Battlefield Earth, also referred to as Battlefield Earth: Take Back the Planet or Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, is a 2000 American science fiction action film based upon the first half of the 1982 novel of the same name by L. Ron Hubbard. The film was directed by Roger Christian and written by Corey Mandell and J.D Shapiro. The premiere was held on May 10, 2000 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, while it was released in cinemas on May 12, 2000.
The film 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 also 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, as it only focuses 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, alongside the poor reception of the film, ended the plans for a sequel.
In the year 3000, there are no countries, no cities... Earth is a wasteland. And man is an endangered species. As the leader of the evil Psychlos, Terl and his race have taken over the world's natural resources and disregarded everyone and everything else. It's up to Jonnie "Goodboy" Tyler, a brave human, to battle the Psychlos and restore normalcy to the world.
Why It Sucks
- The biggest criticism of the film is that over 95% of the shots in the entire movie are slanted via Dutch angles, which come across as 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, notably from Travolta and Pepper, with elements of overacting and underacting throughout. This is considered ironic, as the film was a passion project for Travolta.
- The name of Psychlos' race is rather unoriginal for an alien race.
- There are several plot holes, inconsistencies, and illogical events, including:
- For some reason, the remnants of the former human civilization somehow managed to last for a millennium.
- 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", even though they should have no idea what a cake is.
- In spite of the total breakdown of the society where much of the knowledge from a millennium prior has not been passed to the era the film is set in, the humans speak perfectly-constructed English, including more complex tenses and irregular verbs.
- Terl informs Jonnie that soldiers with their technology have only lasted nine minutes against the Psychlos, yet barely trained cavemen were later seen to be capable of defeating them using the same technology which had been sitting unmaintained for a millennium.
- After spending time in the Knowledge Machine, Jonnie acquires the Psychlo language and other things, specifically including mathematics. For some reason this also teaches him terms such as "Euclidean geometry" and enables him to translate that into the English of an uneducated, primitive human culture and 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 the humans to mine, yet there is a scene where many of them are seen operating a forge, which requires know-how exceeding the simple act of digging for gold.
- For some reason, all of the F-18 jets in the abandoned military base which the humans find managed to keep the fuel, not to mention that their jets are still working after a millennium. The jet fuel has a shelf life of about four years; not only that, a fully-fueled jet found after a long period of time 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 a millennium.
- Unconvincing character development; particularly, almost everyone in the film is 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.
- Incredibly lazy cinematography.
- Several scenes in the film are copied from the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Trek, GMW, Planet of the Apes, and GMW.
- Incredibly poor grasp of the source material; notably, the invaders don't attack Fort Knox as they did in the novel.
- Lackluster visual effects, especially for the alien ships, which clearly look fake.
- Jarring sound effects. One offender is the sound used for Psychlos' weapons, which sound more like actual guns rather than laser weapons.
- Almost little-to-no action whatsoever, despite the film being called Battlefield Earth. Most of the action scenes that are in the film are mostly indoors and are poorly-edited since they tend to overuse slow motion. The actual battle only happens in the climax, which most of the action especially with the Dome breaks in the final act.
- Overuse of color filters throughout the film, most notably whenever the Psychlos are at their lair.
- Laughable costumes, with both the humans and Psychlos having long, messy hair with dreadlocks similar to that of metal bands; as a result, the Psychlos fail to appear intimidating or convincing. Not helping is that the Psychlos share a jarring resemblance to the Klingons from the Star Trek franchise.
- Lame art designs, notably for the backgrounds and models, with the Psychlos' ships resembling flying trash cans.
- Despite their name, the Psychlos are incompetent in terms of warfare, as they literally train their enemies in weaponry and piloting their ships, yet they do not expect them to fight back.
- The dialogue is far more laughable than serious in the film, and as a result it feels out-of-place; notable examples include when Terl asks Jonnie if he wants lunch whilst offering him a live rat, and the infamous "I was being trained, to conquer galaxies!".
- Basically, this film acts as propaganda for Scientology and the viewpoints of its founder (and the author of the book the movie is based on), L. Ron Hubbard, in particular promoting distrust of psychologists via the movie's villains, the Psychlos.
- The musical score is rather lackluster.
- Some of the sets have creative designs.
- In relation to WIS #17, 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 visual effects.
- It had potential, as the plot seemed interesting, but poorly executed compared to the book that was based, which is much better.
Upon its release, Battlefield Earth was heavily panned who criticized virtually every aspect of the film, including the acting, cinematography, script, special effects, and art direction, 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.
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.
- As mentioned before, 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.