Review: Battlefield Earth

battlefield_earth_cov.jpgYear: 2000
Director: Roger Christian
Starring: John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Sabine Karsenti
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 27

Plot
Man fights back against an alien race that has enslaved it.

Quick Review
Battlefield Earth attempts to recount the first half of the story told in L. Ron Hubbard’s massive novel of the same name. This is an ambitious film, but shoddy acting, weak pacing, poor construction, and an illogical story bring this movie down, way down.

Full Review
Battlefield Earth has all the elements of an exciting, epic action movie. There is grand scale, an aspiring rise to overthrow the bonds of slavery, an intricate plot, and plenty of action. The core story to Battlefield battlefield_earth_5.jpgEarth is solid and intriguing. But the movie self destructs in its execution. Done right, this could have been a powerful movie. Unfortunately, it fails in almost every regard. What we end up with is a painful collage of poorly constructed scenes, illogical plot dynamics, and ugly acting.

There are a lot of problems with this movie, but none is bigger than the fact that the movie is poorly constructed, poorly planned, and makes little sense. A case of beer can’t cover up the wandering stupidity of this film. In the end it tells its story well enough, but there are so many scenes that drag on endlessly and so many scenes that do nothing to advance the plot. With both the details and the overall story, Battlefield Earth makes you ask “Why?” every five minutes. Why did that scene just happen? Why are the main characters screaming? Why did Terl, the supposedly intelligent officer in charge of the human slaves, think that starving men lost in the wild would eat their favorite food? Why can’t humans breathe here, but can breathe there? Why are the lead villains so incredibly naive? Why did that scene battlefield_earth_4.jpgtake ten minutes? Why am I still watching this movie? And if you’re not asking “Why?” you’re asking “How?” How did those ancient, forgotten American jets win dogfights against modern alien spacecraft, when the aliens supposedly wiped out the Earth’s military forces in nine minutes a thousand years ago? Even sillier, how did humans in the wild, who have never operated something as complicated as a pencil, learn how to fly fighter jets in a few days? How did the humans fly to Fort Knox so easily, when they don’t even understand the concept of borders?

When you add in the abysmally overblown acting and couple it with a painfully boring script, you drag the movie down even more. And the bad acting and poor scripting stand out the most in Terl, John Travolta’s character. I generally like John Travolta in other movies, and at times I can see that he was trying to pull off a haughty, malevolent, and diabolical villain in Terl. But it just doesn’t work, mainly because Terl ends up being an unbelievable character. At times he can plan high strategy, but he consistently underestimates humans in ways that simply don’t make sense given his intellect. At times he treats them like stupid animals, and yet he realizes they have an intellect that could allow them to fly aircraft. Travolta also never quite strikes the right vibe in Terl. The voice, the gestures, the actions never quite create an effective character. At times I felt like I was watching a battlefield_earth_3.jpgShakesperean aristocrat. At other times he comes off as a thug. And Travolta gets little help from the rest of the cast. Wide-eyed Barry Pepper, who plays the protagonist Jonnie Goodboy, is unconvincing. The rest of the supporting cast plays their roles in stone-age fashion, with the exception of Forest Whitaker as Terl’s subordinate. Whitaker is at least somewhat watchable, but he is an island in this film.

I thought perhaps some riveting action might save Battlefield Earth and cover up its weakness as an overall film. But this is not the case. When it comes down to it, there isn’t a tremendous amount of action in the film, and most of it is either someone running away and getting caught, someone confronting someone with a weapon, or people running around in the dark shooting weapons. Okay, a few of the airborne scenes are engaging and some of the cinematography is pretty, but these experiences are far and few between.

The only thing that could rescue Battlefield Earth from the garbage heap would be lots of eye candy, but the movie fails here as well. Sabine Karsenti plays Jonnie Goodboy’s beautiful love interest, but she only battlefield_earth_2.jpgappears in the movie at rare intervals. What a waste. From the male side, the aliens are covered in lots of blue stuff that obscures any physical appeal, and the human are all dressed in rags, with their hair hanging in front of their faces. Not much from this angle either.

In the end, Battlefield Earth has all the elements of an exciting, epic action movie. There is grand scale, an aspiring rise to overthrow the bonds of slavery, an intricate plot, and plenty of action. The core story to Battlefield Earth is solid and intriguing. But the movie self destructs in its execution. Done right, this could have been a powerful movie. Unfortunately, it fails in almost every regard, from acting to script, and from plot to premise. What we end up with is a painful collage of poorly constructed scenes, illogical plot dynamics, and ugly acting. Pass on this one.

Fun Fact
Battlefield Earth won seven Golden Raspberries Awards, which puts it tied for second most.

Score
Pace: 29
Plot: 23
Action: 47
Consistent Premise: 8
Script/Quotes: 21
Characters: 34
Acting: 19
Villain: 31
Body Count: 45
Babes: 21
Hunks: 38
Explosions: 35
Special Effects: 42
Stunts: 15
Ending: 47

Overall: 27

[tags]Battlefield Earth, John Travolta, Roger Christian, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Sabine Karsenti, action movie, movie review[/tags]

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