By Alexander Goodlive
It’s the year 3000. Intelligent life in the universe has been discovered, and they’ve taken over the world. Welcome to the world of tomorrow!
Unfortunately, this is not the beginning of Futurama. Instead, it’s the set-up for something unintentionally funny: A small rebel force of humans taking on an entire army of “intelligent” life from the planet Psychlo in the delightfully ridiculous Battlefield: Earth.
Based on the novel by L. Ron Hubbard and championed by John Travolta for years before it finally got made in 2000, what we have here is an attempt to tell a grueling story of humanity being reduced to their caveman-like origins. Only existing as slaves and in small scattered bands, the main human… whose name doesn’t really matter… is captured by the Psychlos, taught their language, and used to help mine gold for the local commander, Terl.
Terl, played by John Travolta, is like what would happen if you took his and Nicolas Cage’s insanely over-the-top performance from Face/Off, put them in a blender, and dressed it up like an alien Rasta Man. But he’ll be sure to tell you that while you were learning to SPELL YOUR NAME, he was being trained to CONQUER GALAXIES! That line, by the way, is delivered by Travolta in a way that makes Dr. Frank-N-Further seem subtle by comparison. His sidekick of sorts is Ker, played by someone who likely does all he can to hide it from his resume, Forest Whitaker.
The movie makes absolutely no sense. Somehow the gold-obsessed Psychlos never discovered Fort Knox. Planes that have been sitting around for a thousand years still have fuel that works. The humans were defeated in nine minutes in the year 2000, but somehow a small band of them manages to blow up the Psychlo planet a thousand years later. Terl takes more joy in shooting livestock than doing his job. Every shot is at an angle for a reason that’s never explained.
But it’s absolutely glorious; easily one of the worst sci-fi movies ever made, and worth every second of its viewing pleasure. How a movie featuring Barry Pepper and Forest Whitaker could be this unintentionally bad is only explained by the fact that it took Travolta over a decade to get it made, and there was a reason. The best parts are anytime that Travolta is on screen, as he somehow makes every other performance he’s ever given look monotonous by comparison.
Alexander Goodlive is an English/cinema double major at the University of Pennsylvania, commuting from Harrisburg. He has five published books, hosts the snarky Internet show “Jaded Hope,” and writes weekly for lordsofpain.net under the alias Al Laiman. In his spare time, he’s a stand-up guru, and recently placed well in the championship round of International Underwater Basket-Weaving
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