In the year 3000, man is an endangered species. Earth was invaded a thousand years before by the Psychlos, a greedy alien race that mines conquered planets for their resources and then abanonds them. There are Psychlo labor camps populated by the last few humans on Earth, but some nomadic tribes still remain, hunting and gathering in order to survive the elements. One such nomad is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. I swear, they never once said his name in the movie. I had no idea that was his name until I read the film’s Wikipedia entry. Regardless, Battlefield Earth follows him as he is captured by the Psychlos, but deemed resourceful enough to be taken under the wing of Earth’s Psycho Security Chief Terl, played by John Travolta. All throughout the movie, Travolta looks so happy to be covered in alien make-up and spouting out absurd dialogue like this was the role he was born to play. I’m sure he thought that he would finally bring his beloved L. Ron Hubbard into the mainstream with a blockbuster science-fiction action film. He could not have been more wrong.
I don’t want to make this article about religion, but let’s take a look at where Travolta and Hubbard are coming from. I’d like to direct you to a painstakingly researched and comprehensive look at Scientology created by leading experts in the field. Is that not one of the most ridiculous stories you’ve ever seen? Imagine a feature film with that same intricate plot and realistic subject matter and you’ll have Battlefield Earth. The way that the movie is paced and plotted out makes absolutely no sense. The characters’ motivations are one-dimensional at best. The humans decide to revolt against the aliens midway through the film. The alien higher-ups have a scheme going to extort profits of their mining operation. Those two tangents are completely unrelated to each other because in the end, when the aliens are defeated, there’s no point to any of the business mumbo-jumbo that made up a good chunk of the film. Also, anybody who is offended by my Battlefield Earth spoiler should write to me at this address.
The funniest things about Battlefield Earth are the cinematography and the dialogue. The film has a reputation for overusing Dutch angles but holy shit. Every single goddamn shot in the movie is a Dutch angle. Just watch this scene and look at how the camera is crooked in every single shot. Some of the angles go as far as 45 degrees. I like to imagine that the cinematographer was acting like this the entire shoot. That scene you just watched is also a fantastic example of how entire sets will be lit with a single solid color for no apparent reason. It’s as if they couldn’t afford to film anywhere but an abandoned strip club with all of its gaudy lights still in place. What’s worse is that it happens way more than you’d expect in this movie. Finally, that scene is indicative of this movie’s brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning dialogue. It’s baffling to think that someone somewhere believes that people actually talk like this in real life. Newsflash, screenwriters: Nobody talks like that. Ever. Even in a thousand years, nobody will ever talk like that. The movie is filled with golden nuggets of shit dialogue that will have you laughing your face off. It’s the cinematic equivalent of the N-Gage. You can’t afford to miss it.
Battlefield Earth is one of the most baffling movies I’ve ever seen. Some of the people involved with this movie went on to do great things. The lead guy whose name I didn’t know? He went on to win an Emmy. He wasn’t actually at the ceremony, so I imagine that he was too ashamed to leave the house because of his involvement with this film. Roger Christian, the director, won an Oscar for his work on the goddamn original Star Wars movie. John Travolta went on to make… Never mind. Great people, great talents, horrible movie. Flawed in completely irreparable fundamental ways and very specific technical aspects. John Travolta’s passion project is a flop in the best possible way. Go ahead, laugh at it. You won’t be disappointed.
This article is part of NUFEC's Bad Movies series. Find Battlefield Earth on Amazon here.