The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'Battlefield Earth':
Possibly the worst
sci-fi movie ever


May 18, 2000
By Franklin Harris

There is bad, and then there is "Battlefield Earth," a movie that sets the cinematic bar so low dust mites couldn't limbo under it.

John Travolta waited years to make "Battlefield Earth," based on the novel by L. Ron Hubbard, who, when he wasn't writing bad sci-fi, spent his time founding the Church of Scientology. Supposedly, Travolta was waiting for the right script to come along.

This, of course, begs the question: Considering what finally made its way to the screen, how bad were the other scripts?

"Battlefield Earth" is silly, illogical, bone-headed and so shot through with plot holes it can't succeed even as a so-bad-it-is-good movie. It is a criminal waste of film stock.

It's also exactly the sort of movie you'd expect to result from Hubbard's ridiculous book. But I digress.

In the year 3000, Earth has been overrun by the Psychlos, a race of seven-foot-tall aliens sporting dreadlocks and bad attitudes.

The Psychlo security chief on Earth is Terl, played by Travolta, who decided he was too old and too fat to play the hero. Terl's job is to keep the human slaves in line, torment his second-in-command, Ker (Forest Whitaker), and laugh menacingly.

While the Psychlos managed to take over the world in nine minutes, they've taken 1000 years to strip the planet of its natural resources. And if they don't seem like the smartest species ever to crawl out of primeval sludge, well, they're not. Although they are strip-mining Earth of its gold, the Psychlos forgot to check out more convenient gold reserves, like Fort Knox.

Good thing the aliens are so stupid, because humanity has been reduced to a stone-age existence. Mind you, that doesn't prevent our caveman hero, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), from learning to pilot a Harrier jet against the bad guys.

And why are jet fighters still operational after gathering dust for 1000 years? And are they still under warranty?

Yes, this film is full of unanswered questions, starting with, Why was this movie made? And, Didn't somebody tell Travolta this was a bad idea?

It's one thing for Travolta to be a Scientologist and to want to convince the rest of us that Scientology is The Way. That's freedom of religion. "Battlefield Earth," however, is the artist equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition, complete with thumbscrews.

Compared to "Battlefield Earth," such notorious sci-fi stinkers as "Howard the Duck" and "Supernova" are Oscar-worthy.

Well, maybe not "Supernova," but you get the point. "Battlefield Earth" is the new punch line to every bad-movie joke.

The only good thing about it is that is has lifted critics like me to new heights of humorous savagery.

So, I've taken the liberty of swiping a few choice quotes from the movie-review Web site www.rottentomatoes.com:

  • " 'Battlefield Earth' is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way." -- Roger Ebert
  • "Even if you were to classify it as a guilty pleasure, it would be the kind of sullying guilt that makes people leap from heights." -- Shawn Levy, The Oregonian
  • "You don't watch it -- you survive it." -- Steven Rosen, Denver Post

Anyway, you get the idea.

Whatever you do, don't waste your money on "Battlefield Earth." In the name of whatever gods you hold dear, don't do it!

'Batman' artist dies

On a more somber note, comic-book artist Dick Sprang died on May 10 after a long illness. He was 85.

Although he retired from drawing comics in 1963, he was one of the most influential artists of his day. He began drawing "Batman" in 1941 with issue No. 17. It was years, however, before he received the credit due him, as most of his early work was attributed to Batman co-creator Bob Kane.

Sprang was the artist on "Batman" during the book's wildest era, when the Dark Knight battled extraterrestrials and other otherworldly menaces.

  • In other comics news, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" No. 5, by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill, finally arrived in comic-book shops this past week.

    Those of you who have read the first four issues of this remarkable series may be interested, assuming you haven't forgotten all about the "League" during the six months since the last installment.

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