Battlefield Earth (2000): We demand to be taken seriously
I have seen 2000’s Battlefield Earth more times than any human should ever see it, a.k.a more than zero. This bad film Friday Let's talk about Battlefield Earth, a film based on the book by L. Ron Hubbard, known mainly for bringing the cult of Scientology to our world. The film is infamous for its poor quality and that infamy is well earned. The film was a financial flop and has earned some awards….from the Razzies and another bad movie award show. It even won a razzie in 2010 for worst picture of the decade, and The Room came out in that decade.
The film’s plot follows a human named Jonnie living with his tribe in some caves. He decides to leave and soon after leaving is captured by the Psychlos, an alien race that has conquered Earth and is mining it for gold. This is where the real “star” of the movie shows up, John Travolta as Terl whose goal is to leave Earth and by extension this movie. Unfortunately, this is Travolta’s passion project, so we are stuck with him. Terl makes a ‘brilliant’ plan to use the humans to mine for gold in areas the psychlos can’t.
Where to begin on the film's problems. The plot is just dumb on so many levels. The heroes of the film probably could’ve won by doing nothing as the psychlos are laughable as antagonists. While Terl boasts about his galaxy conquering skills, he gives the humans the perfect set of knowledge to potentially become a threat, such as teaching the Psychlos language, both spoken and written (despite only really needing the humans to understand him as they could probably mine without being able to read), mathematics, and how to fly the Psychlos’ ships. For a security chief, he really has some security issues considering how much Jonnie and the humans do under his nose, including getting weapons, wandering around his own base and secretly meeting his own underling, and starting an insurrection that Terl and the Psychlos take their time in actually stopping. The Psychlos' most interesting traits are their use of gas drones to conquer worlds, and their very hyper-capitalist society. Everything else is either dumb or not compeling. Why would the Psychlos view humans as unintelligent animals who would be unable to operate machinery when they know that humans are intelligent enough to have a full society and culture before their conquest. They clearly view all other life like this, but views of racial superiority can only explain so much, as the psychlos believe this to the point where it has to be proven that a human can shoot a basic firearm. And the Psychlos’ backdoor politics are only interesting in how much you can laugh at it. The performances of the Psychlos are mostly over the top, and more goofy than threatening. And John Travolta is... well, memorable in the film. Not because he is good, but because his delivery seems more like a parody of this role rather than the actual performance. But he is one of the only characters with any sort of presence in the film, the only other ones who come close are veteran actor Forest Whitaker, as Ker, the only other psychlo whose name and character I remember and the hero only because he keeps appearing in the film.
Here is Terl's job application
The humans aren’t really any better. In many ways it feels like they are side characters to Terl’s story in terms of development. Jonnie is laughable in most scenes having a bizarre performance that starts with his taking inspiration from apes at the beginning of the film and ends with him as a generic hero with nothing else going on. Jonnie in general is the same character from start to finish and never really feels like he wins out of his own intelligence and skill but instead by the Psychlos poor decision making skills and lack of any foresight. Also the reason I haven’t mentioned any other human is because I don’t remember the names of any other human character. They seem to have a character, when they are on-screen and not making monkey sounds, and the humans look different from each other and have small moments, but they just aren’t that memorable or engaging in any way. Honestly, the few moments they have could have been filled by literally anyone else in the movie, or just by an inanimate carbon rod, and the impact would be the same. Also, upon looking at the names of the characters, it is probably a good thing I wasn’t able to remember any of the names, as Robert the fox, Chirk, Numph, and Jonnie’s full name, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler would have just brought the film’s dignity well beyond negative six.
The technical parts of the film are also poor. The Psychlos must have also tilted the Earth in their conquest as the film is shot almost entirely at a dutch angle. By doing backbreaking research (of going onto wikipedia) I discovered that this decision was made because the director wanted the film to look like a comic book. Why? So anyway, the effects are unremarkable until some sort of error occurs. Which happens more times than it should. For instance, there is a point where the horse the hero was riding is shot by a laser blast despite the laser clearly being about a foot away, though it wouldn’t have helped much as the scene ends less than a minute later with one of the most absurd ‘people falling through glass windows like they are running through them’ scenes ever put to screen...aside from the trope itself. Finally, I have to mention the look of the psychlos, which I can sum up as ‘klingon wannabes on stilts with dreadlocks’. Actually, everyone in the film seems to have dreadlocks. I don’t know why, but they just do.
These are some of the problems of Battlefield Earth. I am only now mentioning the stupidity of Fort Knox still having all of its gold after 1000 years of the planet being run by aliens who value gold. Or modern military tech and flight simulators still working properly after the same amount of time. But this has gone on long enough. Ultimately the film is a big budget film that looks completely outdated from the day of release and makes Michael Bay look like Francis Ford Coppola by comparison. The film really wants you to take it seriously but really, there really isn’t any way to take it seriously and it can only be enjoyed if you see the film as the joke really is. And lastly, this film has ruined the word ‘leverage’ for me. Travolta, never use that word again.