Battlefield Earth

USA 2000

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

A thousand years hence. The Earth has long since been occupied by the Psychlos, an aggressively capitalist species of giant humanoid aliens. Humans live either in servitude to the invaders or in small tribes. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, a young tribesman, leaves his homestead and falls in with Carlo, a hunter. They are soon captured by a Psychlo raiding party rounding up slaves.

Terl, Psychlo Security Chief on Earth, is condemned by his superiors to stay indefinitely at his post. Assisted by his deputy Ker, Terl plots to make a fortune by secretly training humans to mine gold in radioactive areas. Terl trains Jonnie for the job, subjecting him to a machine that fills him with Psychlo knowledge. Jonnie counterplots against Terl, using his newly acquired skills to scavenge gold from Fort Knox and fighter jets and nuclear weapons from a US military base. In a mass uprising against the Psychlos, Carlo sacrifices himself to destroy the dome over Denver, letting in air fatal to the Psychlos. Jonnie uses a teleport link with the Psychlos' home planet to send the aliens a suicide raider with a nuclear device, which ignites the atmosphere of the planet. Ker sides with the humans; Terl is imprisoned as insurance against reprisal from other Psychlo colonies.


The 1066-page novel Battlefield Earth was L. Ron Hubbard's first published science fiction after a prolonged break from the genre spent inventing Dianetics, the peculiar system of DIY psychic self-improvement that forms the basis of the Church of Scientology. At the time of publication, it was remarked that Hubbard had retrofitted his belief system into pulp plotting by setting out a story - young man overcomes initial ignorance to achieve mastery of Earth - which could easily be read as an allegory of an initiate's progress through Scientology. It was also clear that Hubbard had taken little notice of how the genre had changed since his days in the late 30s writing at a penny a word for such magazines as Astounding Science Fiction. Full of gosh-wow devices that had long since become clichés, Battlefield Earth's juvenile tone was more in tune with the post-Star Wars science-fiction films of the late 70s than the literary field which had nurtured Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison and Alfred Bester.

For this reason, Battlefield Earth is likely to go down better with Scientology devotees - for whom Hubbard is an almost sacred figure - than with serious science-fiction fans. The path to enlightenment taken by the film's pouting, callow hero Jonnie is as fuzzy as any other post-Skywalker attempt to yoke in teachings from Joseph W. Campbell to add mythic muscle to an action scenario. It doesn't help that the film's premise, which sees stoneage cavemen turn into ace fighter pilots with only a week's training, is as naive as that of the 1939 serial Buck Rogers, where Buck mastered futuristic flying machines in as ludicrously short a period.

Roger Christian presumably won this big-budget science-fiction gig on the basis of his second-unit work on the The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately, star and co-producer John Travolta seems to have failed to notice that among Christian's mixed, often interesting directorial credits (The Sender, Nostradamus) was a previous science-fiction action film Lorca and the Outlaws that managed with far fewer resources to be exactly as muddy, silly and tedious as this effort. Battlefield Earth has the added misfortune to arrive as the latest in a line of similar exercises (Waterworld, The Postman) that have become standing jokes in the genre, failing entirely to match the hairy mix of satire and spectacle found in the first Planet of the Apes films or the Mad Max series. With sub-Gene Roddenberry bathos, villain Terl's big mistake is not filling Jonnie's head with science (basic algebra, the ability to fly a spaceship) but encouraging him to examine a dusty copy of the Declaration of Independence that inspires his rebellion.

Though he originally intended to play the hero, Travolta presumably switched to the role of alien villain because he recognised that the scheming baddie is a far meatier part. Scientology at least notionally stands as a reaction to the grey-flannel-suit excesses of early-50s US corporate culture, and the most deeply felt aspect of the novel that transfers to the film is its depiction of the Psychlos as members of a corrupt corporation where every executive is out to maximise his own personal profit. It's panto-level satire, but one that allows for welcome moments of camp - notably Travolta and Forest Whitaker's blustering, back-stabbing double act - that break up the pompous rebel-rousing. An ending which leaves them both alive while wiping out their homeworld (a blithe genocide prompting the Clerks cry of "What about the builders?") raises the possibility of a sequel, drawn from the second half of the novel. Since the plot hinges on the aeronautical prowess of stoneage-like tribesmen, it's futile to complain about lesser demands on suspension of disbelief such as the Psychlo homeworld's possession of an atmosphere that can fortuitously combust after the detonation of a simple atom bomb.


Roger Christian
Elie Samaha
Jonathan D. Krane
John Travolta
Corey Mandell
J.D. Shapiro
Based on the novel by
L. Ron Hubbard
Director of Photography
Giles Nuttgens
Robin Russell
Production Designer
Patrick Tatopoulos
Elia Cmiral
©Battlefield Productions, LLC
Production Companies
Morgan Creek Productions, Inc and Franchise Pictures present a Franchise Pictures/Jonathan D. Krane production/JTP Films production
Executive Producers
Andrew Stevens
Ashok Amritraj
Don Carmody
Tracee Stanley
James Holt
Associate Producers
Anson Downes
Linda Favila
Executive Supervisor
The Krane Group:
Rino Vetrone
Executive Production Associate
Rob Morton
Production Supervisor
Francey Grace
Production Controller
Florian Schereck
Production Co-ordinator
Marie-Élaine Bailly
Unit Production Manager
Jacky Lavoie
Unit Managers
Paul Boutin
2nd Unit:
Maurice Forget
Location Manager
Adrian Knight
Michael Tinger
Matthew Walsh
2nd Unit Director
Richard Martin
Assistant Directors
Walter Gasparovic
Penny Charter
Erik Ajduk
Brandon Lambdin
Jean-Francois Duplat
Auree Tommi Lepage
2nd Unit:
Maïté Sarthou
2nd Unit:
Brigitte Goulet
Angèle Gagnon
Karla Bluteau
Script Supervisors
Joanne Harwood
2nd Unit:
Guylaine Chagnon
Anne Laure D. Debay
Lynn Stalmaster
Andrea Kenyon
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Peter Benison
Camera Operator
Robert Stecko
Addditional Operators
Nicolas Marion
Robert Guertin
Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky
Steadicam Operator
Brad Hruboska
Wescam Operator
Frank Holgate
Visual Effects Supervisor
Erik Henry
Visual Effects Producer
Steve Dellerson
Visual Effects Editor
Derrick Mitchell
Pre-visualization Artist
Jean-François Mignault
Los Angeles Creatures Department
Patrick Tatopoulos Designs Inc
Visual Effcts
Rhythm and Hues Studios
Gray Matter FX
Optical Illusions Inc
Digital Visual Effects
Hybride Technologies
Computer Café
Digital Firepower, Inc
Digital Muse
Digital Animation Effects
Image Savant
Matte Paintings
Digital Backlot
Mechanical Special Effects
Les Productions de l'Intrigue, Inc
Model Shop Supervisor
Ronny Gosselin
Chief Model Maker
Patrice Jacques
Key Model Makers
Dave Loveday
Alain Dufresne
Model Makers
Joseph Baugniet
Christopher Bobyn
Jacques Bouchard
Roger Bourgouin
Fabrice Descurninges
Luc Doyan
Marcel-Pierre Dussol
Dimitri Kaliviotis
Robert Lalonde
Patrick Lee
Brian Penny
Jean-François Plourde
E. James Small
Patrice Tremblay
Céline Turcotte
Matthew Willis
Emma Russell
Lea Russell
Visual Effects Miniatures Directors of Photography
Big Harry Fichter
Little Mary Fichter
Miniature Special Effects Supervisor
Joe Viskocil
Visual Effects Production Co-ordinator
Kate St. Pierre
Miniature Supervisor
Bill Pearson
Graphic Designer
Carl Lessard
Motion Control Operators
Steve Switaj
Chris Dawson
Motion Control Miniature Supervisor
Chris Trice
Photosonics Operator
Jeff Sturgill
Supervising Art Director
Claude Paré
Art Director
Oana Bogdan
Set Designers
Lev Bereznycky
Joseph Browns
Simon Guillault
Claude Lafrance
Russell Moore
Richard Shean
Lucie Tremblay
Set Design
LA Art Department:
Mick Cukurs
Doug Meerdink
Key Set Decorator
Anne Galéa
Conceptual Designers
LA Art Department:
Harald Belker
Kevin Ishioka
Geoff Isherwood
LA Art Department:
Tom Lay
Mariano Diaz
Stephan Martiniere
Head Scenic Artist
Alain Gigure
Storyboard Artists
Kasia Adamik
LA Art Department:
David Negron Jr
Michael Jackson
Costume Designer
Patrick Tatopoulos
Costumes Supervisor
Francesca Chamberland
Costumes Department Co-ordinator
Catherine Handfield
Wardrobe Mistresss
Suzie Coutu
Maryse Papineau
Key Make-up Artist
Jocelyne Bellemare
Make-up Artists
Nicole Lapierre
2nd Unit:
Josée Doucet
Nadine Gilliot
Key Special Effects Make-up Artist
Adrien Morot
Contact Lens Technician
Caroline Daoud
Key Hairdresser
Bob Pritchett
André Duval
Key Special Effects Hairdresser
David Fedele
Special Effects Hairdressers
Deborah McNulty
Martina Köhl
Claudia Monseau
Jayson Philapil
2nd Unit Hairdresser
Martin Rivest
Howard Anderson Company
Orchestra Conductor
Conrad Pope
Choir Conductor
Thomas Bartke
Erik Lundborg
Music Editor
Mike Flicker
Orchestral/Electric Score Recorder/Mixer
John Whynot
Sound Design
John Fasal
John Nutt
James LeBrecht
Production Sound Recordist
Patrick Rousseau
Mark Johnson
Charles Hamilton
Laverne Dewberry
Rick Canelli
Re-recording Mixers
John Reitz
Greg Rudloff
David Campbell
Christian Minkler
Ken S. Polk
Dan Hiland
Supervising Sound Editor
Christopher Aud
Co-supervising Sound Editor
Robert Redpath
Dialogue Editors
Gloria D'Alessandro
Teri Dorman
Patrick J. Foley
Effects Editors
Rick Hromadka
Adam Johnston
Andrew M. Somers
David Werntz
Troy Porter
Tom O'Connell
Jessica Gallavan
Kevin Bartnof
Casey Crabtree
Christopher Munyon
Eric Gotthelf
Andy Kopetzky
David Horton Jr
Stunt Co-ordinator
Steve Lucescu
Stunt Co-co-ordinators
Mark Riccardi
J.P. Romano
Weapon Co-ordinator/
Brent W. Radford
Animal/Equestrian Co-ordinator
Pete White
Animal Trainer
Nicole Germain
Helicopter Pilot
Jim Dirker
John Travolta
Barry Pepper
Jonnie Goodboy Tyler
Forest Whitaker
Kim Coates
Richard Tyson
the wild woodsman
Sabine Karsenti
Michael Byrne
Parson Staffer
Christian Tessier
Sylvain Landry
Christopher Freeman
John Topor
processing clerks
Shaun Austin-Olsen
Tim Post
Assistant Planetship
Earl Pastko
Michel Perron
Michael MacRae
District Manager Zeta
Todd McDougall
Psychlo wrangler
Derrick Damon Reeve
Psychlo hoser
Jason Cavalier
Sean Hewitt
Andrew Albert
labour supervisor
Alan Legros
heavy set guard
John Topor
one eyed guard
Andy Bradshaw
Jim Meskimen
Robert Higden
supply clerk
John Topor
teleportation supervisor
Rejean Denoncourt
communication officer
Tait Ruppert
Tim Post
Psychlo guard
Mulumba Tshikuka
human pilot
Kelly Preston
Marie-Josée Croze
Nadine Corde
Psychlo babe
Russell Yuen
speaking bandit
Andrew Campbell
leering grin bandit
Noel Burton
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
10,577 feet
117 minutes 32 seconds
(2 seconds 15 frames cut)
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
In Colour
Super 35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011