Battlefield Earth – Psychlos, Scientology and Stupidity
In the year 3000, a race of aliens called Psychlos rule the earth and enslave humanity. The humans not enslaved by the brutal aliens live as primitive tribes. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) is the film’s hero. He is captured by the Psychlos, but proves to be a resourceful escape artist. Terl (John Travolta), Psychlo security chief and the film’s big bad guy, decides to use Tyler to mine gold. Somehow, all this leads to Tyler leading a massive revolution against the evil Psychlos.
Battlefield Earth is an incredible film. It has everything you could possibly ask for in a movie: mind-blowing action, stellar special effects, a great plot, stunning cinematography, believable dialogue, a touching romantic subplot and memorable characters.*
The plot relies entirely on stupidity to keep itself going. Characters assume that other characters are idiots, just as the filmmakers must have assumed that their audience is brain dead.
Terl, the Pscyhlo, decides to teach Tyler, the human, about all of Psychlo technology because that will somehow help him to mine gold. Terl doesn’t think for even a second that Tyler will use his newfound knowledge to start a massive rebellion against the Psychlos; he assumes, because the Psychlos so easily defeated the humans when they first invaded, that any human rebellion can easily be crushed. Of course, in the end of the film we do see human fighter jets able to destroy the Psychlo ships, which indicates that Terl massively underestimated humanity. How did this guy even get to be security chief?
Wait a minute? Fighter jets in the year 3000? If human society has basically been wiped out for several centuries, then wouldn’t the jets have deteriorated to an inoperable state? Does this film really expect me to believe that a bunch of cavemen learned how to maintain and fly fighter jets in a number of days? As I said, the entire plot revolves around the assumption that everyone is stupid, especially the audience.
The Psychlos look like large, bloated, dirty, hairy humans. They look like they could have been an alien race from the background of an old Star Trek episode. What they don’t look like are the primary antagonists of a major Hollywood alien movie. Even the name of the alien race sounds stupid. Who even thought naming aliens Psychlos was a good idea?
The cinematography is filled with weird angles. It looks like the cameraman accidentally knocked the camera over on its side during filming and just kept rolling. There really isn’t a need for this bizarre cinematography choice and it comes off as really distracting.
Considering this film’s actual budget and its release in 2000, the visual effects are about average; not entirely cringe-worthy, but still pretty cheesy and not nearly good enough to sell this film. However, I should note that the titles that appear on screen during this film look like they were made in iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or some other consumer-grade piece of software. They are incredibly, amazingly cheesy, which, I guess, means they fit perfectly with the rest of the film.
It seems that every time someone talks about this film they have to mention Scientology. I know that L, Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, wrote the book that this film was based on, but aside from that, I don’t know if the story has any real connection with Scientology’s beliefs. I probably will never know, simply because I just don’t care enough to want to find out.
Battlefield Earth has often been heralded as the worst film of its decade. As far as major Hollywood productions go, it’s certainly a front-runner for that title.