Psychlo Killer
Battlefield Earth
Review by Ross Anthony

John Travolta and Forest Whitaker do some Hollywood slumming in this tenement of a sci-fi thriller.

You know, I do my best to keep from saying a film is "bad." A good teacher finds little use in value-judging a report by a student. There are so many criteria that we can "objectively" talk about -- strong here, weak there etc. But this is just one of those scripts that you know the student must have whipped out five minutes before class.

I'm really surprised with all the writing talent available in this town, that no one said "Hey, this is just a bad script."

And the only reason I can think that Travolta and Whitaker did it was to spoof themselves; relax in the lowest-of-brow movies to wind down from a thick script or something. Perhaps it was a dare? Maybe they lost a bet?

Of course, they're decent, even the lead hero is good - as good as you can possibly be with nearly nothing verbally to work with (in fact at times nothing would have been better said). The acting is not the problem. Even the premise is decent ... it's the contrived conflicts, advancements and worst of all the dialogue of this film that makes one embarrassed to be a lover of movies.

Basically, it's the year 3000, an ugly group of corrupt back-stabbing aliens (the Psychlo's) have wiped out nearly all Earthlings and the remaining few are used as slaves to mine gold for their home planet (I'm not sure why gold is valuable to aliens). Until ... one of those slaves decides to fight for ... you guessed it "Freedom!"

Introductory dialogue is expository and would have been better left to "Star Wars" type text preface. The look of the film Battlefield Earthis a bit too digital. Our hero gets shot through a series of glass windows in shattering slow-mo - and yet, it's just not thrilling.

Travolta (lead Psychlo) in an effort to better control the humans explains, "We'll let it think it's escaped, just to see what food it likes best..." as if the monopoly on oxygen wasn't enough to motivate "it". But, the scheme gets even more ridiculous, instead of killing this rebel human (who had already vaporized a couple of Psychlo guards) Travolta teaches it to speak Psychlo and then gives it access to a library of knowledge. (Yeah, that should teach it to behave!)

Of course, now armed with brains, brawn and revolutionary fervor, the lead human proclaims to the mass of human slaves waving rocks and sticks, "We're going to blow up their home planet ... of course, we'll need some extra supplies." The delivery of this line was met with a robust round of chuckles from the audience.

But, alas, there is rarely a film that has nothing at all redeeming to offer. So due, here are a few kudos to those things well done: Shot of hero from bottom cage of craft as it lifts off ground is strong and visually stirring! In fact, the alien transport units were created and manipulated well - they look very good on screen. Language nuances were handled nicely. To the Psychlo's the chattering of humans sounded like "Ooga ooga" animalistic or fraternal (in the college sense of the word). While the Psychlo utterances warp into English so that we, the audience can understand them (w/o subtitles). Lastly, ten-year-olds may very well enjoy this film.

  • Battlefield Earth. Copyright © 2000.
  • Starring John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Barry Pepper, Kim Coates.
  • Directed by Roger Christian.
  • Screenplay by Corey Mandell and JD Shapiro.
  • Based on the Novel by L. Ron Hubbard.
  • Produced by Elie Samaha, Honathan D. Krane, John Travolta at Warner Bros/Morgan Creek/Franchise Pictures(C)2000. Rated PG-13.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:18:47 PDT