Battlefield Earth (2001)

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F*** me…

The good news: you have a hero – someone you nearly worship. This hero has inspired you in ways that you could never have anticipated. The example of this hero has kept you brave during the darkest times in your life. This hero’s legacy guides you and brings you comfort. When you feel weak or hopeless, you think of this mentor and find the wind you need to fill your sails.

Eventually, you are back on top. You use your new-found power and status to do a kindness: bring this hero’s dream to reality. Share this strength and vision with the world.

The bad news – and the news is VERY bad: this hero is famed con-man, domestic abuser, and kidnapper L. Ron Hubbard. Your stand-in in this fable? John Travolta.

The Origin Story

At one point, Travolta was dangerously close to being known as “that Sweathog guy” or “disco man” at one point in his career. The 80s and early 90s were unkind to him. His biggest movie at that time, “Look Who’s Talking,” made cash but was terrible. By the end, he was stuck in the romantic comedy ghetto, churning out bad movie after bad movie that were neither romantic or comedic.

What buoyed him through this was his dedication to Scientology. Now, I am not about to take on all of the problems with Scientology because that is a HUGE amount of work that I cannot be bothered with. Let’s shortcut this: it’s pretty evil. Not “Hitler” evil, but “kidnap you and put you in our own version of a concentration camp” evil.

Okay, “Hitler evil”-adjacent.

Anyway, things are different if you are a star. It’s a lifetime full of handlers who isolate you and take care of your every need, making you feel like the most important person in the world. Considering the egos of artists at that level, it’s merely confirmation of how they feel about themselves to begin with.

Even when he was down, Travolta was not out.

Then, Dr. Frankenstein-like, Quentin Tarantino brought his career back from the dead. One “Pulp Fiction” later, Travolta was making good movies! “Get Shorty” is a good movie and “Face Off” is so batcrap crazy that it is still required viewing. Travolta had power again. He had his pick of projects.

Hoooo boy…

The Bad News

Let’s start this right away: the book “Battlefield Earth” is crap. It is a bad book. It is not a compellingly bad book. It is a boring book. Very boring.  It is also very long. It is a very long, very boring book. It gives you the feeling like it is sitting on your head the entire time you read it. It is the literary equivalent of being stuck in an elevator with a man who thinks that enough Axe body spray will cover up the fact that he hasn’t bathed in eight days.

It is like L. Ron Hubbard himself: oppressive.

Some people may protest that the book is not that bad. Every one of those people have one important thing in common: they are all ridiculously wrong about “Battlefield Earth.”

So right away, the source material is off. If the book is usually better than the movie, you can see in which direction this is going.

The movie is bad. The acting is bad and it is done by people who really should have known better. Forrest Whitaker is a great actor. Watch “The Last King of Scotland” and prepare to be smacked in the face with great acting.

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In fact, skip “Battlefield Earth” and watch “The Last King of Scotland.” Treat yourself. 

Travolta? Not so much so, but he is competent and charismatic. Like Peter O’Toole said in “My Favorite Year,” he’s not an actor, he’s a movie star. But still, at the very least you expect something watchable.

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You’re looking at a career high point. 

You WILL be disappointed.

To liken this movie to a grade school performance is to be cruel to children. The acting is… er…

Sorry, stroked out for a second. It’s that bad.

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Aaaand a career low point. 

But Is It All That Bad?

You know what, it comes around. It never, ever gets good. That is impossible. It’s past the event horizon of terrible. But in the right frame of mind, it is fun.

Now I would like to state something baldly. I would never, ever suggest to anyone that they need to get high to watch something. Straight edge, baby! I could never say that one needs some pot, snacks, a peer group, and about two free hours to watch this movie. I think it is shameful that you would think so little of me!

In other words, watch this movie high. It’s the only way it makes sense.

It makes PERFECT nonsense though. You can enjoy it that way.

Good? Or Awesome?

Good, conditionally. People who HATE Sci-Fi will like this because it confirms everything they hate about the genre. The faults are all laid out. It’s like the screenwriter saw a list of things to avoid when writing Sci-Fi screenplays, then thought, “you’re not the boss of me! I’m going to make my own way!”

People who LOVE Sci-Fi? You’re going to need a sense of humor about this one. Because, damn; it’s rough if you don’t. There are SO many plot holes and conveniences. Jet fuel that stays good after a thousand years? All of the other human technology that also stays good after a thousand years? Everyone suddenly blindly following the hero’s orders for no reason? The Psychlos (I know, right?) defeated all of Earth in a few minutes but they are finally defeated by a bunch of cavemen and a few miraculously well-maintained jets?

If you don’t have a sense of humor about this, you’ll break your TV.

But if you go in knowing that what you are about to watch is so bad that it ended careers, then you will make it out the other side with a good time intact.  Plus, it highlighted what a crappy author L. Ron Hubbard was, so in that way it did the Lord’s work.