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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director Roger Christian & production designer Patrick Tatopolous
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 2 Featurette - John Travolta makeup test, Creative visual effects
  • Behind the scenes footage - Evolution and Creation
  • Storyboards

Battlefield Earth

Warner Bros./Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 114 mins . M15+ . PAL


Ooh, a film to review that received seven awards! How exciting! What's that? They were all Golden Raspberries? Oh…

It's the year 3000, 1000 years since terribly evil baddies from the planet Psychlo took over Earth (hang on, it's now 2001, I guess I must have been washing my hair or something and missed it). They've been systematically killing off or enslaving humans to the verge of extinction, and raping our planet for all the precious metals they can get their six-fingered (or five, depending upon which scene you're watching) paws upon. Gold is apparently the most valuable of all - well, duh!

We're introduced to a caveman-like tribe, one of who is Jonnie Goodboy Tyler - our Luke Skywalker for this evening (although at least this guy's balls seem to have dropped at some point). We also meet our Princess Leia, Chrissy, but she gets left behind as Jonnie goes off into the big wide world (or what's left of it at any rate), in search of Gods, and in fear of demons. Unfortunately though he gets caught by a bunch of Psychlos, a race of leather-clad interstellar Rastas with rotten teeth who breathe through hoses that look not unlike lines of snot and communicate via burp-speak, and is imprisoned in their human zoo, or "Human Processing Center". The chief of Psychlo security is Terl (who'd have thought Mr Travolta's old Vinnie Barbarino quote of "Up your nose with a rubber hose" would come back to haunt him like this?), he has a sidekick named Ker, and he's just found out he's pretty much stuck on this planet - due in no small part to an apparent dalliance with a senator's daughter. Bummer.


What else? Prisoner escapes, blah blah blah; Prisoner plots revenge, blah, blah, blah; Terl also plots revenge, against his leaders, blah, blah, blah; Terl tries to use humans, sorry "man animals" (sexism also extends to aliens it would appear) as miners to cut costs and further his own nefarious plans, blah, blah, blah; Humans uses Terl's complete and utter cocky stupidity against him, blah, blah, blah; Terl bumps his head, blah, blah, blah; Humans win, blah, blah, blah; Jonnie gets his gal, blah, blah, blah…

Ok, so I'm being a tad flippant about it all, but really anybody looking here for a plot, let alone one that makes any sense, is being just a little bit hopeful. You could write a veritable thesis on improbability, predictability, preposterousness and contrivance based on this film alone. It's got clichés by the bucket-load - holograms, flashbacks, slow motion "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"s when somebody gets bumped off, and hell it even manages product placement for a certain vendor of convenience food 1000 years after their apparent demise! Actually, you've almost got to admire the last one.

Basically Battlefield Earth is a concoction of bits and bobs pilfered from most every sci-fi film you could name. From The Creature From the Black Lagoon to Planet of the Apes, Alien to any of the Star Wars instalments (which director Roger Christian - an L.Ronic, erm, ironic, surname considering - was involved with in various capacities), there are so many eerily familiar bits here, all cooked up into one phenomenally haphazard and more often than not unintentionally comical stew.


Visually Battlefield Earth's transition to DVD is certainly hard to fault. Sumptuously presented in 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen, the quality of the transfer is undeniable. The filmmakers apparently opted to turn it into kind of a visual equivalent of the board game Twister, colour coding things to the point where general earth stuff has a yellow hue, city internals get the green treatment, anything within the Psychlo's dome has a bluish vibe and their home planet goes for a kind of muted purple aesthetic. And then there's the use of Batman angles in most every single scene throughout. Anyway, it all comes up wonderfully on disc, with no noticeable greeblies creeping in other than the old faithful staple of occasional, and in this case virtually unnoticeable, white specks.


Well, if you’re after something to check the structural quality of your home with, this disc could very well be what you need. A sonic boom, bang, woosh, smush, clunk, bang and clong-fest from the very outset, if you invested in all those extra speakers to envelope yourself in you really should love this. The only audio track on offer is Dolby 5.1, and it really gets to go nuts, with fabulously surrounding effects and a subwoofwoof workout that almost left mine huffing, puffing and gagging for a dish of water.

Separation is handled admirably, and the all-important balancing of dialogue in a film as downright noisy as this is also carried off with quite some aplomb. The only synching issue I noticed was a scene involving a walkie-talkie (hmm, I wonder where they got the batteries from?), where what went in one end changed somewhat when it came out the other.

Elia Cmiral was responsible for the film score. Putting aside the fact that his name sounds suspiciously like an anagram (apologies to any Czechs out there, I know it isn't really), he has come up with a typical, and I guess suitable in these circumstances, sci-fi type soundtrack, taking cues from most any other film of the genre since the late '70s that you could name (as above). There is some nice use of Middle Eastern style vocals, however generally if you've seen any other sci-fi thing ever you'll pretty much know what to expect - booming timpanies, brass stabby bits, orchestras doing the quiet-loud Nirvana thing and choirs singing their lungs out.


Static menus, accompanied by what sounds much like a Chemical Brothers track lead in to quite a few bits and pieces of various quality...

Audio commentary - director Roger Christian and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos: Hold on to your sanity folks, for these guys never let up! At times it's kind of difficult to discern what's being said, due to a combination of Patrick's tres-French accent and tendency to spkvryqckly, not to mention the fact that Roger has a habit of talking over him - and not at all helped by it all being plonked squarely in the centre channel. Behind its manic nature though there is a very informative commentary to be had, covering the stuff that better commentaries do such as motivations behind scenes, extra information like budget stuff and location info etc. Curiously the two keep reiterating how the film is supposed to be taken as a comic-book style romp, yet their utter seriousness throughout much of this, much as if they thought they were crafting a classic or something, would almost lead the more cynical to believe they are trying to cover something up after the fact. And in case you didn't know it beforehand, there's no way you'll not know by the end that Christian was involved with George Lucas once upon a time (in a galaxy far, far way?)...

A rather neato feature associated with this commentary (although bearing no connection to what is being said) is the on-screen occurrence of little purple blobs at regular intervals, prompting us to press the 'enter' key on our remotes to veer off into behind-the-scene-we're-viewing footage. These scenes are sometimes just on-set footage, but mostly are fascinating looks at the layering of effects shots Sara Lee style until the final product is revealed. Definitely the funkiest feature on the disc, this can also be enabled without having to listen to the commentary, although it does interfere with the flow of the film (using the term "flow" loosely, of course) somewhat.

Behind the scenes - Evolution and Creation: A sixteen-minute EPK type affair, this Dolby Stereo soundtracked presentation alternates between full frame for interviews and behind the scenes stuff, and 1.85:1 for movie clips. There are brief interview snippets from the likes of Travolta, Whitaker, director Christian, producers, and special effects folk, and it's definitely worth a watch - as long as you're not allergic to hearing the words "George" and "Lucas" quite the large number of times.

Storyboard montage: Seven and a half minutes of techno-accompanied 1.85:1-ness, flashing through many of the film's storyboards, followed by the actual scenes they depicted. Oh, occasionally they appear side by side on screen, too. Whilst I found it a bit on the ho-hum side I daresay there will be others who'll think this feature a fabulous inclusion.

Featurette - John Travolta makeup test: Two minutes of footage mostly culled from the Evolution and Creation documentary.

Featurette - Creative visual effects: Two and a half minutes of footage mostly culled from the Evolution and Creation documentary (is there an echo in here?)

Trailers: There's a teaser (53 seconds, 2.35:1), a theatrical one (1:46, also 2.35:1) and an international one (1:50, full frame). All only have Dolby Stereo sound, but look quite good. None of them have voiceovers, just various scenes from the film with selected dialogue overdubbed.

Biographies: Brief bios and filmographies for actors John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Barry Pepper, Kim Coates, Richard Tyson, Sabine Karsenti and Kelly Preston, plus director Roger Christian.

Easter eggs: When the packaging lists 'hidden features' in its rundown of 'special features', you kind of have to wonder whether the point of them has become a little lost somewhere. Anyway, there are two here, one featuring 41 seconds of rather bland behind the scenes footage, the other featuring 40 seconds of makeup test and people bouncing off tramampoline boards. They are so easy to discover that I won’t bother giving you a how-to guide on finding them here…

Dolby trailer: The choo-choo one.


It's not an easy task keeping an open mind when undertaking a review of a film as universally scorned as Battlefield Earth, and I must wonder whether at least some part of the utterly vitriolic abuse it received was due more to its origins and assumed association with that Scien*ology mob (hopefully at least fans of South Park will get that one). Yes, it's a story from their founder L. Ron Hubbard, however I hardly felt I encountered anything associated with the organisation other than knowing that Travolta and Preston are rather keen followers. I certainly won’t be signing up for any "personality tests" in a hurry, and besides this isn’t the place for a "religious" discourse anyway.

I guess in the end my overall rating needs some explanation. If you take this film as a serious science fiction tale then you're really orbiting the wrong Death Star, and I'd give it about a 1. However, if you take it as a slice of pure over-the-top cinematic cheese, the type of thing where you disengage your brain Armageddon-style so that you can skippety-hop over the innumerable and ludicrous plot holes large enough to lose the aforementioned Death Star in, and just sit back and boggle at the quite wonderful visual and sonic effects, silly costumes and frankly over-the-top performances from the likes of Travolta then I'd give it a 9. As I can’t give two ratings I had to average it out.

As for the disc itself, visually it's almost perfect, and it is undeniably a sonic treat. Many of the extras are of dubious value, however the commentary and purple blob feature do add quite some entertainment value. If you're a fan of the film - oh, hang on - umm… OK, if you like your flicks Bubba big and dumb, with Psychlo-killer baddies galore and downtrodden, desperate for freedom goodies aplenty, and are able to enjoy flicks that are more of a Luna Park-type experience rather than something where plot bares any importance, at least give this a rent, you may actually be surprised at what an utter cack Battlefield Earth can be. Just make sure that you enter into it all in the right frame of mind.

And if anybody anywhere dares to take any of my above quotes out of context, they'll have more than eight-foot tall aliens with dangly snotty-gobbles to contend with…

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=810
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      And I quote...
    "Intentionally or not, you may actually be surprised at what an utter cack Battlefield Earth can be..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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