A scene from 'Battlefield Earth'
Courtesy Photo
no stars
but if you snicker through it
*** stars 117 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, May 12, 2000
Directed by Roger Christian

Starring John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coats, Sabine Karsenti, Michael Byrne & Richard Tyson

This film is on the Worst of 2000 list.

Interview with John Travolta


Very possibly the ultimate bad movie rental. Gather all your most smart-mouthed friends, pop enough popcorn to both eat and throw at the screen, sharpen your wit and dig in. It really is so awful you have to see it.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 01.16.2001


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Pepper saves enslaved humanity from scenery-chewing aliens in hilariously bad 'Battlefield Earth'

By Rob Blackwelder

If 1950s sci-fi schlockmeister Ed Wood could have gotten his hands on $60 million and CGI special effects, he might have made a movie as hilariously gawdawful as "Battlefield Earth."

Seriously on par with Wood's infamous "Plan 9 from Outer Space" as one of the worst motion picture in science fiction history, this bloated, brain-dead, narcissistic, almost completely nonsensical cinematic disaster is likely to make anyone with any kind of summer movie standards long for the return of movie-mocking Comedy Central series "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

A man-vs.-monster parable about an enslaved human race rebelling against their alien masters a millennium after being nuked back to the Stone Age, almost every scene features such bad writing, bad acting and absurdly implausible circumstances that it just begs to be viciously ripped apart.

I'm more than happy to oblige.

John Travolta -- who has been dying to make this movie for 10 years -- stars as Chief of Security Terl, a 9-foot-tall alien from a race called the Psychlos that all look like Klingons cross-bred with KISS. Terl is evil. He blackmails his superiors. He kills humans slaves ("man-animals" in the picture's cheesy parlance) at will. He laughs maniacally at the end of every third sentence. He chews so much scenery that the production designer probably had to work 80-hour weeks.

Sporting a braided Fabio do, Barry Pepper ("The Green Mile") plays Johnny Goodboy Tyler, ad hoc leader of the human rebellion who gets all his smarts from being hooked to a Psychlo learning machine that shoots lightning into his eyes and teaches him how to read and write Psychlo, how to fly their space ships, how to understand Euclidean geometry (why would an alien program call it Euclidean geometry?) and how to read and write English, which comes in handy when he stumbles upon a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Ooo, the symbolism!

When the Psychlos pack Johnny off to the mountains with a crew of human slaves to mine for gold, they instead take the ship they've been given (?!?) and fly to a still-intact and conveniently unlocked Fort Knox to swipe some gold instead so they have time to plan an attack on the alien's fortress in a dome-covered, dilapidated Denver.

Johnny explains to Terl that they mined then smelted the gold into perfect, individually numbered bars out of respect for him -- and he buys it!

Next they fly to Fort Hood, Texas (I guess the teaching machine learned Johnny some geography and history too), where they discover a jackpot of 20th Century military equipment (machine guns, grenade launchers, tanks, planes), all fueled up and in perfect working order after 1,000 years underground. In four days these practical cavemen teach themselves to fly Harrier jets and detonate nuclear warheads, then they launch an offensive against the Psychlos.

I'm not making this up, and I've barely scratched the surface of the sheer idiocy running rampant through this picture.

But here's the thing: "Battlefield Earth" is so bad, it's actually wildly entertaining. When the credits rolled, my cheeks hurt from laughing. I hated this movie, and I had a great time doing it.

The script (based on a pre-Scientology novel by L. Ron Hubbard), is so full of holes it could be used as a sponge. The dialogue is below comic book quality and packed with sci-fi clichés (years are called "cycles," money is "credits," security cameras make "picto-recordings") and 20th Century idioms that make no sense for aboriginal humans to be using ("piece of cake?!?"), let alone beings from another world.

Fully one quarter of the movie is shot in slow motion by director Roger Christian (a second-unit lensman on "The Phantom Menace"), who obviously knew who was really in charge on the set because Travolta (who also produced) is completely off his leash. Even in four hours of makeup (dreadlocks, big forehead bad teeth, extra fingers, pasty skin), it's impossible to forget you're watching John Travolta -- in all his teeth-baring, chin-scratching, head-cocking glory.

But, hey! The special effects are cool -- or at least overwhelming -- and that's all that really matters, right?

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