Battlefield Earth (2000)
The things Scientologists come up with…
Battlefield Earth takes place in the year 3000 AD. The Earth has long since taken over by a race of eight-foot-tall leather daddies called Psychlos and humanity has devolved to a race of glorified apes. After a Psychlo commanding officer is banished to Earth for being a dick, he comes up with an ingenious plan to buy his way back home by enslaving the humans and training them to mine gold. A Swiss watch of a plan in theory, but then the humans decide to hatch a plan of their own that involves them taking back the planet and killing off the whole Psychlo race in one fell swoop, and so begins a true battle of wits the likes of which this world has never seen.
So my buddy Fletch recently pointed out that I’ve been watching and reviewing a lot of good movies as of late and that one scathing breakdown of No Strings Attached just isn’t enough to balance things out. As much as I wish I had some killer comeback for the guy about HOW HE NEEDS TO GET THE EFF OUTTA MY GRILLZ, Fletch is dead right and that very gripe of his is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. I figure since I’ve only got so much time in the week to watch movies and I’ve got hundreds upon hundreds of supposedly great ones lined up in my Netflix queues that I really want to see, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to watch something that I know is gonna be total shit. All the same, when readers demand I start watching total shit, I obey those fucking demands! And, honestly, what better place to start than with the golden child of The Razzies.
Forgive me if this review is a bit all over the place, but I really have no idea where to start with this one and I don’t think any of you out there are looking for a dissertation anyway. Then again, I would totally read that dissertation.
Alright, the costumes here are a goddamn riot. The humans look like extras from the set of Waterworld, like they belong on Cal. Berkley’s Varsity Hacky Sack team or Those Guys who’ve been raving by themselves in the parking lot for two hours before the Phish concert, but in their defense, they look pretty normal in comparison to the Psychlos. It’s like a Goomba got gangbanged by the Gimp, Gary Oldman from True Romance, and everyone from Static-X, then gave birth to a billion children all at the same time. I just don’t get it, I don’t understand how the six-inch platform shoes, the comically fake claw hands and those freakin’ hairdos could have ever sounded good in theory. These are not the kind of guys you run away from, these are not the kind of guys one would imagine as planet-conquerors, these guys are walking punchlines and it must have been an epic struggle to get out of the makeup chair each day and deliver lines without thinking “Fuck my life” every time the cameras started rolling.
And the script here is equally stunning, almost as stunning as the fact that a “legitimate” religion was founded by the same guy who wrote the source material for this. While I’d like to say I gave this movie my full, undivided attention, who am I kidding, I was multitasking like a bastard and I don’t think I’ll be losing any sleep over it. Nonetheless, it’s hard to talk about the writing here without also talking about the acting because the cast gets way too into the stuff that writers J.D. Shapiro and Corey Mandell want them to do. The whole movie really does feel like one long running gag that no one’s in on and is there just to confuse/amuse the audience for two hours.
This is overacting like I’ve never seen before, this stuff makes Nic Cage’s temperament look like that of the Dalai Llama’s. For some reason, the humans are so devolved that they might as be walking on all fours. They scream and whoop like apes every time they’re angry, happy, tired or sneezing, and it doesn’t help that the cast is dead serious the whole time because nothing adds legitimacy to a scene like ending half of them with dozens of people acting like monkeys. Part of it is that, part of it is Travolta having to say the words “man-animal” and “rat brain” every time he’s got a line, part of it is that one of the final scenes culminates with cavemen flying harrier jets, and the list goes on.
Poor Barry Pepper and poor Forest Whitaker, they deserve better than this, but not John Travolta, this is right up his alley and it’s only proper that he plays our evil Psychlo of the hour, Terl. And look at his wife Kelly Preston there with the tongue action going on. She’s only in the movie for maybe two minutes, but she might have the most embarrassing scene of the lot when she starts slobbering all over Travolta’s leather crotch like there’s an ice cream sundae walking for her underneath. For an actress who is universally known as “John Travolta’s wife”, she couldn’t have picked a better way to help people forget her name even further.
And as if all this wasn’t enough, Roger Christian just adds to the embarrassment. Every last shot is filmed at a complete diagonal for some reason, all the decent special effects are completely negated by shootouts that look like they were ripped straight from Laser Cats, none of it actually adds to the experience and it all just seems to be there because Christian said so. Bizarre stuff.
Folks, I could continue to count the ways and ramble on about every last detail, but the long and short of it is that Battlefield Earth makes Dune look like a fucking masterpiece. But the weird thing is that I actually had a total blast watching it. Not even kidding, I was smiling ear-to-ear from beginning to end with this one and I’m still smiling about three days later. No one’s arguing that it’s not a horribly bad movie, but there are far more unlikable movies out there and, surprisingly enough, I don’t regret sitting through this in the least. It doesn’t bear the same kind of “let’s all get together and make the absolute worst movie imaginable” vibe that Troll 2 does, but when people say that movies are “hilariously bad”, this is what they’re talking about. If I ever hear about a midnight screening of this in my area, I’m canceling all my plans, I’m bringing along friends, and we will howl our drunken asses off like no other.
Truly a piece of shit worthy of the reputation it’s garnered over the years, but a highly recommended piece of shit all the same. Effortlessly nabbed its given verdict on so many fronts, but easily gets an 8 or a low 9 for sheer entertainment factor.