Roger M. Wilcox's review of

Battlefield Earth

(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)

Welcome back to the Benihana School of Film Editing! Not since Armageddon has another film switched camera angles so rapidly that even MTV would reject it for being "too hyper"! Not only that, but when we DO get to see enough frames in a row from the same camera angle to glimpse the details, we discover that the camera was tilted at an Adam-West-Batman-esque angle every time. And just so we know that a major scenes is over and that the next cut isn't to yet another camera angle on the same scene, every single scene change uses that curtain-opening Star Wars wipe.

Perhaps the cinematographers had just gotten a new Fisher Price Film Studio™ for Christmas.

Believe it or not, this film did have a plot. Not much of one, to be sure. In fact, its plot seemed to combine the very worst elements of 1950s B-movie sci-fi with the worst elements of 1930s pulp Space Opera novels. It's based on the book series Battlefield Earth written by L. Ron Hubbard, who is apparently as adept at writing a good science fiction story as he is at inventing a good religion. (Note: That was supposed to be sarcasm.)

The first 7 minutes of the film are a re-hash of Teenage Caveman, with a young cave-dweller questioning his elders' stories about gods and demons and forbidden lands. The next 5 minutes are a re-hash of Thundarr the Barbarian, including a "joke" about how the ancient gods went into caves sporting Golden Arches, in which food would magically appear. ([Weakly] "Ha ha.") But then, suddenly, our hero and his new-founds friends are attacked by ALIENS FROM THE PLANET PSYCHLO. I swear I am not making their planet's name up. It really is called "Planet Psychlo." The evil Psychlo aliens themselves wear elevator shoes and nose plugs, and have their hair done up in dreadlocks.

(Hmmm. The alien in Predator was sporting dreadlocks, too. So were lots of Klingons when they were on the warpath. There seems to be a trend in Hollywood for showing evil aliens sporting dreadlocks. Perhaps special-effects makeup artists are drawing on a deep, primal fear of Jamaicans. But I digress.)

Anyway, after shooting our hero and his buddies on their guns' "stun" setting and taking them to a big glass-encased Denver, Colorado, we eventually learn that the Evil Aliens from Planet Psychlo took over Earth 1000 years ago, and are using us "stupid human animals" for slave labor. Their society is a Ferengi-like corporate dystopia, where everybody is out to gain leverage and make profit. They also think of gold as a valuable metal, probably because even the stupidest person in the audience knows that gold = money. Oh, and John Travolta shows up as the Psychlo Head of Security for Earth, thus reprising his role in Primary Colors.

There's one scene in the middle of the movie that I am convinced was sponsored by the National Education Association. You see, John Travolta decided to put the eminently-forgettable human hero in front of a Psychlo Learning Machine — which conveniently allowed the hero to learn enough about Psychlo civilization and technology to be able to overthrow them. Back in the cages where all the other humans are, the hero starts drawing mathematical and geometric symbols on the ground. In fact, he gets a veritable hard-on for math in this scene. The orgasmic bliss on his face is unmistakable as he passionately describes the Congruent Triangle Theorem. Lord help us all if he ever decided to recite the theorem's proof. And here's the big payoff: When his cellmates get fed up with his explanations of Green's Theorem and complain that what they really want is something that will set them free, the hero replies, "This will."

Get it? Math will set you free! So stay in school, kids, because you never know when you'll be imprisoned by evil aliens from planet Psychlo and will need Second-Year Algebra to escape!

Of course, his actual plan for escape does not involve Trigonometry. Instead, it involves Fort Knox and about a hundred Harrier Jump Jets that are still operational despite having missed 999 annual FAA inspections. Oh, and did I mention that all these Harriers are still carrying full fuel loads and full weapons loads? And that our hero's plan requires his buddies, sharing one lone flight simulator, to learn complete Harrier combat piloting in under 7 days?

There follows a big collossal land and air battle where the chimpanzees-on-caffeine film editing reaches its most incomprehensible pitch. There's a rip-off of the lobby gunfight in The Matrix. There's lots of broken glass. John Travolta cackles a lot and loses an arm. One of the good guys carries an atomic bomb onto a teleport pad, which causes all the air on Planet Psychlo to burst into flames. (How could an entire atmosphere be that unstable? Wouldn't it have caught on fire a long long time ago?) Oh, and because Planet Psychlo's ATMOSPHERE blew up, naturally the whole REST of the planet, all the way down to the core, blew up too.

Sorry to spoil the ending for you, but the good guys win. You never would have guessed that ahead of time, wouldja?

In conclusion, this is the worst piece of cinematic dreck ever to consume two hours of my life, two hours I will never get back. I'm only glad I saw it during the bargain matinee so as not to give any more economic gain to the producers than I absolutely had t— hey! Who are you?! Who do you think you are, breaking into my house like that?!! HEY!! Stay away from my keyb*****WE ARE THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. YOU WILL WATCH BATTLEFIELD EARTH. YOU WILL GIVE JOHN TRAVOLTA ALL YOUR MONEY.

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