Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 [2000]

When Battlefield Earth was released in May 2000, this inept sci-fi epic qualified as an instant camp classic, prompting Daily Variety to call it "the Showgirls of sci-fi shoot-'em-ups." Other reviews were united in their derision, and toy stores were left with truckloads of Battlefield Earth action figures that nobody wanted. As the film's star and coproducer, John Travolta must have felt an urge to enlist in the witness protection program. Recklessly adapted from the novel by sci-fi author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and set in the year 3000, the film is no worse than many cheesy sci-fi flicks, but the sight of Travolta as a burly, dreadlocked alien from the planet Psychlo provokes unintentional laughter from first frame to final credits. As Terl, the Psychlo security chief who conquers Earth and hatches a secret scheme to steal all the gold from Fort Knox (which sits conveniently in wide-open vaults), Travolta hams it up as if he knows he's in a camp-fest. (In a cameo as a long-tongued Psychlo seductress, Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, only adds to the absurdity.) Barry Pepper (the praying sharpshooter from Saving Private Ryan) tries his best to convey charisma as Jonnie, the human slave who leads an uprising against Terl's tyranny, but he's adrift in a foolish plot that makes even smart humans look stupid. The decrepit look of a dreary future is convincingly established (the ruins of Washington D.C. recall Logan's Run on a grander scale), but in the wake of its ludicrous climax, the best that Battlefield Earth can hope for is a Dune-like fate: it might improve in a longer director's cut--but that's wishful thinking. --Jeff Shannon

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