseconds before it actually happened.

Thanks to endless bad reviews I read beforehand I had an idea of what to expect. However I still couldn't believe my eyes while watching it, my jaw hung slack in amazement and I couldn't help but laugh aloud at the screen in sheer disbelief. (The last time I laughed this loud at a film's underestimation of its audience was Godzilla.)

Critics proclaiming Battlefield Earth to be the worst movie ever have undoubtedly not watched straight-to-video crud such as Beowulf and Future Fear lately. What is incredible is that it is a big budget film bankrolled by a major studio starring an A-list actor (John Travolta) and not some tax write-off.

" . . .expects one to have the unquestioning and uncritical mental capabilities of a five-year-old . . ."

Didn't anyone stand up at a production meeting to say that the script is idiotic? That the movie steals unashamedly from countless other sci-fi movies? (Some set designs of buildings resemble those of Blade Runner, the aliens not only look but behave like the Klingons in Star Trek, the jets fighting the alien invaders were taken from Independence Day, which in turn stole it from the Death Star attack in Star Wars, that the teleported bomb to blow up things real good comes from StarGate.)

That Battlefield Earth would be such an unoriginal movie is no surprise when one considers the source material: it is based on the 1 000 plus page space opera best-seller written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1980s.

Like Scientology, the Battlefield Earth novel also expects one to have the unquestioning and uncritical mental capabilities of a five-year-old. (At the risk of being forever flamed by irate Scientologists I must admit that I tried reading it once, but decided after 130 or so pages decided that life is too short to waste on such bad prose.)

Defenders of the book will nit-pick on minor details to claim that the movie isn't true to the book - from what I gather the movie's biggest problem is that it is faithful to the material that inspired it. The only reason one can think of why Hollywood would film this stinker is that it is secretly run by Scientologists.

Some site visitors and I recently had a discussion on this site's discussion boardroom about how extremely bad reviews make one expect the worst from a movie and how one is sometimes surprised that a movie you've been expecting the worst of simply isn't all that bad. Then again, one has been expecting the worst. As example they used The Postman.

Another example I can think of is the negative reaction towards The Phantom Menace, a movie I found rather enjoyable (despite its flaws). One participant later admitted after seeing it that, yes, Battlefield Earth was as bad as the critics said it was. "For once the critics were right," he grudgingly admitted. Yet nothing can truly prepare one for it . . .

One and a half star rating? Like I said, Battlefield Earth would appeal to five-year-olds who would no doubt be enthralled by the film's sheer spectacle of special effects and its very loud soundtrack. Take one today - actually Battlefield Earth should be seen to truly appreciate what a grand folly it is.


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