For Battlefield Earth to be enjoyable it would...

take a Battlefield Earth pizza the size of Jupiter and more beer than the world has to enjoy Battlefield Earth

Some movies are so bad that they become successful. ‘Showgirls’ is a guilty pleasure for many. I personally enjoy watching Ed Wood’s classic flop, ‘Plan Nine from Outer Space’. These movies are the type you have some friends over, order a couple of pizzas and have a few beers.

For Battlefield Earth to be enjoyable it would take a pizza the size of Jupiter and more beer than has existed in the history of man. Battlefield Earth is not just bad not merely unpleasant, it assaults the senses.

The story is set in the year 3000 and the unkempt aliens, the Psychlos, enslave the human race. Humans live in a Neolithic style of a bad cave man movie. They wonder about the sets as lost as the audience will soon feel. Among the major breaks with the reality of science is the fact that the electricity still works and the books that have been unused for a millennium are still readable.

One of the surviving humans is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper). A Psychlo device that beams knowledge directly into his mind enhances his innate intelligence. Controling the planet are seasoned actors John Travolta and Forest Whitaker as Terl and Ker. Considering the gross makeup on these actors the studio could have saved a small fortune by hiring unknowns. Not only are their faces obscured but a major portion of their talent is unrecognizable.

Terl, the director of security for the Pschlos, has a plan to use the human slaves to mine gold for his own use. Afraid of his superiors in the ‘head office’, Terl has arranged for some blackmail material to be used in the event of his death. The need for gold in a race advanced enough for interstellar flight is hard enough to believe but the old bromide of the secret blackmail material hidden away for protection is mundane enough in an old film noir but in a Sci-Fi it is a terrible ploy to fill time.

Tyler tries to avoid slaving in the mines by planning a breaking to Fort Knox for the gold. This is just another of so many examples of the plot being sown together form films of too many different genres. Instead of a tapestry of a will merged stories we get a Frankenstein monster of pieced together, dissimilar parts.

The actors are for the most part excellent but this is based solely on previous performances. Travolta tries his best to inject some humor into the part of Terl but the script is far too restricting to permit it. He was more likeable as Vincent the junkie hitman in ‘Pulp Fiction’ than he is here.

Most actors have a difficult time performing while wearing extensive make up. Jim Carrey in the Grinch, Roddy McDowell in the Planet of the Apes films are among those that can pull off expression of emotions with such restrictions on their faces. Travolta and the rest of the Pschlos here are not in that league.

Another waste of exceptional talent is Whitaker. I usually enjoy his contribution to any film he is a part of. Here, I feel sorry for him for whatever reason he accepted this job to make Battlefield Earth. Barry Pepper, who was so good in Saving Private Ryan tries here but also, fails to convey a credible character. He presents Jonnie in such a way that there is little sympathy or empathy for the character. Rather than performing the role in a manner to help the audience identify with the character we are left with an empty feeling.

Roger Christian is an accomplished director. He has an Oscar for set decoration in Star Wars, has worked on Jedi and Phantom Menace and has another Oscar for Best Live Action Short. With all this talent I can not imagine what happened with Battlefield Earth.

For example, George Lucas uses a center out dissolve in many of his movies. It breaks things up and gives a bit of visual change of pace. This technique is used all too often in Battlefield. A little is good, almost every fade is annoying. Battlefield Earth comes across as a man making a home movie playing with a new digital effect. The sets are flat and lifeless. Not the lifelessness that would argument the production just a lack of detail and structure that leaves a flat feeling with the audience. I have see Christians other works and he is an excellent, talented man. I guess everyone in this production was suffering under some unknown illness. This is the only way I can see so much talent do so little.

The Battlefield Earth disc is excellent. The sound booms around you. The video for the most part is crisp and clear. This is why I would prefer to watch an independent film in non-anamorphic, surround sound than a 2.35, anamorphic 5.1 technical perfect disc with no story line. There are plenty of extras, a director’s commentary, make up featurette and another behind the scenes documentary. I have over 1,800 films in my collection and this one hits close to the bottom. I always try to say something nice about a DVD I'm reviewing. Well, here goes, the Battlefield Earth disc is shiny.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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