By Chris Hewitt Saint Paul Pioneer Press Published: Friday, May 12, 2000
In the year 3000, human beings will be almost extinct, but hair extensions will be plentiful.
Virtually everyone in the intergalactically bad "Battlefield Earth" has huge ropes of hair piled atop his head in a dreadlocky style that suggests what Marie Antoinette would look like if she took style tips from Bob Marley.
John Travolta is the big cheese of a planet named Psychlo, wearing the Antoinette/Marley hairdo and a Kiss-circa 1977 costume, complete with platform heels, a codpiece and tons of leather.
The plot has something to do with his efforts to turn the remaining men on Earth into slaves and those men's efforts to avoid that fate.
Usually, you can count on Travolta's magnetism to provide a little zip, but this is not the Travolta of "Pulp Fiction," "Blow Out" and "Saturday Night Fever." This is the Travolta of "Moment by Moment" and "Staying Alive," the one who seems not to notice how laughably bad the script is.
How bad? There's no plot; just a long, tedious chase. Most of the time, we have no idea what's going on. We don't know who the people are or what they want, so it feels like we've accidentally tuned into a third-season episode of a schlocky TV series that we didn't care enough about to watch in the first or second season, when they introduced the characters and situations.
And if you're hoping the special effects will make up for that, forget it. Some of the explosions are OK, but "Battlefield Earth" was clearly made on the cheap.
No corners were cut for Travolta, who has at least nine personal assistants, drivers, makeup people and chefs listed in the credits, but they scrimped everywhere else. Even film buffs won't recognize the cinematographer, editor or composer, all of whom do substandard work. The score is an especially vital, especially dumb place to lowball us, since composers are a minuscule proportion of the budget. But all "Earth's" Elia Cmiral, who cut his teeth underscoring Don Johnson's teeth on TV's "Nash Bridges," does is make us yawn.
Even Travolta fans (I'm one) will be disappointed, since his is a supporting role that he performs with an odd British accent. The uncharismatic Barry Pepper ("Saving Private Ryan's" sharp-shooter) is the hero, but neither the role nor the actor has much personality. Which leaves Kelly Preston to take acting honors with her one-scene, dirty-joke performance as a harlot. She's a hoot and, since she only sticks around for about three minutes of "Battlefield Earth," she comes off as the smartest person around.