as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren
Say you're building a house. If the foundation is weak and full of spider nests, its likely to come crashing down much like Tom Hank's mansion in The Money Pit. Say you're making a movie based on a science fiction novel, which is not only weak, simplistic and badly written, but masquerading as propaganda for a pseudo-religion based on principles lifted from middle management handbooks, and you've got Battlefield Earth.
It is the year 3000 AD. A millennia earlier, the Psychlos, a marauding race of nine-foot-tall intergalactic conquistadors, captured the little green mudball known as Earth in a battle that last nine minutes. Most of the population was wiped out, and what few humans remained were forced into slavery, strip-mining gold for their greedy captors.
I have seen gas-masked horses in Chinese communist propaganda shorts that appeared more villainous than John Travolta as Terl, human race oppressor number one, head security officer of the Psychlos. Dread-locked and moon-booted, the Psychlos look like a daft cross between Rob Zombie and Babylon Five baddies who didn't make the cut. The humans, under control for so long they've become feral, look like extras from Mad Max as dressed by Calvin Klein–sporting elegantly grease-stained cargo pants and apocalyptically tousled hair-dos.
But that's only the beginning of the stupidity. Greedy Terl and his sidekick Ker (poor Forest Whitaker, straight from his critically acclaimed performance in Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog, looks like the cowardly lion from a futuristic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz) decide to secretly set a band of "man animals" out to mine gold for them, without reporting it to management high-ups back on home planet. Terl singles out Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), teaching him the ways of the Psychlos, how to speak their language and fly their aircraft. Presumably, the "rat-brain" humans could never use the knowledge to defend themselves or over-power their captors.
But while the Psychlos are away, the rat brains will play, and in the span of seven days, the presumably illiterate Goodboy teaches his men how to fly old Air Force bombers (out of service for 1,000 years), diffuse and detonate nuclear weapons and absorb the secret history of pre-invasion man by leafing through the contents of the bombed-out capital library. In L. Ron Hubbard's 1982 novel, Goodboy unearths a fabulous "book of truth," a stand-in for the Scientology bible, Dianetics. In the movie, its been replaced by the Declaration of Independence, but it's doubtful anyone's fooled.
See, you're supposed to apply the struggle between Goodboy and the Psychlos to your own life. You're mentally enslaved, weak of will, a victim of others' influence. You need to think for yourself; the easiest way to begin doing this is by reading up on Scientology. (Hubbard called someone who has moved to the top of Scientology a "Clear," defining them as "not an adjusted person, driven to activity by his repressions...(but) an unrepressed person operating on self-determinism.")
In case you were wondering if Battlefield was an all-Scientologist production, here's how director Roger Christian (whose only other credit seems to be as the art director on the original Star Wars) recently defined his own personal philosophy "If you look outside of your boundaries, then you will learn and go to a higher level." Spooky. And although Christian nabbed an Oscar for Star Wars, the Battlefield effects are truly abysmal.
Rumor has it that Travolta, a long-time Scientologist, tried to leave the "church" a few years back only to be told that his "sham" marriage to Kelly Preston would be leaked to the tabloids. (She turns up as a Psychlos secretary.) Somehow you get the feeling that that would've been a better career move than starring in–and fronting half the money for–this stinky disaster, which is too despicable even for the "it's so bad it's good" file.