VERSUS THE SCARECROW EPISODE TWELVE: Worst. Movie. Ever. I decided to challenge myself and really open the doors of my film knowledge and take on “The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide”. It’s 808 pages of movies and movie reviews from some of the most knowledgeable movie people you don’t know. It’s a book put together by a staff that praises, and destroys, some of our favorites and not so favorites. You can read the rest of my series here.
Just a quick refresher: each episode, I’m going to tackle three films from three different categories. Two films will be films I’ve never seen before and one will be one I’ve seen before or own. For the new films, well, new to me, I’m going to review them like a typical FTS review using the TOAST Rating system. But, for the films I’ve seen, I’m going give a quick paragraph or two about why I like or don’t like the film. We’ll try to include the poster and trailer for each film. “….and here. We. Go!”
What really constitutes a bad movie? What some see as totally unbearable and unwatchable, others see as a cult classic that is so bad it’s good, and they flock in droves to see it. In this episode I’ll be looking across the spectrum at classically bad films like Plan 9 From Outer Space, universally panned films like Battlefield: Earth, and I reflect on a film that’s so bad, guilty pleasure is an understatement.
Battlefield Earth (2000) Directed by Roger Christian. Starring: John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, AND Barry Pepper. IMDB says: ”After enslavement & near extermination by an alien race in the year 3000, humanity begins to fight back.”
Battlefield: Earth is a movie that asks the question: Can you tell me what’s going on? And it asks it over and over and over again. It’s not that the film is confusing or is incoherent, but it’s a film that’s so uninteresting and so disengaging, it’s hard to watch the film’s two hours straight through without finding a reason to hit pause and take a break. Let me try and explain the plot. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) is a hunter for a tribe. Fun fact: they NEVER refer to him as Jonnie or Goodboy or Tyler or any variation on those names. What they call him exactly escapes my mind, but for the purpose of this review, let’s call him Goodboy. So goodboy it out and about hunting when he comes across two travelers from another tribe and they start making weird primal noises at one another that makes Planet of the Apes look like Shakespeare. He’s willing to trade them goods for food but instead they show him where he can find the food. Somehow, they go from a desert terrain to a mall and inside a Psychlo (yup, that’s the name of the alien race. Psychlo.) tries to abduct one of them and force them into slave labor. Well Goodboy gets caught, then he tries to escape, and then he’s put to good use. Cause while Goodboy is in prison, Ker (Forest Whitaker, whom I feel so bad for) is backstabbing his boss Terl (John Travolta). He’s found a section of gold in the mountains that he plans to mine for himself, then show it to the company so he can get a promotion. Well Terl finds out because EVERY ROOM ON THE DAMN STATION HAS A CAMERA IN IT THAT MAGICALLY RECORDS ALL CONVERSATIONS. So he blackmails Ker instead. With me still? We’re almost there. So Terl decides that Goodboy knows the area so well, he’s going to let him mine the gold for him. So Goodboy and the other slaves start working, but not to mine the gold. Instead, they’re planning an elaborate scheme to destroy the Psychlos that involve planes and bombs all within two weeks. Whew.
Now, the film uses many plot devices to get around small details. They can’t breathe on the planet? No problem. Like Vinnie Barbarino says its, Up your nose, with a rubber hose. (If you get that reference, yeah, I am really clever. Thanks for noticing.) They stick a black hose in their nose that ends up being used to advantages and disadvantages throughout the film. I don’t mind that one, that makes sense. But the movie got lazy when it decided that in order for Goodboy to understand the language being spoken by the Psychlos, they would stick him in front of a monitor and he would absorb the knowledge and history of the Psychlos. I guess in the year 3000 tribes people will have osmosis. Makes sense.
Plot and set design aside, the acting is… rough to watch. It’s hard to see Forest Whitaker in a role like this, knowing he’s capable of a lot more range and depth. Instead, he’s reduced to Terl’s dummy sidekick. Shame. And Terl, well, I don’t know what kind of accent that Travolta was going for, but he nailed it? The flair and exuberance of his character didn’t fit with the tone or look of the film. Goodboy (Barry Pepper) was alright. Nothing great, but, his character felt natural in a setting that was constantly changing. If they took a half hour out of this film, it would make for a great movie to watch with friends and drink. I bet Rob would even come up with a great lager to drink while watching this movie. It’s as bad as you’ve heard so if you decide to go ahead and watch it: you’ve been warned. May god have mercy on– oh wait! Almost forgot, the big thing about this film is its based on a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and oddly enough Travolta, and wife Kelly Preston are members of the church of scientology. This film only covered the first half of the book and due to such poor reception, plans to make the second film were scrapped. Thank the Supreme Being!!
Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on The Room and if you’re interested in more, you can find the rest of the Versus The Scarecrow series here.