Breaking story "Battlefield Earth" is a mediocre mess
BY JOE HOLLEMAN
"Battlefield Earth" * 1/2 (out of four) Rating: PG-13 Running time: 1:50
John Travolta has always been up front about his membership in the Church of Scientology and has tried for years to get the novel "Battlefield Earth" made into a movie. The author of the book is the late L. Ron Hubbard, the founder and controversial leader of the church.
Here's hoping that Travolta took on this challenge as a way to honor Hubbard. And now that it has made it to the screen, Travolta can turn his attention to films that are actually entertaining.
The story begins in the year 3000, when the Psychlos have taken over the Earth and man is either slave or prey and is in danger of becoming extinct.
Travolta plays Terl, the brilliant and gleefully sadistic chief of security on planet Earth. Terl desperately wants to leave the barren planet and return to Psychlo. But because of an indiscretion involving a senator's daughter, Terl finds out that he will be assigned to Earth for the rest of his life.
The only consolation for Terl is that his chief assistant, Ker (Forest Whitaker), has found a vein of gold. The two decide to train some humans - known as "man animals" - to mine the precious metal without the head office finding out. Because they need some humans with initiative, Terl decides to train a stubborn, trouble-making human prisoner - Jonnie (Barry Pepper, of "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Green Mile) - to head up a team of humans.
Jonnie, as you might have guessed, rallies the downtrodden humans and leads a revolt against the evil Psychlos. Can you even guess who wins?
It is not so much a case of "Battlefield Earth" being a bad movie because of a single, massive flaw. It is more a case of it being such a mediocre film in every area. Nothing stands out, nothing excites.
Travolta, dressed as a cross between a Klingon and Bob Marley, is fun for the first half hour, until one realizes that this sadistic villain is the same one he played in "Face/Off." Whitaker and Pepper are both good actors, but they have little with which to work.
The special effects are a disappointment because they seem to be caught somewhere in the middle of the genre: Too expensive to be enjoyably cheesy, and not expensive enough to wow and amaze.
Also, the liberties taken with common sense and physical law - even though we know it is mandatory to suspend disbelief for these types of movies - are atrocious.
So tell me, how do you keep a big bonfire burning in oxygen depleted zones?