In the year 3000 the Earth has been under the control of the Psyshlo’s. Humanity has been enslaved to find gold for the Psychlo’s, but a revolt is about to happen that the Psychlo’s are not aware of.
Director: Roger Christian
Cast: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates, Sabine Karsenti, Michael Byrne
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi action
Fun Fact: John Travolta offered the director job to Quentin Tarantino originally, but Tarantino declined.
When L. Ron Hubbard’s novel Battlefield Earth was released in the 80’s, talks of a film adaption where in the works. John Travolta, who is a Scientologist, wanted to make the film badly. This was Travolta’s passion project as in that he had everything in place for a long-term plan. The novel is over 1,000 pages and Travolta wanted to make two movies and have him portray the novel’s hero. The project would remain in developmental hell until released in the year 2000.
For starters, Battlefield Earth is a disaster of epic proportions. It doesn’t even belong in the so bad that its good type either. Every decision made is the wrong one from the script, acting, and every technical aspect of it. Almost every shot of the cinematography is at an angle or a close-up. It doesn’t have any substance or creativity as it feels bland and boring with every shot at an angle. All the action scenes are in slow motion and at a close up. It was obvious that the filmmakers also saw The Matrix and decided that was also the direction that this movie should take. It makes it worse because the action is hard to see that you are going to get confused at what is going on. Most of the cuts have a curtain wipe to them and while that can be a creative thing for a few scenes, it’s overdone here. This film is trying way too hard to be like Star Wars and I can see why because the director, Roger Christian, worked on various Star Wars film and John Travolta wanted this movie to be as big or bigger than Star Wars. This film is also unpleasant to look at because all the colors are a dark green, blue, or purple that it’s disgusting as an art form. The music is the weird and awful drone sounding mess that doesn’t heighten the tension in any of the action scenes.
The script calls for a basic alien invasion story that the planet is taken over and the humans rise to defeat the villains. I have never read the novel, but this looks like what the novel was portraying. I’m all for a story like that, but I need to have characters that I can get behind and a story that’s interesting. Our hero played by Barry Pepper, is one of the worst I’ve seen in a while. He doesn’t have any qualities to make him a hero. He doesn’t become a hero through his actions, but through this learning machine that the Psychlo’s have that they don’t even use to learn about humans. John Travolta plays the lead villain Terl. He doesn’t look menacing because he has dreads, and platform shoes that make him look like a rejected member of the rock band KISS. All his traits are him drinking in a bar, greedy for money aka gold, and laughs at everything. In fact, all the Psychlo’s are like that, non-menacing, look the same, and laugh at everything. This movie should’ve been called Evil Laughter: The Movie. Pepper and Travolta have no chemistry on screen together. There is no tension or wanting to root for the hero to overcome the obstacles. Travolta’s character keeps calling Pepper’s character rat brain. After the tenth time hearing that, I started tuning out because for one it’s a lame insult and kids on a playground can make a better insult than that. When you get a script horribly written then expect annoying dialogue.
While Travolta and Pepper are on screen, they try to over act each other. It’s not that type of over acting that makes it enjoyable and funny to watch, but the worst performance of all-time type. When shooting the film, did Roger Christian only use the first takes? Did they want to rush movie to theaters to make money? There are so many questionable choices made in this movie no wonder it has the legacy that it does.
Overall, Battlefield Earth is a giant mess. It’s unpleasant to look at every technical decision that was made is the wrong one. Travolta and Pepper lead the cast in two horrible performances that feel like they were shot on the first take. The action is hard to see and having every shot at an angle makes it bland and unexciting. It doesn’t have any excitement or flow for anyone to care about. The script is horribly written, and it doesn’t have the tension that is needed for a film to be enjoyable. Like stated before, this was John Travolta’s passion project and it shows that not all passion projects should be made.