Battlefield Earth (PG-13)
By Gene Armstrong ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Some movies just beg the question: "What were they thinking?"
John Travolta's new science-fiction flick "Battlefield Earth" is one of them.
An adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's 1982 sci-fi novel of the same name, "Battlefield Earth" is a ridiculous attempt at creating a moving-picture comic book.
A really bad comic book.
"Battlefield Earth" is so laughably bad that it makes the Kevin Costner boondoggles "Waterworld" and "The Postman" look sophisticated in comparison.
Director Roger Christian should know better. He won two Academy Awards (for art direction and set decoration on the original "Star Wars") and was the second unit director on "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace."
Set in the year 3000 A.D., the movie pits the scattered remnants of humankind against the despotic 9-foot-tall alien Psychlos that conquered Earth a millennium earlier.
The Psychlos are led on Earth by chief of security Terl, who Travolta plays from behind rotten teeth, spooky Halloween contact lenses, dreadlocks, terrible skin and creatively goofy facial hair.
Terl and his fellow Psychlos are pretty much like overgrown Klingons with atrocious grooming habits and no Klingon honor. They have six fingers on each long-taloned hand, too.
The Psychlos happily are mining Earth of its every available resource. Once the planet is wrung of anything valuable, they plan on exterminating the "man-animals."
In their way stands the strident Jonnie, played by Barry Pepper ("The Green Mile") with courage, conviction and the rallying spirit of a feral cheerleader.
Jonnie wants to stir his fellow human beings to overthrow the rule of the Psychlos.
Can you believe it? He gets his chance.
Terl notices Jonnie's adeptness and allows him to learn the Psychlo language and loads of other knowledge so he and a band of humans can mine a secret vein of gold.
Assisted by his bumbling assistance Ker (Forest Whitaker, who should know better), Terl plans on keeping the gold without notifying the Psychlo leaders on the home planet. Ooh, deceptive!
But Jonnie and his pals are left without supervision and with a decrepit library at their disposal.
They break into crumbling Fort Knox for more gold (glittering decoy gift to Terl, natch), learn how to fly American fighter jets, operate M16 rifles and get a nuclear warhead up and running.
It should be mentioned that all the above hardware is about 1,000 years old. Which is why it takes a whole six days for the humans to get organized.
Don't scoff. God made all that exists in six days, right?
Oh, by the way, "Battlefield Earth" author Hubbard also founded the religion Scientology, of which Travolta is one of the most vocal and public members.
But Travolta, who also served as one of the film's producers, and all the studio suits claim "Battlefield Earth" has nothing to do with the Church of Scientology.
It's easy to see why. Who would want to take credit for this mess?
That's not to say there isn't some inadvertent fun to be had in watching "Battlefield Earth."
Travolta camps it up as Terl, chomping on the scenery with all the gusto of an ugly, 9-foot Gloria Swanson.
He and Whitaker engage in some competitive Laurel and Hardy-style tomfoolery that is just silly enough to be funny. But the viewer is left to wonder if the actors know just how funny they are.
Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, shows up in a cameo appearance as a Psychlo concubine with a long, waggly tongue that rivals that of Jar Jar Binks in "The Phantom Menace."
As the movie trudges on, audiences may be forgiven if they cease actually caring about the man-animals' struggle to regain their planet, or Terl's struggle to snatch the gold and keep Jonnie and his kind under the collective Psychlo thumb.
With almost two hours of this nonsense, there's lots of time to notice gaping plot holes and inconsistencies of logic.
And to wonder why every chase scene that threatens to actually be exciting is buried under over-amplified sound effects and the faux-John Williams score of Elia Cmiral.
There's much more about "Battlefield Earth" about which we could waste time complaining.
But perhaps the most unfortunate thing about it is that it can't be ridiculed on the now-canceled "Mystery Science Theater 3000."