****Stanley Kubrick ***Joel Coen **Penny Marshall *Joel Schumacher
No *s Ed Wood
BATTLEFIELD: MIKE'S HEAD
Jeez, movie critics are gonna have to turn to Scientology just to get rid of the brainache after this one.
Travolta traverses the Earth to destroy humankind with his girth.
BATTLEFIELD EARTH 1/2-a-*
Directed by Roger Christian
Written by Corey Mandell And Jd Shapiro
Based On The 'Novel' By L. Ron Hubbard
Reviewed by MICHAEL BATZ
When most people go to the movies, they expect to see something at least halfway decent -- otherwise they wouldn't be spending their money. I, on the other hand, go all the time to movies I fully expect to be terrible. While everyone else munches on popcorn eagerly awaiting the lights to go down, I slink low in my seat and pray, "Please, if you're out there somewhere, please don't let this movie suck ass. Amen."
But Battlefield Earth wasn't one of those movies. I didn't feel any need at all to pray that Battlefield Earth wouldn't suck. That's because Battlefield Earth was the first movie of the year that I actually wanted to be bad. And not just bad, but horrible. I went into Battlefield Earth hoping for the worst.
My perverse desire for Battlefield Earth to be bad stemmed largely from its sketchy Scientology connections. Not only did the founder of Scientology write the source novel, but the world's most famous Scientologist, John Travolta, was producing and starring. The smell of conspiracy theory was in the air. The thought that the movie, if it possessed any quality, would somehow point people towards that self-help pyramid scheme had me nervous.
As it turns out, my worries were in vain. Battlefield Earth is indeed bad. Horribly, terribly, screamingly, painfully bad. And not in a good way.
It's worse than The Avengers or Wild Wild West -- perhaps even worse than Wing Commander. It's a huge, expensive, embarrassing flop. It would be, hands-down, the worst movie of the year so far if it weren't for a few above-average action sequences that pop up at the very end.
But before it can get to the action, Battlefield Earth has to meander through an hour and a half of lame plot machinations. In the opening titles, we're informed that we're about to witness "a saga of the year 3000" and that "humans are an endangered species." We meet Johnny Goodboy (Barry Pepper, Saving Private Ryan), a long-haired cave-dweller. While most of the humans have been enslaved by an evil alien race who look like Klingons crossed with the band GWAR, a few small bands of humans have managed to survive.
So Johnny goes off to find out about these aliens and gets captured. Eventually, after being stuck in front of a learning machine -- where beams of light fly into his skull -- he figures out he must lead a revolt and take back the planet. But how?
Oh, you know, the norm: train a bunch of cavemen to fly Harrier jets in 1,000-year-old flight simulators. Oh, you know, the norm: just borrow an alien spacecraft, fly down to the Library of Congress and then to the nearest army base for some nuclear weapons. Oh, you know, the norm: break into Fort Knox with a crowbar and get a bunch of gold bars to fake out the aliens with.
The plot is ridiculous, but it's nothing compared to Travolta's portrayal of the head alien, Terl. Not only is it among the worst of Travolta's career, it's one of the worst bad guy performances I have ever seen. His bad guys in Broken Arrow and Face/Off were over the top, but they were fun. Here, he's just grating and annoying. He's like that guy at every party who stays all night and keeps telling boring stories. And. Won't. Shut. Up. Worst of all, Terl is one of those bad guys who's always laughing at just how insidious he is. "Ha ha ha," he laughs as he throws the gun to his henchman, "I promised you that I wouldn't kill your friend, but I never promised that he wouldn't do it for me!"
All annoying aspects of Travolta's performance are perfectly accentuated by annoying aspects of the direction. Director Roger Christian, in an attempt to be stylistic, twists and tilts his camera at every opportunity. Just about every shot is at some bizarre angle, for no reason whatsoever. Is it me, or is there a reason we don't watch movies sideways?
This might be the first movie I've ever seen in which I actually wished there were more computer graphics. Because the only halfway entertaining parts are when the director stops directing, the actors stop acting and the computer geeks make some stuff explode.
It might sound like this is one of those movies you can just laugh at, but consider yourself warned: Yes, the first half hour or so is entertainingly bad, but it grows tiresome quickly. Before long it's turned into one of those painful Saturday Night Live skits in which the players don't know what they're doing or why, and they certainly don't know how to stop it. And nobody is bothering to laugh anymore.