Movie review of Battlefield Earth

Friday, May 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

John Travolta has been on quite a winning streak since "Pulp Fiction." But "Battlefield Earth" just might be the movie that makes audiences demand that Quentin Tarantino stuff the born-again Barbarino back in whatever bottle the star-making director found him in.

Let's see, how to put this: "Battlefield Earth" is dumb. Such a statement is trickier business than it should be in this "Austin Powers" age of clever-dumb, sarcastic-dumb ... on and on. "Battlefield Earth" is none of these: It is just plain dumb.

With dialogue and costumes straight out of a "Xena" episode and a plot straight out of a Kevin Costner movie, "Battlefield Earth" opens in 3000 A.D. with Earth in ruins and humans enslaved by "Psychlos" - sort of like Klingons, only with blow-drier technology. All seems lost for "the man-animals" - but wait, one young and strikingly good-looking man has a dream of freedom.

This movie is a demonstration of the danger of being rich and powerful enough to get a movie made. There certainly doesn't seem to be anything driving "Battlefield Earth" other than the scenery-chewing star at its center. Someone needs to tell Mr. Travolta to stick a fork in his suave-side-of-evil shtick - it's done. The gloatful Terl, with all of his - yawn - cruel charms is just Mr. Travolta's "Broken Arrow" mirthful maniac with bad teeth and a prosthetic forehead.

As for the rest of the cast, with the exception of Forest Whitaker, you've probably never heard of them, and their performances give no reason to think that is likely to change. First-time feature director Roger Christian fills the screen with all sorts of computer-generated gee-whiz-ardry, but you'll get more character and plot off the box for a typical computer game.

Mr. Travolta has used much of his pre-opening publicity to dismiss speculation spurred by the origins of "Battlefield Earth": The author of the book it's based on is L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and Mr. Travolta is an outspoken member and supporter of the church. And, sure enough, the screenplay has its overbearingly preachy side - hammering away at a strategic principle in which life is all about "leverage."

So just how dumb and obvious is "Battlefield Earth"?

The name of the hero (played by Barry Pepper) is Jonny Goodboy. And while dumb and obvious may be an effective way to start your own religion, it's no way to make a movie.