I saw Battlefield Earth at the movies when it came out. John Travolta’s totally-not-Scientology epic, a production of the novel by friend of mankind L. Ron Hubbard.
I don’t think I ever wrote up my review of this one. It was twenty-three years ago, but the pain remains fresh.
At this time I was the Scientology Guy — one of the people on Usenet ripping the piss out of the Church of Scientology for its extensive catalogue of odious and abusive behaviour. I even wrote a website about it. Hosted on suburbia.net, at that time run by a guy called Julian Assange. Apparently running my site directly inspired him to more famous works.
I went with a friend who saw a movie every week. I warned her that this was a contender for Worst Film Ever Made. She reassured me that she’d seen some awful stuff, and she was sure we’d cope with this one fine.
We ended up going in a gang of about twenty of us to have a Bad Movie Night at some Village Cinema. We were the only people in the showing. The ticket seller asked us if we were sure this was really the film we wanted to see.
I assure you I’ve never read the book. I’m told by one guy who did — a recovering ex-Scientologist — that it’s got fun ideas and that its main problem is three hundred pages of story in a thousand pages of book. I’d think it has a few other very obvious problems, but anyway.
There’s a plot, sort of? The primitive humans are facing off against the invading aliens. Our hero goes into a brain machine and learns to fly the thousand-year-old Harrier jump jets that are just lying around, in perfect working order, with full tanks of fuel.
The plot doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to, really — the movie is meant to be an action cartoon. I mean, fine. But then the rest has to not suck too.
There’s a B-plot of office intrigue among the aliens that’s Dilbert in Space — back when Dilbert didn’t suck too — which probably should have been the A-plot. Apparently the Dilbert in Space subplot is also in the book. Leverage!
Here’s a clip of the Dilbert in Space subplot. Thirty seconds will show you how the entire movie is presented:
They spent $73 million on this movie, and you could see them spending $1 million seventy-three times, right there on the screen. Every shot is at an angle. The CGI could have been done with an Amiga. A few years later and it would have had an “Unregistered HyperCam 2” watermark. Everything is dark and the sound is murky, anticipating the motion picture production fashions of twenty years later.
We asked an usher how long the movie was playing for and he said “bloody forever.” We suspect actual attendees were surplus to the promotional effort.
A few years later, I was inspired to write Fountainhead Earth for Uncyclopedia.
So bad it’s bad. Battlefield Earth stars out of five. Any sneering ironic joy to be had from this film is not worth the minutes of your life.
Afterwards the friend and I talked about the movie for an hour or so. She concluded: “let’s never speak of this again.”