Worth A Look: 0.87%
Pretty Bad: 12.14%
Total Crap: 82.37%
13 reviews, 268 user ratings
After seeing Battlefield Earth, I truly believe that Director Roger Christian's name will go down in the annals of Hollywood--just like Ed Wood's did. Where to begin? Poor continuity? Lousy, confusing action sequences? Plot improbabilities large enough to sail the Titanic through? Lack of coherent script and dialogue. Cheap sets? Addressing all the faults of this movie, and doing an adequate job of it, would take longer than watching the movie itself.As a movie goer of long standing, a voracious reader, and a fan of science fiction, it was with keen anticipation that I recently went to see Battlefield Earth. I love summer sci fi epics and dutifully attend them. Yeah, yeah, that's right: I don't have much of a life. Anyway, I am rarely moved to express my opinion about the arts in writing, but Battlefield Earth inspired me to reach out and share my perceptions about it with the public: People deserved to be warned.
"A voyage on a sea of bad celluloid"
I read that director Christian bragged about bringing Battlefield Earth in under budget. No wonder. Believe me, in this instance, it's nothing to brag about. If you are wise, Mr. Christian, you won't put this one on your resume. Let's start with the basics of a science fiction movie: the scenery: Matte paintings are okay--some of my favorite sci fi movies from the 1950's made good use of matte paintings for background and middle ground. But this. Hey guys, ever heard of digital effects? Much scenery was obviously painted, making for very still backgrounds, and as believable as the scenery in the average senior high production. I saw one cloud sequence in at least four different shots. A Plan Nine From Outer Space homage?
I'm not going to whine about "crass commercialism," mention the vacuity of "Movies made by committee," or say that "some actors will do anything for money;" I'll leave the use of cliches' to those masters of the banal who scripted Battlefield Earth.
John Travolta chewed the scenery. Having no dialogue of any substance to work with, however, who can blame him. Yosemite Sam shows more depth of characterization and emotive output than the one dimensional role that John Travolta delivered. As a manner of fact, Travolta might have boned up on Y. Sam's performances to model his character on. To see, in one movie-going experience, both John Travolta and Forrest Whitaker turn in performances that were remarkable only for their lack of subtly, is amazing in itself. Not just any movie could achieve that. Travolta's character gives a maniacal laugh after 99% of his lines. About halfway across this sea of bad celluloid I began to laugh maniacally myself. As far as I could tell, the blame for this fiasco can be laid solely at the director's untalented feet: most scenes--action or dialogue--seemed to have been shot in one take. Under budget. Right.
Plot credibility problems? The aliens put the earth hero, Johnny Goodboy, on a learning machine to educate him and teach him their language. Immediately afterwards, he begins rhapsodizing to his fellow earthlings about the joys of the Pythagorean triangle. So, let me get this right: the alien teaching machine names a right angle triangle after an earthling who has been dead since 600 B.C.? Makes sense to me. Also, we're expected to believe that aliens with teleportation technology still have not developed good dental hygiene.
But that's not the worst. The earthlings are presented as cave people/no-tech tribal types. They are an illiterate society. Their revolt takes place approximately a thousand years after the aliens have conquered earth. Somehow, the earthling leader, Johnny Goodboy, teaches a team of these illiterates--in SEVEN DAYS--how to fly Harrier Jets and use semi-automatic weapons! But this is not the surprising part. He does so with the aid of a flight simulator. Okay, forget that it probably takes a good four hundred hours in a simulator to learn to fly a jet; instead, consider this miracle: highly volatile jet fuel, rubber hoses, engine rings, oil, electric gas pumps, computers, and all the electrical generators and other supporting parts it takes to operate them--have somehow survived for a thousand years! And without a maintenance plan!
A word to the screen writers: Jeez guys, this is really immature, inexcusably lame plotting and attention to detail. And you can't blame it on Hubbard. You guys had last call on this. Aren't you ashamed? If a novice writer sent a piece of inept, improbable plotting like this to an editor, he would get a rejection letter faster than Roger Christian could say, "Under budget."
The supporting cast/earthlings: The earthlings somehow learned to go "Woop, woop," like an Arsenio Hall crowd, when they were pleased at something. The supporting cast/aliens: The alien race is composed of sort of pseudo Klingons with a fetish for boorish, bureaucratic behavior, and a tendency toward stupidity; as well, they're big, sociopathic (if aliens can be said to share earth psychological profiles) interchangeable, expendable, deadly, move slowly, shoot badly and--dressed in long black coats and carrying automatic weapons--all too reminiscent of late twentieth century American school boys.
But it's not fair to kick at the poor extras when so many big dogs are standing around with blood on their muzzles. Besides, they're the lucky ones: their roles will be forgotten the fastest.
Favorite action scene: The revolt is on. Explosions are going off all around. Johnny Goodboy's squeeze, with her semi-automatic rifle slung over her shoulder, shouts breathlessly into a walkie talkie (how quickly these cave people adapt to modern ways) that the alien security team is "coming fast." The camera then shows an overhead shot of our leather-coated alien security force, casually walking across the terrain, in no more hurry than if they were, say--going to a casting call for Battlefield Earth.
The sound track. It was loud, oppressively so, in a vain attempt to lend drama to scenes where none could otherwise be found. Let's not blame the composer, however. I'm sure he or she just did as they were told.
Casting: Another nice touch was having the aliens experience diversity; hence, we get to see the usually fine actor/director Forrest Whitaker, as the character Ker, stumbling around in a Dolly Parton wig like a stoned drag queen with a leather fetish.
Finally, I don't want to take unfair shots at the dead, but if the rest of L. Ron Hubbard's plotting and characterization are of this caliber, he did the right thing by getting out of the science fiction field early on and into the religious-writing field--where plotting errors and improbabilities are easily dismissed as due to "divine whim" or "lack of faith" on the reader's part. Hubbard also did the smart thing by not letting Battlefield Earth hit the big screen until he was safely dead. You've got to admire his savvy there.Do I have anything good to say about my movie-going experience re Battlefield Earth? Certainly. The popcorn was very good and the toilets at the theater were clean.
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originally posted: 05/25/00 23:56:51