Part of the “fun” of spending an entire month watching some of the worst movies ever made is seeing things that have been on my to-do list for years. Like, sure, I’ve seen Birdemic: Shock and Terror several times and The Room close to 30 times (fuck you, only God can judge me), but what about all those movies that I couldn’t bring myself to inflict on my friends? So despite all the garbage I’ve watched in my life, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 had slipped me by. But now’s my chance to remedy this mistake! Lucky me!
The story is aliens have taken over Earth and the plucky humans rise up and take their planet back. Yawn. To get more technical, a thousand years ago the Psyclos invaded and decimated the human race, killing most, enslaving some, and leaving the rest to hide out in irradiated zones where the Psyclos can’t go. Our sexy caveman protagonist Jonnie–known as Jonnie Goodboy Tyler in the book, a name marginally better than Billy Herosjourney Protagonist–is named 45 minutes in and has a fighting spirit that ends with him leading the rebellion. He gets the girl, loses a few allies when they heroically sacrifice themselves, and it all just feels so… overdone. I’ve seen this plot a hundred times. What this movie has that others don’t is an excess of Dutch angles–that’s the filming technique where the camera is tilted slightly, generally indicating that something is wrong, usually associated with madness or other psychological problems. But so much of this movie is Dutch angles that the effect loses all meaning. The whole movie has no meaning!
Ignoring that the humans have been living in irradiated zones for a thousand years, ignoring why those areas are irradiated, ignoring that the humans go from cavemen to flying fighter jets in less than two weeks, and ignoring that all this technology the humans fight back with would’ve degraded into rust after a millennium, Terl (Mr. John Travolta) and his plan are the second dumbest things in the entire movie. He takes the most rebellious human he can find and teaches him the Psychlo language, but also a bunch of advanced concepts like geometry and molecular biology unintentionally. He also allows Jonnie to learn about human history (which raises the question that since his tribe was using cave paintings, how does he know how to read English?). He then teaches Jonnie how to fly a Psyclo ship and drops a bunch of humans at a gold mine, completely unsupervised. Sure, Terl says he’s watching, but he never notices when Jonnie takes the ship and flies to Ft. Knox or any other place. Terl created the destroyer of his entire race! But the Psyclos as a whole are the dumbest for laying the groundwork during their occupation of Earth that Terl’s bad decisions were built on. They’ve been in control for a thousand years but learned absolutely nothing about humans? Fuck, Terl and Ker (Forest Whitaker) at one point argue whether humans can fly or not! Gold is incredibly valuable, but they didn’t search for our gold reserves? They never noticed gold jewelry or other objects and investigated further? And the Psyclos have only one base on the entire planet, and it’s in a giant greenhouse? Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Fucking hell you guys are bad at your job.
But now for the real question: is this Scientology propaganda? No, not really. But the source material is a different answer. In the novel–which, by the way, continued the story with Jonnie negotiating with alien bankers over financial control of Earth–we learn more about the Psyclos’ ruling class–the Catrists–and how they control their entire race through cruelty and brain implants. Hm… Psyclo… Catrists… Oh, right! L. Ron Hubbard viewed psychiatrists as “an antisocial enemy of the people,” possibly because of his own mental illness! What a very weird and petty swipe at the whole of psychology. What a weird and pointless movie.
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