Volume 94, Issue 2
Friday, May 19, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Battlefield Earth a disasterous sci-fi junkyard
"I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO GO TO ANOTHER STYLIST." John Travolta expresses his dissatisfaction with Barry Pepper in the new movie, Battlefield Earth.
Starring: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Roger Christian
By Matt Pearson
If you've ever wondered whether or not Hollywood has learned from mammoth-sized mistakes such as Kevin Costner's Waterworld, John Travolta's latest effort, Battlefield Earth, proves he must have somehow missed the lesson.
Battlefield Earth begins with a sweeping shot of a mountain range, then introduces the audience to a collection of misfit cave-dwellers, struggling to find food while waiting hopelessly for the return of the gods.
Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), who questions his faith and devotion to these gods, decides to leave the cave in hopes of finding a better life for his people. He is soon taken captive by the Psychlos, a dreadlocked bunch who borrow much of their fashion sense from the rock band KISS.
Jonnie is transported to the Human Processing Center where he encounters Terl (John Travolta), the leader of the Psychlos. Jonnie finds himself among many "man-animal" prisoners, whom the Psychlos have captured and forced into hard labour. Pepper's character, a natural leader, gathers the prisoners and unifies them in hopes of conquering their oppressors.
What transpires, is a war between good and evil, seeking to blend science-fiction with philosophy. Based on scientologist guru L. Ron Hubbard's novel by the same name, Battlefield Earth presents futuristic Earth as a jaded wasteland. The settings portray an abandoned America with dilapidated skyscrapers, forgotten shopping centres and "caves with golden arches."
Despite its interesting view of humanity and capitalism, the movie is largely a failure. The script is weak and the dialogue is inane. Travolta's character is intended to be intimidating, but instead is cornered into making stupid one-liners. The remaining Psychlos speak in such a ridiculous manner that the audience quickly loses interest in what is said. As for Jonnie, he has apparently seen too many hero movies, since his lines are straight out of the good guy handbook.
In terms of special effects, the movie fares somewhat better. There are a series of space travel scenes reminiscent of an IMAX experience. Beyond that, the special effects seem to be stolen from earlier films like Independence Day. Even worse, some of the effects look like they were stolen from cheap 1950s space movies, especially Travolta's aircraft, which resembles a flying aluminum dog.
Yet the worst part of this movie is the absurd costumes and the dreadfully unconvincing acting. People in the audience actually laughed when Travolta first appeared on screen. His character was under-developed, leaving only his arrogant demeanour to carry the film. Pepper was more effective, but his lack of emotion left the audience wondering if he cared whether or not his people were slaughtered.
Battlefield Earth is certainly not destined to join the ranks of celebrated science fiction movies. It's a long, loud journey to nowhere special, where intergalactic rastafarians wear six inch heels.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000