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Classics Of Cinema – Battlefield Earth

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Folks who like Battlefield Earth are to be avoided and ignored, is what, and I should know, since, to be honest, I’m kinda one of them.

For The Duke, this most derided, mocked and utterly nonsensical of flicks is one of those guilty pleasure type affairs, although to be honest, I’d feel about 123% more filthy if I enjoyed, say, a Joel Schumacher film other than The Lost Boys.

It’d be Hail Mary’s from now till Doomsday if I caught myself getting giddy at thought of a late-night screening of Phone Booth.

Battlefield Earth is the kinda flick you just can’t believe exists in a world where folks in “the business” like nothing more than to sit around and maybe draw up a diagram and then consult an expert or two for to see if a proposed production is “economically viable”. Who, excepting the most thoroughly deranged of individuals, would suggest that a picture regarding John Travolta is a Klingon garbling a load of nonsense and chasing folks round the place in slow motion, would be the way to go for to make a load of the green? If anyone tried to convince you of such an undertaking, you’d most likely run away and then tell your kids never to go near that crazy old bastard in the trenchcoat, since he obviously desires nothing more than freshly roasted guts.

Oddly enough, some folks will try to tell you this is a religious flick, of all things. To be honest, it does resemble one at times, especially the ones the Jehovah’s Witnesses pop through the letter-box now and again starring the fella from the petrol station down the road as John The Baptist.

Ideologically, though, I can’t find a damn hint of any religious thinking going on anywhere between the opening and closing credits.

What Battlefield Earth, or Battlefield Part Of America, concerns itself with, so far as the narrative goes, is that it’s the future time and folks are all running around in slow-motion and at weird angles on account of a bunch a no-good aliens have invaded. These aliens are some mean sons a bitches, a fact evidenced by the big heads they have, and also the weird hands that look a bit like those ones you buy at the “sports games” and wave around, the ones that say “Such-And-Such Is #1″, except those ones maybe look a bit more realistic.

Some nonsense occurred back in the past, although to us it’s the future, and as a result human beings are forced to live in the woods, terrified of the “Gods” who live beyond the trees. It’s like The Village, then, except set in the future-time, and also more believable.

These “Gods” aren’t Gods at all, though, it’s those bastard aliens mentioned above, just a few sentences back, the ones with the big heads and the foam hands. One of these tyrants is none other than Sexy John Travolta, star of Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too and also the one about the dogs.

Battlefield Bits Of Texas is actually something of a pet project for Travolta, although if he had any sense he’d have realised that it was probably some kind of rabid ferret pet waiting to eat his motherfucking brains out and infect him with any number of bizarre, fungus-esque ailments. He was trying to get the movie made since L. Ron Hubbard first published the source novel, intending to star as the dashing hero. On account of it took decades for anyone to listen to the idea for half-a-second, much less make the damn thing, he was no longer dashing enough for to play the role by the time production began.

Thank goodness, then, for Somebody Else, star of Miscellaneous, who proves hilarious and also ridiculous and profoundly foolish as young Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. You may have seen him in The Green Mile, or maybe The 25th Hour, in which he was, let’s not be filthy communists, bloody fantastic, but chances are you’ll never forget his performance in Battlefield CGI Rubble.

Director Roger Christian, who was previously a production designer on Alien, and so memorably starred as Himself in The Making Of Alien, he obviously learned a lot from his time spent working on Star Wars. He won an Oscar for his production designing efforts on that Lucas flick, as it happens, but what he seems most keen on is the way it used the old wipe-fades for to stick the scenes together. He just can’t get enough of that wipe-fade button, is what.

Curiously, Battlefield Earth is subtitled A Saga Of The Year 3000, but I think it’s stretching the legal definition of “Saga”. I don’t know that a film about a fella runs about in slow-motion and then has to mine for some gold, I don’t know if that constitutes a “saga”, per se, even if he does fly a couple miles down the road in one bit. An Anecdote Of The Year 3000 may have been more appropriate. A Brief Diversion, perhaps. Slow Motion Hi-Jinks Set In The Year 3000 would have been perfect.

Perhaps this is down to the fact that the film only bothers with about half of the novel. Maybe the other 50% is awash with epic scope. Maybe the enormity of it all would have been too much for a fella too take. We’ll never motherfucking know, is the gratuitously vulgar fact of the mater.

Battlefield Earth wants to ask a load of questions about personal freedom and human nature and so on, but the biggest question sounds more like “How in the name of Lucifer’s crack-sweat did something so expensive end up looking like it was flung together by a bunch a chimpanzees using nothing more sophisticated than old milk cartons and warm spit? And not even those smart chimpanzees, either, like the ones what go mad and kill folks on account of the sheer incomprehensible intelligence.”

Still, glorious moments abound. Who can forget the bit when Jonnie Goodboy Tyler uses the “knowledge machine” for to understand all about these horrible alien bastards? Or what about how the aliens keep calling each other crap-brain or something? Laugh? I nearly fucking blinked. Or best of all, what about when Sexy John Travolta sends a bunch of the humans to do some gold mining, and then they fly to Fort Knox and steal a load of gold from the vault, and then give it to him all in bars and so on, and he believes their nonsense about they wanted to please him so they put it in the bars instead of giving him the raw produce?

Man, a fella could chuckle himself to an early grave at the very suggestion.

There’s a tragedy to it all, though, to be fair. These folks obviously intended this to be a juggernaut of sci-fi cinema. Some towering monolith towards which all other filmic affairs can only gaze longingly towards.

Crushingly, it has to accept its fate as the finest party-flick since Plan 9 From Outer Space. By which I mean civilized, cine-literate parties filled with smug, detestable hounds, and not the kinda parties were maybe one of you gets naked and you all take turns tying him up and then fondling him a bit for sexual gratification.

For those kinds of parties I recommend something involving a sex or two, and maybe even some “risqué” humour, like maybe a joke about a fella has a wank.

Thanks folks.

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  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    A big portion of this crap-fest was filmed at Montreal’s McGill University (which likes to style itself the “Harvard of the North”, and no, I didn’t go there) and they were upset when they found out they were playing the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty in “Planet of the Apes” but without the style or sense. And they had to put up with getting all the Scientologists all over the place, when they’d only gotten rid of the home-grown Raelians (who at least offer lots of sex with good looking people).