So I finally got around to watching Battlefield Earth, and I have to say it wasn't as bad as I expected. Of course, given all of the abuse heaped upon this adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's most lengthy novel, it could hardly have lived down to such low expectations. It is certainly true that the film has some major problems - particularly Travolta's over-acting and a storyline riddled with inanities - but I can't deny that I didn't feel some measure of excitement watching humanity stand up in the face of alien aggression, and I don't think anyone will deny the fact that the special effects budget was money well spent. Still, as Ron White likes to say, "You can't fix stupid," and the storyline of Battlefield Earth is all kinds of stupid.
It doesn't say much for the Earth that it fell to the invading Psychlos in just nine minutes. A tall, strong, and particularly vicious race of humanoids, the Psychlos are far too paranoid, conniving, and self-serving to work well together absent the discipline of military rule. Terl (Travolta), the head of security on Earth, is the perfect embodiment of all the Psychlos' bad qualities. Angry that his intelligence and skills are being wasted on the Earth outpost, he works out a scheme that will allow him to return home filthy rich. Having discovered a rich deposit of gold in an irradiated area the Psychlos cannot enter, he experiments with training a small group of human slaves to mine the gold for him. In the year 3000, humans are a desperate lot who have reverted back to Stone Age life; those not serving as slaves live in isolated pockets of arid land, knowing nothing of their history. So convinced is Terl of humans' innate worthlessness that he gives one man, Jonnie (Barry Pepper), access to America's forgotten history after teaching him the Psychlo language.
This is where things really start getting silly. For one thing, you have to wonder why the greedy Psychlos haven't discovered all the gold in Fort Knox, especially since someone conveniently left the vault open, after all the hundreds of years they've been there. You also have to wonder why the ignorant humans don't say "Where's that?" when they're told they're going to Texas and other place names that they should have no knowledge of. Most of all, you have to question how a bunch of illiterate, caveman-level humans can learn to fly jet aircraft in the space of a week.
There are some fun bits to the movie, such as Terl's firm belief that humans will do anything he wants when offered the delicacy of a live rat, but Travolta's overacting and tendency to burst into inane laughter at any moment tend to ruin all of his scenes. And if I ever hear anyone else mention the word "leverage," I hate to think what I might do. The bottom line is that Battlefield Earth is a really stupid movie - but it's the kind of bad movie you can really enjoy laughing at. Believe me - I've barely scratched the surface of this film's absolutely ludicrous foundation. This much unintentional hilarity really shouldn't be missed.