Battlefield Earth (or fully as Battlefield Earth: Take Back the Planet, or Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000,) is a 2000 American dystopian science fiction action film based upon the first half of the 1982 novel of the same name by L. Ron Hubbard. Directed by Roger Christian and starring John Travolta, Barry Pepper, and Forest Whitaker, Battlefield Earth was released on May 12, 2000. The movie was a major critical and commercial failure and has been called one of the worst films ever, with a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It even won almost all of the 2000 Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture of the Year.
Travolta envisioned the film as the first in a two-part adaptation of the book, focusing on the first half of the novel's story. A sequel based on the second half of the novel was planned; however, the bankruptcy of Franchise Pictures and the poor reception of the film ended the plans for a sequel.
In the year 3000, humanity is no match for the Psychlos, a greedy, manipulative race on a quest for ultimate profit. Led by the seductive and powerful Terl, the Psychlos are stripping Earth of its resources, using the broken remnants of humanity as slaves. What is left of the human race has reverted to a primitive state, believing the invaders to be demons and technology to be evil. After humanity has all but given up any hope of freeing themselves from alien oppression, a young man named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler decides to leave his desolate home high in the Rocky Mountains to discover the truth, whereupon he is captured and enslaved. It is then that he decides to fight back, leading his fellow men in one final struggle for freedom.
Why It Sucks
- The main flaw is that 95% of the shots in the entire movie are slanted through the use of Dutch agels, which only serve to be distracting and annoying. Even the director himself claimed there is only one unslanted shot in the entire movie and (apparently) wanted the film to look like a comic book.
- Incredibly abysmal acting for the characters, particularly Travolta and Pepper, with elements of overacting and underacting throughout. This is considered ironic, as the film was a passion project for Travolta.
- The Psychlos' race name is a very unoriginal name, even for a alien race.
- Incredibly poorly written script.
- Plot-holes, plot holes everywhere, mainly because the remains of the former human civilization somehow managed to be last for 1000 years.
- Terl is informed by his district manager that he has to stay on Earth for a long time after having an illicit relationship with the Senator's daughter.
- During the third act, the humans keep repeating the phrase "piece of cake" despite probably having no idea what a cake is.
- In spite of the total breakdown of the society where much of the present-day knowledge has not been passed to the film's present day, the "man-animals" speak perfectly constructed English, including more complex tenses and irregular verbs.
- Terl tells Johnny that soldiers with their technology only lasted nine minutes against the Psychlos, yet untrained cavemen were able to defeat them using the same technology (which had been sitting unmaintained for 1000 years).
- After spending time in the Knowledge Machine, Jonnie learns the Psychlo language and many other things, specifically including mathematics. Somehow this also teaches him terms such as "Euclidean geometry" and enables him to translate that into the English of an uneducated, primitive human culture as well as to read English texts, despite the fact that the Psychlos appear to have no knowledge of English.
- Much is made of the alleged inability of "Man-Animals" to mine, yet there is a scene in which many of them are seen operating a forge, which requires know-how exceeding the simple act of digging for gold.
- Very unconvincing character development; particularly, most of the characters are dimwitted. At one point, Jonnie tries to destroy a Psychlo ship by throwing a wooden stick at it, and a fat hunter jumps off an edge and breaks his ankle.
- Several of the movie's scenes are copied from the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes, and The Matrix.
- Incredibly poor grasp of the source material; for example, the invaders don't attack Fort Knox as they did in the novel.
- Lackluster and cartoonish special effects and CGI, especially for the alien ships, which look clearly fake.
- Awful and jarring sound effects. One offender is on the alien weapons, which sound more like actual guns rather than laser weapons.
- A lot of times, the movie breaks their own logic, one of the worst examples that when a group of humans founded an abandoned military base with F-18 jets, which all of the F-18 jets somehow managed to keep the fuel, and keeping the jets working for over 1,000 years. What's more, the jet fuel has a shelf life of about four years. A fully-fueled jet found after a long period of time for many decades, wouldn't even be able to start, much less take off and fly, at all.
- Even so, the batteries on the other hand, the hand-held radios used in the final battle would not have maintained a charge after 1000 years.
- Little action whatsoever, despite the film being called "Battlefield Earth". The other action scenes are mostly indoors and are poorly made due to overuse of slow motion. The actual battle scene only happens in the climax, which most of the action especially with the Dome breaks in the final act.
- Overuses a lot of color filters throughout the film, most notably whenever the Psychlos are at their lair.
- Very laughable costumes, especially for both the humans and Psychlos, who have long, messy hair with dreadlocks similar to that of metal bands. As a result, the Psychlos fail to appear intimidating or convincing and look extremely similar to The Klingons fromthe Star Trek franchise.
- Lame art designs, such as for the backgrounds and models. The alien ships, especially, look like flying trash cans.
- Despite their name, the Psychlos are incompetent in terms of warfare, as they literally train their enemy in weaponry and how to fly their ships and don't expect them to fight back.
- The dialogue is way too hilarious than being serious in the film; for example, Terl has a funny line when he says "Do you want lunch?!" while offering Jonnie a live rat, or the infamous "I was being trained, to conquer galaxies!!" line.
- Some of the sets have creative designs.
- In relation to WIS #16, the film can be quite hilarious at times, some of it due to how bad it is.
- The destruction of the Psychlo dome near the end of the film is way better than most of the other special effects.
Upon its release, Battlefield Earth was heavily panned, and is often considered as one of the worst films ever made. The film has a "rotten" score of 3% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 148 reviews with an average rating of 2.3 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Ugly, campy and poorly acted, Battlefield Earth is a stunningly misguided, aggressively bad sci-fi folly". The same site later ranked the film 27th on their "Worst of the Worst (2000-2009)" list for the top 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 9/100, based on 33 critics indicating "overwhelming dislike". The film also holds a 2.5/10 on IMDb and is ranked #15 on IMDb's Bottom Rated Movies list.
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film the rating of half a star out of four and described it as "like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way. I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies."  Leonard Maltin labeled the film a "BOMB" in his book Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide stating, "Clumsy plot, misplaced satire, unbelievable coincidences and a leaden pace trample Travolta's weird but amusing performance." David Bleiler gave the film one star out of four in the TLA Video & DVD Guide, writing: "This is disjointed, tedious and every bit as bad as its reputation." Jon Stewart mocked the film on his television program The Daily Show, describing it as "a cross between Star Wars and the smell of ass".
Battlefield Earth opened at #2 on its opening weekend with a domestic gross of $11,58,898. The film's domestic gross would later go up to $21,471,685. In foreign countries, the film grossed $8,253,978. Overall, the film made $29,725,663 worldwide against its reported $73 million budget. It was later revealed that the actual cost of making Battlefield Earth was $44 million. The film was a box office bomb and the film's failure at the box office led to the end of the film's independent studio Franchise Pictures. They had already suffered losses from this film and their other films disappointing performance at the box office, but their final blow came in 2007 when one of Franchise's investors, the German-based Intertainment AG, filed a lawsuit against them claiming that they had faked the budget for this film to be $75 million when it was actually $44 million. Intertainment won the suit and won $121.7 million in damages, while Franchise Pictures declared bankruptcy after the lawsuit.
Awards and nominations
Battlefield Earth won seven Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Picture. It was even given a Worst Picture of the Decade Award in 2010 and Worst Drama in our First 25 Years in 2005 until that record was beaten by Jack and Jill, which won ten Golden Raspberry Awards. The film and Showgirls were a tie for the most Golden Raspberry Awards. Screenwriter J. David Shapiro accepted the Awards for Worst Screenplay and Worst Picture of the Decade and it also won a Worst Picture Award at the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards.
As mentioned earlier, the original plan was to make a sequel to the first film, which was intended to cover the second half of the book itself but was cancelled due to poor critical and audience reception, poor box office performance, and the financial ruin of Franchise Pictures. The premise is unknown, but it supposedly takes place after the Psychlos' war against the humans. The title sequel covering the second half of the book was never given. It was originally intended to be released in 2002, but it was later delayed to 2003 in order to avoid competition with Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
The film had been in production since the early 1980s and in that same time period, John Travolta's career faltered in the mid to late 1980s due to many box office flops. However, Travolta's career got back on track after the release of Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Pulp Fiction which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Despite getting his career back on track, Travolta kept looking for studios to distribute his pet project despite many times studios (especially MGM and 20th Century Fox) turning down the project. However, Battlefield Earth was picked up by a newly founded film company called Franchise Pictures in 1998 (read more in the lower section) which was created by Elie Samaha and was created to help movie stars with stalled projects. To put it simply, this movie got stuck in development hell for more than twenty years.
- John Travolta used a lot of his own salary to fund Battlefield Earth.
- In the 100th episode of the Nostalgia Critic when he reviewed this film, he lambasted the film. However, when he made a commentary on the episode as himself, he said that while the film is bad, he actually found it enjoyable to watch. He praised the production design and said Travolta was very entertaining to watch.
- WatchMojo.com called it the worst film of all time. In the updated version of the list of the worst films, it was ranked at #2.
- John Travolta was originally going to star as Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, but since he was too old to star as the protagonist, he was cast as the film's antagonist, Terl.
- Forest Whittaker was at first later pleased for starring in the film. He then issued an apology for starring in the film.