On 'Battlefield Earth,' Everybody Loses Friday, May 12, 2000
BY SEAN P. MEANS THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
-- A mishmash of science-fiction overkill.
-- Rated PG-13 for violence and language; 115 minutes.
-- Playing everywhere.
The best thing about "Battlefield Earth" is that it's not boring. It's a 10-car pileup and dumber than a tree, but never boring.
Largely a vanity project of John Travolta, who pushed to bring L. Ron Hubbard's novel to the screen, "Battlefield Earth" is set in the year 3000. The human race is either huddled in the wilderness or enslaved by the evil aliens called Psychlos. According to Terl (played by Travolta), the meanest of these 9-foot-tall baddies, the Psychlos defeated humanity in nine minutes. Judging by Terl's petty greed and Bond-villain bragging, humanity was out shopping.
Terl takes the brightest and most rebellious "man-animal," Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) to their domed HQ (in what used to be Denver), and provides him with all the knowledge of the Psychlos. Bad move -- Jonnie uses his knowledge to mobilize the humans to defeat the Psychlos.
Any science-fiction fan will see most of "Battlefield Earth" coming from a mile away -- with ideas cribbed from "Planet of the Apes," "Star Wars," "The Matrix," "Independence Day" and others. Director Roger Christian gives every scene a monochromatic glare, with overblown effects and choppy editing to hide how little is going on.
Travolta, spitting out Dr. Evil dialogue like a high-pitched Snidely Whiplash,is enjoying himself. (So does Mrs. Travolta, Kelly Preston, who shows up in a cameo.) "Battlefield Earth" is Travolta's ego trip, but he didn't have to take anyone else -- or us -- with him.