Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000)
Directed by Roger Christian

Artistic Value: *
Entertainment Value: * ½

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The Earth has been ruled by an alien species, the Psychlos, for a thousand years. During that time, human civilization has been destroyed, and those few men who have survived have been reduced to stone age savages. When Terl (John Travolta), the aliens' head of security, concocts a scheme to use humans to mine gold for him, however, he unwisely teaches Jonnie (Barry Pepper), a rebellious young captive, the secrets of Psychlo technology. Jonnie subsequently puts this knowledge to good use and sets in motion a plan to destroy the diabolical creatures who have long controlled the Earth.

Roger Christian's Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 is one of the most ineptly made films I have ever encountered. There really is almost nothing in the movie for which it can be complimented.


The story the director tells is not only ridiculous, but poorly developed and filled with nonsense as well. For example, despite having spent a millennium in a new stone age, the heroes have no difficulty learning, in a single week, how to fly jet airplanes they found in an underground hangar. Moreover, this handful of tribesman, having dusted off these ancient machines, which are still in perfect working order, are able to use them to obliterate the aliens' military. Since, according to a statement made earlier by Terl, the space monsters had, upon their arrival on Earth, defeated mankind's combined, and trained, armies in nine minutes, I suppose Psychlo efficiency must have greatly deteriorated in the interim.

Actually, the list of such idiocies goes on and on. The protagonists build a bomb with which they plan to blow up the Psychlos' planet, although what sort of device can destroy an entire world I do not know. Maybe they collected a lot of firecrackers. The Psychlos are so incompetent and bumbling that they are reminiscent of villains from silent comedies. They are certainly just as stupid as are many such characters. None of the Psychlos can, for instance, believe that humans, or "man-animals" as they call them, though they do not call dogs "dog-animals" or rats "rat-animals," are capable of operating machinery, even though humans obviously had a technological civilization when they arrived, artifacts of which are scattered all over the planet. Humans living in the wilderness attempt, for reasons I cannot fathom, to frighten their enemies by hooting like monkeys and have somehow managed to preserve, in the wilds of what once had been Colorado, both English and American accents. Battlefield Earth is filled with such gems.

What is more, while the director's special effects, costumes, and depictions of ruined human cities, alien spaceships, and the like are generally technically well realized, they are also entirely forgettable. The Psychlos, however, are actually somewhat entertaining to look at. With their huge craniums and dreadlocks, which make them look like Rastafarian Coneheads, their hairy, clawed rubber hands, that appear to have been purchased at a local costume shop, and enormous boots, that could very well be armored clown shoes, they are genuinely hilarious.

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Fortunately, these silly creatures have been brought to life with some of the hammiest acting I have ever seen. John Travolta is so over the top that, if he does not irritate the viewer, he will surely make him laugh. Forest Whitaker, who plays Terl's lackey, Ker, made me think of a Keystone Kop as portrayed by Mr. Potato Head wearing a Marie Antoinette wig, and Barry Pepper is, at once, dreadfully earnest and just dreadful. There really is no one in the film who should not be embarrassed.

Regrettably, the movie is as atrocious visually as it is in every other way. For reasons I cannot guess at, Christian has decided to film virtually the whole of Battlefield Earth at an angle so that everybody and everything appear to be leaning in one direction or another. I cannot begin to express how annoying this eventually becomes.

Just to make the film slightly more goofy, the director supplements such visual style with slow motion sequences whenever he inserts some tragic event or action routine. The viewer is thus treated to slowly moving images of Jonnie wailing and shaking his blond locks when he learns his father has died, of the hero racing through falling debris while his flowing hair trails behind him, and of the evil Psychlos walking in various menacing ways. Once again, all of this is terribly silly.

The plethora of such ghastly elements could, admittedly, have made Battlefield Earth entertaining. The film, however, is just so painfully tedious that it is hard to enjoy it even for its incessant badness. While the viewer may find himself laughing from time to time, he will, far more often, just be bored.

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Battlefield Earth truly is one of the worst movies I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. It does include a few sequences that are funny, thanks to the ineptitude with which they are realized, but, far more often, it meanders between being soporific and grating.

Review by Keith Allen

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