Published May 01, 2000I couldn't convince a single person to go see John Travolta's latest career-killer, Battlefield Earth, with me. The closest I got was a buddy who went to see Gladiator at the same time and theatre as the sci-fi stupidity I had at least hoped would be some good shlocky fun. I envy my buddy now. I really, really do.
Jonnie Goodboy Taylor (Barry Pepper) rises from the ashes of civilisation to lead humanity against their evil Psychlo overlords. John Travolta is the villainous Psychlo Terl, Rastafarian drag queen/troll doll in Kiss boots. When the plot isn't being simply derivative, it's asking us to accept some of the most jaw-droppingly large holes you're likely to see in a movie ever. For your own mental and aesthetic health, believe the reviews, okay? It really is as bad, goofy and embarrassing as they say.
The story is Exodus with Harrier jets, the effects are serviceable without being particularly impressive, the editing makes what little excitement there is quite confusing, and the performances are across-the-board painful. Sometimes it's painful because, for instance, you know Forrest Whitaker is a great actor, and yet here he is on stilts and in a codpiece grunting and grimacing his way to what you hope for his sake is a good pay cheque. But most of the time it's painful because John Travolta is obviously insane, and yet not one of his handlers had the ability to stop him before he went through with this. You can see that he actually thinks this is all loads of fun by the way he attempts to chew the scenery Face/Off-style. And if he is telling the truth in his interviews, he honestly still believes in this project. Hey, I usually go for a sincerely misguided howler, and during the first hour of this flick I laughed at Travolta a lot, getting off on his unintentional Peewee Herman impersonations and just the sheer car-wreck quality of it all. But after an hour I started feeling sad and anxious. He needs help, folks. Maybe an intervention's necessary. Remember, he's threatening a sequel.
The best you can say for Battlefield Earth is it employed a whole wack of Canadians in its headlong rush to achieve infamy as the Plan 9 From Outer Space of the new century (although it's nowhere near as fun). After the film, the audience and I shuffled out in a daze, each of us thinking the same thing I'm sure: "There goes another two hours I'll never get back." My buddy, on the other hand, came out raving about Roman coliseums and tiger fights. I'll be checking out Gladiator this week, if only to wash the bitter taste from my mouth. And in the future I'll take a tip from my friend's reluctance. Sometimes things really are as bad as the rumours and reviews have it. Battlefield Earth isn't a movie, it's a punishment, and I don't know what we did to deserve it.