Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000

Sometimes, Hollywood makes mistakes. Rarely do these mistakes have quite the impact of John Travolta's passion project, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, which bankrupted Franchise Pictures, drained nearly all of Travolta's 90’s comeback-goodwill and served as a teaser trailer for the more eclectic side of Scientology. Could it be that this sci-fi epic was just ahead of its time/dimension? Let’s ask the nanobots…
  • The opening crawl puts the alien takeover at right around the year 2000. Sounds about right. = +2pts 
  • "Gold is the rarest and most valuable metal of all." = -10pts (Did Glenn Beck write this movie?) 
  • Reiterating, with text again, the opening crawl's assertion that "man is an endangered species" within the first two minutes. Apparently we aren’t the smartest. = +6pts 
  • Having to readjust our heads three times already because every other shot is at an unnecessary angle. = -9pts 
  • According to IMDB, Barry Pepper's character is named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. No. = -1pt 
  • Barry Pepper's slow-motion "nooooooooo" is on par with Darth Vader's. = +13pts 
  • Star Wars-style wipe-edits. = -5pts 
  • Humans are an endangered species, but apparently horses are like bicycles, as this tribe happily loans Barry Pepper one for his suicide mission. = -1pt 
  • We don't know if Earth's terrain has become more angled because alien-gold-mining or if the filmmakers wanted to distract us from more slow motion. = -9pts 
  • "Oh no, a demon! Better hit it with a stick!" = -9pts 
  • Nope, not a demon, just a mini golf course that's been abandoned for 1000 years. = -10pts 
  • Having an "intimidating grunt fight" with humans he encounters, because now the humans are the animals. Get it? = -11pts 
  • Statues and mannequins have been frozen by the gods: 30th century anthropology. = +7pts 
  • It's good to know that even on post-apocalyptic, alien-ruled Earth, "a good woman is hard to find." Eh, amirite! = -14pts 
  • "Aww, shit! Here come them aliens! I'll just whistle my horse over… NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR SLOW MOTION, HORSE! " = -8pts 
  • Barry Pepper's reaction to his horse getting shot is the same "noooooo" he belted when he found out his father died. = -20pts 
  • Barry Pepper's courageous portrayal of getting shot and falling forward through four panes of glass…all in slow motion. = +12pts 
  • Shouting "It's poison!" as gas pours into a holding cell. Great detective work, human! = -1pts 
  • The screen text reveals that we are arriving at "Human Processing Center - Denver." Denver? Really? = -9pts (Pre-Columbine = +10pts, Post-Columbine = -19pts) 
  • Aliens looking like scarier versions of Klingons if the Klingon fashion industry took all of its cues from Milli Vanilli. = -8pts 
  • John Travolta and Forest Whitaker as goatee'd alien prison guards (Terl and Ker, respectively). = +30pts 
  • Calling Barry Pepper a "man-animal" instead of "manimal." = -20pts. 
  • Two words: prison hosedown. Didn't see the word “sexy” there? That's right. = +1pt 
  • Destroying Barry Pepper's mom's lucky necklace. = +1pt 
  • "They told me this planet was ugly, but this has gotta be one of the ugliest crapholes in the entire universe!" = -11pts 
  • Bureaucratic alien with a saggy gut for a chin looks like the love-child of an elderly woman and Pizza the Hutt . = -14pts. 
  • John Travolta gets passed up for the promotion he's been counting on; evil alien corporate big-wigs doom him to an eternity in human-slavery-middle-management. = +23pts 
  • Planet Psychlo looks like if Prince did the production design for Blade Runner. = -35pts. 
  • Psychlos getting loaded on Hi-C Ecto-Cooler after a bad day. Problems, we all got 'em! = +2pts 
  • In case you needed to be reminded of irony is, the humans are imprisoned in a desolated zoo. = +3pts 
  • Barry Pepper fighting the reigning Alpha-human to teach everyone the lesson that humans shouldn't fight over who gets to eat their soylent green first. = +5pts 
  • Psychlo law ensures profit over all, meaning Forest Whitaker gets to spout some corporate jargon justifying teaching humans to use machines. = +1pt 
  • The slow-motion and angled framing continue without any remorse. = +2pts 
  • "No way this man lasts more than four minutes." Psychlos reflecting middle-aged human housewives everywhere. = +4pts 
  • John Travolta continually abusing Forest Whitaker; he's like a less-likable and uglier Moe Howard. = +3pts 
  • The plan is to trick Barry Pepper into "choosing its favorite food?" Blazin' Hot Buffalo Wings? = 0pts (Score pending). 
  • Nope. RATS. = -10pts 
  • John Travolta and Forest Whitaker are the Keystone Cops. = -8pts 
  • Language slave hologram. = -1pt 
  • Hooking the smart man-animal up to our knowledge machine. What could possibly go wrong?! = +20pts 
  • "Hope is an admirable quality, but foolish isn't." Poetry. = -6pts. 
  • John Travolta looking far too happy force-feeding Barry Pepper a live rat. = +2pts 
  • Barry Pepper, seeing the Denver Library for the first time, becomes the first person in recorded history to be impressed by it. = +7pts 
  • Meanwhile, at the Psychlo watering hole: "Ker, meet Chirk." Kelly Preston knows how to stand by her man. = +4pts 
  • "I'm going to make you as happy as a baby Psychlo on a straight diet of grabango." I assume this means "boobs." = +10pts 
  • So, its technical name is "the learning machine." Okay. = +2pts 
  • The flying simulation looks a lot like the graphics from The Lawnmower Man, yet this movie came out after The Matrix. = +1pt
  • Barry Pepper decides to break into Fort Knox instead of mining for gold. = +15pts 
  • Not understanding maps and the lines and… "they must have just faded over time." = +5pts 
  • Washington, DC: "The capital of all our tribes." = -8pts (For perpetuating gridlock.) 
  • Fort Hood, Texas. Home of barbeque, nukes, and manimal flight simulations. = -2pts 
  • Some truly agonizing dialog between Travolta and Whitaker. = -7pts (Think “Qui-Gon Jin explaining midichlorians” level bad). 
  • Although, props for Forest Whitaker’s space Kool-aid. = +2pts 
  • Don't forget the boxes marked "explosives!" = -16pts (We're actually rooting against the humans at this point.) 
  • The old “hero loses his communications device just as an important message comes through” trick. = -2pts 
  • "Woof, woof, yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhh!" = +5pts 
  • You gotta think, "Man, this guy Terl is just trying to get paid and go home, he hates his job so much, why can't he have a nice life like any other crazy, six-fingered alien slavedriver," right? = +1pt 
  • The most complicated, drawn-out and convoluted plot to "blow the dome" ever. = +16pts 
  • John Travolta exploding his own arm off and reacting with a "hennggh." = +23pts 
  • Nuking Prince's Purple Planet!™ = +31pts 
  • Okay, you guys got your planet back. Now will you bathe? = -1pt 
  • Last scene is eerily reminiscent of the way they left Magneto in the plastic prison at the end of X-Men. Who copied who??? = +9pts 

Total Score: =-8pts
Available on: DVD, Netflix, YouTube.

It's hard to believe this movie made it all the way to the screen. An amalgamation of science fiction clich├ęs, ham-fisted moral lessons, and a large dose of “what-in-the-serious-hell-is-going-on,” Battlefield Earth is a time capsule of pre-9/11 Hollywood. With the current contextual knowledge of CoS's shadier side, this movie could almost be seen as a cry for help from one of its most beloved benefactors and public figures. If you must watch Battlefield Earth, we advise doing it with friends, maybe some party liquor, and definitely a nearby scorecard.

Score Technician: Matt Fleming

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