May 18, 2000
by Gunter Goeckenjan
Berlin, May 17. "It may still be a little too early to pass judgment," thought New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell, but the chances are good that Battlefield Earth will gain the reputation of being the worst film of the new century. "Here we have a film, that, without contradiction, will be greeted as one of the worst that was ever made in this category," correctly predicted "Slate" internet magazine. And the Los Angeles Times faulted the "out-of-date visual style, the ragtag special effects and silly dialogue" which made Battlefield Earth into a "complete and quite miserable experience."
Among the other failed things which the U.S. media told about were really every other aspect of this major production. They included the costumes which resembled cheap rubber Halloween masks, the dramaturgy, which looked like it was viewed through water, and the plot, which did not deserve the name. Also the actors, predominantly John Travolta, had reached a previously unfamiliar low low point of oily witlessness.
The New York Times described Travolta's embarrassing presentation like this, "He threw his head back and let loose stage laughter that would be hurt the ears of the bad guy in the worst trash series. Next to that the eye-rolling clumsiness of his number in 'Broken Arrow' seems to to be a miracle of nuance and understatement." In the unusually direct criticism accompanied by incredulous astonishment, it was said that the major Hollywood production, which had cost about $90 million, had fallen short of every amateur level.
"The only thing professional about the movie was the sound. It was so loud that you would think you were on a runway while jets were taking off. Drones of proper aircraft, however, would have been preferable." Another newspaper warned that there was not even enough humor from the unintentional failings of the movie, "Travolta is even too weak for that."
Now that the movie is running in the theaters in the USA, one can more easily understand why no studio wanted to take on John Travolta's pet project. Scientologist John Travolta had tried for many years to find a producer for the science fiction film, "Battlefield Earth," which is based on a novel by Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard, without success. His concoction finally got a start from an outsider to Hollywood, Elie Samaha, a native born Lebanese. It was financed, in part, by the Munich company, Intertainment AG.
Co-producer Travolta had foregone a wage in the sum of double-digit millions in the filming, but he would have received $15 million if the box office take in the USA exceeded $55 million. The chances of turning a profit, however, are poor. "Battlefield Earth" was immediately thrashed at the box office by "Gladiator" with Russel Crowe.
Rumors continue to appear whereby the Scientologists are said to have financed the movie but these, as usual, are denied by speakers for the sect. The presumption that the association intended to recruit new, young members with the film was also officially denied.
However, an organization critical of the sect, Factnet (http://www.factnet.org) maintains on the internet that the official web page of "Battlefield Earth," which appeals to a young audience, is not operated, as normal, by the distributer, but by Scientology's own Author Services, Inc. (The distributer operates its own web page). Factnet is concerned that the sect will obtain new addresses by which it can aggressively recruit from the ordering of memorabilia and internet links.