L. Ron Hubbard was a hack writer. Anyone who publishes 290 some odd books can't keep up a normal pace and still produce quality. Of course, by the time he got around to Battlefield Earth a gaggle of misguided and strange folks had already congealed around him like drying snot on a feverish nostril.
Now, you may think that I am one of those people who knock Scientology simply because it is a silly religion that asserts a great galactic war occurred several million years ago and the ghosts of the dead aliens infect the living causing all sorts of nasty social and psychological problems.
Well, you'd probably be right... But at any case this is not meant to be a critique of some crazed, and sufficiently shitty writer's ability to bilk millions of people out of their money and that same shitty writer's wacko religion. It is a critique of the film based on his sufficiently shitty writing and brought to the screen by perpetually bilk able millionaire John Travolta.
We open in Quebec... Oh, wait... No, sorry, Colorado. A screen crawl stolen from Star Wars by purported director Roger Christian (he worked as a set decorator on Star Wars in case you were wondering) informs us that Earth was overrun by the Psychlo's a thousand years ago and MAN IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES.
And you thought you had it tough...
Anyway, we meet the first of our caveman-cum-heroes as they close a massive wooden gate around some wastelan-dish type village. You know you are in for a bad movie when the protagonist is spoken of by characters that normally would have no lines in a Mac and Cheese commercial.
Anyway, the patriarch of this tribe warns a young woman, Chrissy (Sabrina Karenski) that her boyfriend is probably dead, and that's good because he is a trouble-making free spirit hippy type guy.
As if summoned by the Gods themselves, here he comes. Jonnie "Goodboy" Tyler (Barry Pepper), a well coiffed buckskin clad member of some bad 80's glam metal tribute band... Oh wait... that's just what he looks like. Jonnie rides in and proves to the old man that he is not dead.
I am getting tired and irritated just typing this. Can you imagine what it was like to watch?
Anyway... Jonnie (they never explain the whole "Goodboy" thing, so I ain't typing it any more.) learns that his father has died. Apparently Jonnie was out getting some roots and twigs to use as medicine, but didn't make it back in time. We get the first of two really big laughs here as, in slow motion even, Jonnie screams "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the sky.
Yeah, blame the sky. It's always the sky's fault...
Thus with the sky sufficiently shamed we cut to the inside of a cave where children play mancala (nice to know the classics never lose their appeal) and the old patriarch guy gives a spiel about the Gods being angry and abandoning man which gave the demons the ability to attack and lay waste to the world.
Got all that? If not, it's okay. The film repeats it TEN TIMES OR MORE!
Jonnie thinks the old man is full of shit and bugs out of the village to see a demon for himself leaving Chrissy and the rest of the cave-folk behind. Chrissy gives him a medallion that Jonnie's mother passed on to her before he goes. Why would she give it to her instead of her son? Who cares. The movie certainly doesn't.
Cut to the Riccola guy blowing one of those big horn things... Why? Who cares. It's in there though (Do I feel a cough coming on?).
By this time you should be noticing a mild ache in your neck. This is caused by auteur Roger Christian's perpetual alternating camera tilt. In some scenes it is like watching a goddamn Escher painting on a row boat in a storm. Jonnie sitting tilted left on his horse, the horse tilted the opposite way on the slope of a hill, another hill sloping alternately in the background, and a 60 degree camera tilt.
I swear it will make you doubt the laws of gravity at times. It does add to the unintentional humor of the film though. What I did was imagine everything in the scene sliding off towards the downward slope of the camera tilt, with sound effects and everything.
I amuse myself this way.
Oh, and the camera tilt persists for the entire length of t�e film. Probably ought to take some Dramamine before popping this into the old DVD player.
Jonnie is thrown from his horse. He stands up and attacks what appears to be a dragon. Sadly the dragon proves to be nothing more than the ruins of a miniature golf course. He attacks the dragon with a golf club and realizes it is nothing but chicken wire and plaster (like much of the movie I might add).
He also tries to eat a golf ball. This is not so strange considering he has probably never even seen a golf ball before. What is strange is that his superhuman teeth bite the ball in half. Now, last time I checked Golf balls were too hard even for the strongest teeth and jaw muscles to penetrate. Shit, my in-laws give them to their rotteweillers to play with because they last a really long time.
Anyway, he realizes that the golf ball is inedible just as Rock (Michael Perron) and Carlo (Kim Coates) leap from the bushes and make grunt-grunt monkey noises. I kid you not. Rock and Carlo are scavenging for food and seeing the Jonnie has several animal carcasses tied to Trigger the Wonder Horse (more on that later). They agree to show Jonnie the demons if he agrees to share his possum and skunk surprise.
They walk into a massive matte painting of some ruins, and eventually after checking out a statue of Mr. Goodwrench, into a mall. You think this movie was idiotic before all this? Oh my brothers and sisters, you just wait.
The cave morons think that the mannequins in the mall are people frozen because they defied the Gods. I always figured that the seams on the arms, legs, and head would have given that away... But no. Worse still Jonnie walk directly into a dirty pane of glass. Now I will accept that a person who is unaware will walk into a glass door if they are not paying attention. A clean glass door that is. I've seen it several times at the mall and it never fails to bring a smile to Mrs. McLargehuge's face when someone rams into one.
But this glass is filthy. What did he think it was? Fog? Cotton? I mean, come on!
While Carlo, Rock, and Jonnie ingest rodent carcass they are attacked by one of the demons. This is all shot in S-U-P-E-R-S-L-O-W-M-O-T-I-O-N so you can get the whole effect.
Well, the whole effect sucks.
Jonnie whistles and Trigger the Wonder Horse gallops into the mall (how he ended up on the second floor is anyone's guess) and is promptly blasted by the Psychlo stalker guy. Jonnie and Carlo are captured after being blasted by the Psychlo's staple-gun/pistol (Rock is killed... Poor Rock) and taken to Denver Colorado. Denver is encased in glass and looks like the ruins of the biosphere, (which was neither bio-diverse, nor a sphere now that I think about it). Denver: human processing center. We know this because there is a sign stating such right where the humans are deposited by the only good effect in the movie, the Psychlo jet-space-err-crafty-plane-thing.
Gas masks are forced onto the captives. Well, they are more like the nose plugs that all the wussy kids had to wear at the public pool when I was a kid. Apparently the Psychlos need special gas to breath, and Denver is domed so they can have their own atmosphere. Got all that?
Okay, Jonnie and the other humans are released from the cage strapped underneath the Psychlo jet-thingy. Jonnie steals one of the guard's staple guns and kills him then beats feet for greener pastures.
That reminds me. Jonnie is known to his friends as "Greener", because he believes that "the grass is always greener on the other side".
Kill me now.
He is captured by Master Thespian John Travolta dressed as Gene Simmons dressed as Worf playing Predator while also auditioning for a role on Sheet-Rock-Stilt-Theater. Meet Terl (John Travolta in all his awesome Shatner-ness). Terl will be your guide today as we tour the ruins of Psychlo inhabited Denver. He is accompanied by Forrest Whittaker dressed as Peter Kriss playing the Cowardly Lion hiding in Barklay the Dog's costume from Sesame Street, Ker is Terl's "administrative assistant".
I kid you not.
He also wears sheet-rock stilts. Either the Psyclos love gypsum, or they are supposed to be really tall. They speak to each other in Psychlo, which is the only, and I mean the only, good touch in the film. Since Jonnie has never seen a Psychlo he would not understand their language. They garble it all up for us to show that we have never seen a Psychlo either.
Psychlo, as it is, sounds like Jesse Helms attempting to gargle chocolate pudding while being fellated in front of a Senate Advisory Committee. And, we get to hear lots and lots of it. Terl scoops Jonnie up and carries him back out to the space-ship-plane-craft... er... thing.
See, the Psychlos believe all humans to be really, really, really dumb and Terl can't possibly believe that a human killed one of the Psychlo guards with his own gun. Therefore, (brace for leap of logic that spins Aristotle like a diamond drill) Terl makes the other guard GIVE his pistol to Jonnie, then try to take it back.
If Jonnie kills the guard (now known as The Stupid Guard) then Terl will be convinced. See if you can guess what happens next. Yes, Jonnie kills The Stupid Guard. Now, the Psychlo's pistols have a stun/kill feature stolen directly from Star Trek. Why would The Stupid Guard give Jonnie a gun SET TO KILL? I mean, he has a fifty-fifty chance of getting shot. Why risk it?
If you have not made the leap of faith yet, allow me to shove you off the cliff of logic. The Psychlos are mucho-stupido.
First of all, they interact with humans every day and have for a thousand years. You'd think one of them would realize that the monkey-grunts between we short-fair skinned ones would be a form of communication.
Secondly, the humans that are captured are all wearing some form of clothing. Now it does not take a genius to realize that this is also demonstrative of a relatively advanced intelligence. The clothes have to come from somewhere, and without Gap stores, the humans have to make them from scratch.
Thirdly, the Psychlo's occupy what was once Denver Colorado. Now who do they think constructed Denver Colorado? It didn't just spring out of the ground like a concrete flower patch!
This list could literally go on for several hours, so I will spare you and stop here.
The conclusion to all of this is, the Psychlos are easily the stupidest branch of The Kiss Army this side of the Milky Way.
Because he is a moron, Terl is impressed by Jonnie's ability to use a pistol.
Jonnie, Carlo and the other cavemen are taken to a hallway and washed down with fire hoses. Again auteur Roger Christian films this in super-duper-slow motion. Jonnie attacks the Psychlo wash-the-human-technicians but is quickly beaten down. In the skirmish his medallion is taken and dropped into a conveniently placed fire. The flames reveal that the medallion is actually a quarter. IT'S SYMBOLIC! In case you hadn't noticed.
Cut to what is easily the absolutely silliest segment of this film, made even sillier than normal because a crucial scene was edited out of the DVD release. In the theater version of Battlefield Earth a scene of Terl in the Psychlo watering hole appeared very early in the film. In that scene we learn that Terl is up for transfer from his chief of security duties here on Earth. The DVD edits this scene out so the supposed tension of Terl's future of Earth is rendered that much more impotent than it was originally. At least in the theater we knew (but didn't care) that he was up for transfer. Now though, this information is offered to us and unless the viewer is:
B. A Scientologist
None of it makes any impact.
We get to see the Psychlo home world now. A gray/purple industrial shit-stain of a planet lifted directly from Blade Runner's LA and the Star Wars Special Edition's Coruscant. Cut to two men on a huge teleportation platform.
Some computer graphics 101 level CGI screen wiggles and-
Voom! The two Psychlo guys appear on Earth. Zzzzt (Michael MacRae), yes that's his name, has arrived to brief Terl on his transfer. You will notice that the dialogue here showcases the awesome lyrical quality of L. Ron's writing.
You have already determined, I am sure, that his flair for character naming is right up there with high school level short story writing. Well, he has another interesting quirk. L. Ron loves to join dissimilar words together. So, humans are man-animals, Earth is a crap-hole, and stupid people (especially man-animals) are rat-brains, things are recorded with picto-cameras, and radiation is measured as compo-gradients, the guy who runs the show on Earth is Planet-ship.
Zzzzt is apparently a big-wig in the Psychlo hierarchy because he suggests, "once we've mined out this crap-hole, let's exterminate the lot of them."
Hearty laughter all around.
It makes me long for the techyspeak of Star Trek the Next Generation: Geordi! The reverse tachyon fusion frivvolator plasma conduit pump junction is about to overload! Force the macrofission graviton grommet back into the feeznozzle before the warp core goes kerblooey!
Anyway. Zzzzt and his bodyguard (i.e. guy who doesn't speak) are greeted by Terl and Ker and escorted to a dark little room where they are joined by Planet-ship (Sean Austin Olsen). It is here that Terl learns his fate. Note that Planet-ship is clearly having troubles walking in his sheet-rock stilts as he enters the room.
In fact one of the characteristics of the Psychlos is that all of them have trouble getting around in their asinine big alien boots.
"We have decided not to keep you here for another five cycles. No. We've decided to keep you here for another FIFTY CYCLES!
another FIFTY CYCLES!
another FIFTY CYCLES!
another FIFTY CYCLES!
another FIFTY CYCLES!
With ENDLESS OPTIONS FOR RENEWAL!
With ENDLESS OPTIONS FOR RENEWAL!
With ENDLESS OPTIONS FOR RENEWAL!
With ENDLESS OPTIONS FOR RENEWAL!
Yes, it repeats like this while changing camera tilt angles in slow motion.
Apparently Terl has some sexual relations with a Senators daughter back on Psychlo and his punishment is to stay here out of the way until he dies. The Psychlos, incidentally, refer to their government as "The Home Office."
See, Psychlos are supposed to be ultra-capitalists. Get it?
One thing that you might care to notice though. Although the Psychlos think the humans are little more than bipedal rats, they take great care to dress them all in matching jumpsuits. What I want to know is, who makes them and where? There appears to be no textile production facility on Earth, and none that we see on Psychlo. Even stranger, they all seem to be custom fit to their man-animal.
Yeah, it's a silly nit... But I am a silly man.
Since we have already spent five pages describing this film and still we have not arrived at the actual plot. Allow me to fast forward this review as no doubt you will be fast forwarding this movie.
Anyway... Terl and Ker argue over an aerial photo of a gold vein. This brings up the all important device known to the characters of this film as "leverage". Everyone wants leverage over someone else. Terl gets leverage over Ker by having Ker recite the plan while unknowingly being recorded by a wall mounted picto-camera. They then get leverage over Planet-ship (what a goddamn stupid name!) by proving that he is actually turning a profit while cutting the workers pay. Planet-ship signs over control of the Earth colony to Terl and stays on as a puppet figurehead.
Keep your eye out for Kelly Preston, as Terl's new secretary... er... Missy. I kid you not. She helps Terl get the records that the Planet-ship is keeping thus providing Terl with the necessary leverage to get his way.
Terl wants to take some man-animals out to a vein of newly uncovered gold. See, the Psychlo's LOVE gold, but they can only visit a few choice destinations on Earth because their breathing gas reacts violently to residual radiation.
Thus we have the plan. Terl wants to get the gold and use it to get off Earth. Jonnie wants to free the enslaved masses of man-animals living in the abandoned zoo and free Earth from the clutches of the evil stupid Psychlos. Which man-animal is right for the gig as mine foreman? If you said Jonnie go get yourself a nice slice of cold pizza.
How does Terl come to this decision? Well he is already impressed that Jonnie was able to kill one of the Psychlo guards. Now Jonnie attempts another escape following a mishap when a Psychlo ship bumps a tall factory chimney. Jonnie is freed from his leg irons and makes a run for it... right into the waiting hands of more Psychlo guards. They strip his nose piece and set him loose then make a bet that he won't last more than four minutes.
Jonnie runs and runs and runs all the time holding that last lungful of air. Apparently Jonnie is also superhuman... But that's another story.
He finds a way down into the sewers and realizes he can breathe safely. Yay Jonnie. Terl is watching all of this from the security office. Why does he have security cameras in the sewer? Who cares.
Jonnie reaches a barred exit. Then, in true "get your damn hands off me you dirty ape" fashion, proceeds to leap around hooting and hollering like the Australopithecines at the beginning of 2001. The guards arrive and decide to shoot him because he is too wild.
But wait! Terl kills both guards thus sparing Jonnie's life.
Terl and Ker have a plan. They need leverage over the man-animals. It's silly, that's what it is. Because why do the conquerors need to "convince" someone they think is dumb as a dog to do their bidding. I've had dogs. They do whatever you want.
Dogs are stupid.
How will they get this leverage? Why, with food of course. Terl decides to find out what Jonnie's favorite food is (sort of like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally"), and how does he do this you ask? He lets Carlo, Mickey (Christian Tessier) and Jonnie go. The idea is as soon as they are free they will immediately track down and eat their favorite food.
Since there are no McDonalds still operating on Psychlo-Earth they settle for rat. Raw rat.
Jonnie notices something (possibly the incredibly loud whirring noise?) and starts to fiddle with Carlo's buttons. Now don't get your homophobia all stoked and ready. It's nothing like that.
Ker suggests that Jonnie has found the camera embedded in Carlo's button. Terl tells Ker to shut up.
Jonnie then cuts the button off Carlo's shirt and smashes it.
See, stupid. Stupid-stupid-stupid-stupid.
Terl and Ker go out to retrieve the Jonnie and the others but Jonnie is ready to die rather than be brought back to Denver. He attempts to leap to his death but is stopped by one of the Psychlo planes. Yes, they hover.
Back in Denver Terl puts Jonnie into a Psychlo teaching machine. We are greeted by a mushroom headed alien CGI character named "Clinko". Clinko is the Psychlo language teacher. Clinko immediately disappears as Jonnie's chair is slowly turned towards a laser gun thing that shoots information into his eyes.
Duh-Duh-DUH! Jonnie now possesses all the knowledge of the Psychlos. How convenient. He shares his newfound love of learning with the other man-animals in the zoo by drawing triangles and squares on the ground.
"Euclidian geometry is the foundation of the universe."
That is a direct quote. Now, how would the Psychlos know anything about ancient Greek mathematician Euclid is beyond me. It is probably beyond you too... But enough about that.
Terl takes Jonnie the library and explains that all of humanities defenses lasted less than 9 minutes when the Psychlo's invaded and that no matter what Jonnie finds in the library he won't locate a single thing that will save Earth.
Jonnie immediately locates "the Declaration of Independence" and several maps that he smuggles back to the zoo.
Did I mention that Terl is hopelessly stupid?
Jonnie and his team of cave-pals are assigned to rip down a support beam in Terl's office (which he keeps whacking his head prosthetic against) this providing an opportunity to break Terl's security code and gain access to his weapons closet and records room.
Terl and Ker decide that Jonnie is cannot be trained because he has not spoken to them in Psychlo yet and decide to kill him. Jonnie then speaks in Psychlo for the first time and says he knows all about Terl's plan, and if Terl and Ker don't let everyone go, he will kill them.
A few monkey grunts later and the construction team appear armed with Terl's weapons.
Oh how quaint.
But, the humans aren't smart enough to see if they have staples... er... bullets in them.
Another revolution failed. I wonder how Che Guevarra felt?
Let's cut to the chase now. Terl takes Jonnie and some of the cave-folk out for a nice day of shooting. Terl then shoots the legs of several cows in a scene that must be witnessed to be believed. The hunting party is attached by another group of cavemen led by Robert the Fox (Richard Tyson) and Terl is knocked to the ground.
Jonnie, in a fit of supreme stupidity (guess he learned more than the lingo from old Clinko) convinces Robert the Fox not to kill Terl and hands Terl his weapon back. Robert the Fox and his band of merry men recede into the forest. Ker arrives then and with him is none other than Chrissy from waaaaay back in the beginning of the movie. See, she was carrying around a crude drawing of Jonnie so Ker put 2+2 together and just knew she had to be his woman.
To demonstrate the leverage Chrissy now presents. Terl puts a bomb mounted on a neck band around Mickey's brother's neck and is about to demonstrate that it is just enough explosive to sever the head.
Jonnie begs for the guy's life and Terl offers a deal. If he spares Mickey's brother's life then Jonnie can ask for nothing ever again. Jonnie, now almost a Psychlo himself, agrees. In the only scene that does not completely suck. Terl tosses the remote control to Ker who then detonates the necklace.
Probably should have read the fine-print in that agreement there Jonnie.
An identical necklace is around Chrissy's neck too. Thus Jonnie is encouraged to mine.
Jonnie is taught to fly one of the Psychlo ships, set up with mining gear and crew, then shoved out into the great wilds of Colorado to mine the gold. He is given a few weeks to get it all for Terl.
Jonnie is smarter than the average bear though, and with Robert the Fox's help, sets his plans for freedom in motion. Jonnie is going to not only push John Travolta and the rest of the unwashed stilt-wearing mob off Earth, he is going to wipe out all of Psychlo too.
Carlo utters what will become the single most annoying line in the history of catch phrases. "Piece of cake." As if these lice ridden monosyllabic rat eating Neanderthals even know what the hell a piece of cake is?
How, you ask? Remember that radiation + breath gas = boom problem the Psychlos have? Well Jonnie just happened to read about the armory at Ft. Hood Texas and he and a few close friends are going to fly on over and pick up some nukes.
But first they have to get some gold to cover the fact that they weren't actually mining. First stop, Fort Knox, Kentucky (who apparently left all their doors open) where several million tons of minted gold bullion wait for someone ingenuous to come on in and take it. They do and Terl, being a complete and utter moron, accepts these smelted brick of gold with only passing suspicion.
He gives Jonnie a few more days to mine and smelt the rest of the gold, then goes back to Denver. Jonnie then takes Richard Tyson and his group o' near monkeys to Fort Hood where they come across and disassemble an atomic warhead. You may wish to notice that everything in Ft. Hood is perfectly preserved. There is even electricity to fun such things as a Harrier Jump Jet flight simulator that Richard Tyson is going to use to learn to fly the group of perfectly preserved Harrier Jets just waiting there to be taken.
All this in a couple of days.
Richard Tyson, "piece of cake."
Uck... got to brush my teeth after uttering it....
Cut back to Denver where Jonnie bargains with Ker for the necklace around Chrissy's neck. Ker, being the less stupid of the Psychlos agrees and take a toilet plug shaped picto-recording of Terl in trade.
Jonnie then unleashes hell on Denver. All the man-animals don gas masks (???) and storm out into the city. Apparently the WTO was also meeting in Denver at that time because all the rioters do is smash a shit load of windows. They have guns too, that Jonnie loaded up at Ft. Hood.
Carlo takes the jet and starts setting charges atop the dome as Terl places each gold bar lovingly in the casket of one of the dead Psychlo security guys. Mickey, who is lost without his headless brother, volunteers to take the atomic bomb to Psychlo. All Jonnie has to do is teleport him there.
In the midst of the teleportation sequence Terl attacks Jonnie and they fight. Jonnie slaps the explosive necklace over Terl's arm and begs him not to decapitate Chrissy. Terl, being a complete and utter idiot, does just that.
Voom. No more arm.
Mickey teleports away and destroys Psychlo. The planet explosion effect was stolen from Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.
Carlo is spotted by some near bye Psychlo jets and destroys one with a heat seeking missile. Hooray for Carlo.
He is saved from the other jets by none other than Robert the Fox (duh-Duh-DUH!!!) and a group of flying cavemen in their magnificent flying Harrier Jump jets.
Carlo blows the dome but it doesn't shatter. Poor Carlo.
A scene lifted from Independence Day where the jets fly through the city engaged in combat with the Psychlo jets takes up waaaaaaay too much time.
Carlo rams his jet into the dome and it STILL DOESN'T SHATTER!
He uses another heat seeking missile to finish the job, and himself, in a supreme act of sacrifice for the cause. Sadly, since no one in their right mind gives a shit about Carlo (in the audience or in the film), his death is largely unacknowledged. Giant shards of glass rain down and the Psychlos all die.
Cut to Terl surrounded by gold in a cell in Fort Knox. Jonnie knows that more Psychlos will come once word that the home world was destroyed and he needs Terl for leverage. Ker appears and gives Jonnie a staple gun. He will be the acting head Psychlo from now on.
End movie. Get razor. Slit wrists.
There is a reason that Terl is the icon used at this site for the worst possible movie. The reason is, this is the worst possible movie you can ever see... At least until the proposed sequel is released sometime after Hell freezes over.
The DVD contains several things that no one will want to watch. A commentary track with Roger Christian and Patrik Tataupolous (the special effects guy) who talk about how edgy each scene was is enough to make you fling the DVD player out the window. The screen tests, make up tests, and trailers do nothing for you either.
Several useless Easter Eggs are also on the disk. All of them are raw footage shots of the shitty finished shots of the film. No need to even look for them. They all suck. The film is presented in both wide screen and cropped versions though I can't imagine what the cropped one would look like with all that camera tilting. Probably like they strapped a helmet cam to Tara Lipinski and made her film the movie while doing her floor routine.
There. It's all done.
Now, on a personal level... I think this is one of the best movies ever to show to a whole bunch of loudmouthed, sarcastic, critical, asshole friends. There are opportunities to spoof this movie every single second, and it is a scream. I even had a Battlefield Earth party the day the DVD was released. It was a scream.
Should you buy it? Hell no. But it's worth a rental, though only in the right company. No joy can be had from this film if you are alone. I don't even dare watch it alone.