Battlefield Earth (film)

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200px-Battlefield earth poster.jpg
When you were still learning to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer galaxies!
Terl

The film version of L. Ron Hubbard's Science Fiction novel Battlefield Earth was released in the U.S. in the year 2000, directed by Roger Christian and starring John Travolta as Psychlo leader Terl (he originally wanted to play the part of the book's hero, Jonnie "Goodboy" Tyler, but that role eventually went to Barry Pepper). Travolta had wanted to do the film for a long time, but had trouble securing money for it because of studios' apprehension to bankroll the film due to its connections with the Church of Scientology. He later poured most of his own money into the project and signed on as a co-producer, and the rest...well, is history.

After MGM and Fox Studios turned down offers to distribute the film, it was eventually picked up by Franchise Pictures, a company known for helping stars rescue their troubled pet projects. To this day, it has yet to gross 30 million USD--its budget was 44 million.

Has the dubious honor of winning the Razzie for Worst Movie of the 2000s.

Tropes used in Battlefield Earth (film) include:
  • Above the Ruins: One of the final shots is of the humans digging their way out of the demolished Psychlo base right after dawn.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plothole: While the original novel isn't exactly regarded as a masterpiece of plotting, the film still introduces various plot holes and problems of its own. Perhaps the most glaring is that the Psychlos somehow missed Fort Knox altogether in the film, whereas in the novel it was one of the first locations they hit.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey
  • Artistic License Physics:
    • Gold is apparently the rarest and most valuable material in the universe. Aside from the economics fail of assuming gold has intrinsic worth (it's largely valuable because our ancestors liked shiny things, actually), there are dozens of rarer elements. Not only does gold have no intrinsic worth, but the reason for its economic strength is both because people like shiny things and because of how practically useless it is. Back in the day when societies were using metals like iron and bronze for important things like weapons and armor, a soft metal like gold was worthless except for decoration and, eventually, currency.
      • Gold does have its uses as an electrical conductor. It's just Copper is cheaper. But Gold is resistant to almost everything. That's why expensive equipment (including satellites) is gold-plated.
    • The planet Psychlo has an atmosphere that spontaneously ignites in the presence of radiation. This means radioactive decay does not naturally occur on the planet, meaning the planet ignores the second law of thermodynamics and is effectively a perpetual motion machine.
      • On a related note, the Psychlos have eyes, which means the Planet Psychlo must orbit a light-producing star. Stars give off radiation. Lots and lots of radiation.
      • No to mention a highly advanced, star-faring and extremely warlike species going by without using radioactive materials.
      • Structures constructed entirely out of stone or brick would still be around, but there aren't actually any of those in the movie.
  • Big No: Most of Jonnie's lines involve him violently expressing his grief over someone/something.
  • Braids, Beads, and Buckskins: Suspiciously clean buckskins (Travolta didn't want the movie to look too grimy), for the first act, anyway. The Psychlos, though irredeemably evil, are nice enough to give the man-animals jumpsuits after capture.
  • Call a Human a Meatbag: The Psychlos typically refer to humans as "man-animals."
  • Call a Smeerp a Rabbit: It's not surprising that the Psychlos have Euclidean Geometry. What is surprising is that they call it Euclidean Geometry.
    • On the other hand, their word for human switches between Man-Animal and just plain human.
  • Catch Phrase: "Piece of cake!" by the humans, "Leverage!" by Terl and the Psychlos.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Subverted. Johnny teaches his followers Euclidean Geometry, claiming it will be of great importance. It never is
  • Chewing the Scenery/World of Ham: All the villains.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Again, the Psychlos.
  • Color Wash: Mostly blue saturates everything.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Terl towards his subordinates.
  • Decapitation Presentation: "It could even be... OUR FRIENDLY BARTENDER!"
  • Discretion Shot: At one point, a human gets his head exploded by a prisoner collar. The scene cuts away from showing the actual explosion to show other character's reactions to it.
  • Domed Hometown: The Psychlo outpost is one of these, because of the whole "exploding breathe-gas" thing. In a shocking subversion, it's more of a pyramid...which doesn't stop the characters from referring to it as a dome.
  • Dull Surprise: Ker's reaction to losing his hand.
  • Dutch Angle: Notoriously used to the point of excess.
    • It's even used in-universe. When Terl looks at some security camera footage, that too is tilted.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: ...except this time Psychlo is reduced to a cloud of noxious gas.
  • Evil Is Hammy
  • Evil Laugh: There's enough "normal" Evil Laughter and fake, mocking laughter to fill a half-hour sitcom, not to mention Forest Whitaker's hearty chortles and some disturbingly fey laughter by Travolta. The Psychlos are a merry bunch (makes you either wonder what gas they're breathing, or think that's why their air is so volatile).
  • Exact Words: Terl promises Jonnie he wouldn't kill a prisoner destined to die... only to give the gun to a subordinate and have him do it. As he put it, "I only said I wouldn't kill him."
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Psychlos love gold. They came to earth looking for it, and spent 1000 years on the planet doing so, mining it, and shipping it off. And yet in those 1000 years, they somehow failed to find Fort Knox, which is crammed with the stuff.
    • Made worse by the fact that the Psychlos didn't overlook Fort Knox in the book.
  • Fanservice Extra / Real Life Relative: Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, plays Terl's girlfriend.
    • More like Fan Disservice Extra, considering how they made her up to look like a Psychlo.
  • Gangsta Style: Because Psychlos are so much bigger than humans, a two-handed sideways grip seems to be the only way the humans can aim and fire the aliens' weapons.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When that guy blows up his own ship to destroy the "dome", or when That Other Guy detonates the nuclear bomb.
  • Hilarity Ensues: "You are out of your skull-bone if you think I'm going to write on the report "Shot by man-animal" as the cause of death unless I see it!"
    • "Piece a Cake, Piece a Cake, Piece a Cake, Piece a Cake!"
  • Hitler Cam: Used to emphasize the height of the giant alien Psychlos. At least it was less corny than those big elevator boots the actors wore.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sort of. Though he doesn't actually die, Terl blows off his own arm with the exploding collar he used on Jonnie's girlfriend. And in the end he's put in a cage in Fort Knox, surrounded by gold. It's ironic, y'see, because he put Jonnie in a cage and started the whole scheme to get gold.
  • Homage: When Jonnie is first shot, he falls through several glass panes similar to Blade Runner, taking no lasting damage. Later at the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, Jonnie runs in slow motion through a bunch of pillars as they are shot, just like how Neo ran through the government lobby in The Matrix.
  • Humans Are Morons: Terl and the Psychlos believe that the humans are too stupid to do anything on their own, so they give them some "assistance" in the form of Psychlo knowledge beams. Considering the fact that all of the Psychlos, Terl included, appear to have been issued an individual Idiot Ball at birth, this arguably comes a form of unintentional Hypocritical Humor.
    • What makes this even more exasperating is that the Psychlos know full well that Humanity once had a thriving industrial society, and yet they still assume they're too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time.
    • Part of this is actually a large In-Universe case of Straw Man Has a Point. It wasn't until Terl used the machine to impart Psychlo knowledge to Johnny that he even knew what a triangle was.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Jonnie delivers his stirring speech about how humanity has enough problems "without having to fight each other over food" having just beaten the crap out of someone over food.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The only marksmanship any Psychlo has ever exhibited was when Terl shot up a herd of stationary cattle. The fact their guns are held upside down so as to be impossible to aim probably contributes.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The movie's tagline is "Prepare to go Psychlo".
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: So obvious even the cavemen can spot them.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In the end Johny keeps Terl alive so that if there are Psychlos outside the homeworld, and they come looking for revenge, humans can use Terl as leverage...because the Psychlos would be really pissed at Terl for indirectly dooming the homeworld...so if they get him, they won't bother with the humans, who directly doomed their homeworld...yeah.
  • It Works Better with Bullets
    • Of course, Terl criticizing someone on gun safety is kind of ironic considering what OTHER film John Travolta was in.
  • Large Ham: John Travolta. In a big way. (Spoilers)
  • Made of Explodium: The atmosphere on the Psychlo's homeworld gets set ablaze by a single nuclear bomb. The resulting explosion rips the entire planet apart -- crust, mantle, core and all.
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform
  • Motif: Nauseating camera angles, lurid blue or purple coloration, people dressed like cavemen hooting like howler monkeys.
  • Never Say "Die": The Psychlos are really fond of the word "Vaporize", though. Even though their guns don't actually vaporize anyone.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Psychlos don't even take poorly to amputations.
  • Overly Long Tongue: Terl's girlfriend, as played by John Travolta's wife Kelly Preston.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The passcode to Terl's vault is his ID number backwards.
  • Plot Hole: Too many to count.
  • Ragnarok Proofing: The ruins of Denver look like they've only been abandoned for a year or so, with readable books instead of piles of dust. Then there's Fort Hood. Jets, nukes, stinger missiles and flight simulators still work just as fine.
  • Ramming Always Works: In one of the film's "highlights", a caveman-pilot who runs out of missiles ejects just before ramming a Psychlo fighter, completely overlooking the aircraft's 25mm cannon.
  • Real Is Blue
  • Reassignment Backfire: Terl has been Reassigned to Antarctica as petty revenge for getting involved with the daughter of a senator, which leads to the destruction of the Psychlo race.
  • Refuge in Cool:
  • Repeat Cut: When Terl's boss mentions that he plans to keep Terl on Earth instead of giving him a temporary reprieve, the movie plays back the "endless options for renewal!" part of the speech three times for some reason.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens: Imagine The Coneheads with dreadlocks, furry hands, codpieces, limb extensions, and breathing tubes that look like rivets of snot dangling from their nostrils.
  • Sequel Hook: Terl is alive, and the human victors face an unknown future after winning a ruined planet.
  • Shoot The Cow.
  • Slow Motion: Roughly a fourth of the film consists of slow-mo shots of Psychlos lumbering around shooting at people, Jonnie running away from Psychlos shooting at him (complete with Matrix-esque clouds of debris and shrapnel), or Jonnie mourning somebody's death
  • Smug Snake: Terl, in spades.
  • Stun Guns: The Psychlo's handguns have a stun setting, which they use to capture Johnny without killing him. A closeup of one of these guns later shows its owner switching the setting between stunning and lethal.
  • Space Opera
  • Token Romance: Jonnie's girlfriend gets about four scenes in this film. All we know is that she left the village against her father's wishes.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: In record time too, and from scratch. Luckily, they did have an Upgrade Artifact to instantly train everyone, and...oh, wait...they forgot to use it.
  • Translation Convention: While the Psychlos are in private, their language is translated into English, but when the humans are the focus, it's left untranslated. It gets a little weird once Jonnie learns the language and is speaking both in the same scene and "translating".
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: Most scenes involving the Psychlos.
  • Upgrade Artifact: Used so our hero can become an Instant Expert without going through a Training Montage. Infamously not used to help the rest of humanity prepare for the revolution, despite the fact that having them do just that was a key plot point in the book.
  • Villain Ball: Held by the Psychlos' leader, Terl. Teaching your slaves everything to know about your civilization in an instant can only end badly, especially if you're supposedly doing it to help conquer their planet. Introducing your pet human to inspiring documents from the American Revolution will only make things worse. Holding your pet human's girlfriend hostage just makes things personal. Abusing your henchman only serves to set up the Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal in the final act. And not launching an all-out crackdown when the man-animals rebel and attack with air support... not a good idea Terl doesn't even notice an exploding collar Jonnie straps to his arm in a melee, and proceeds to amputate his own limb when he triumphantly hits the detonator. His (non)reaction shot is priceless. He appears to read the Bizarro Universe inversion of the Evil Overlord List, telling him exactly what to do wrong.
  • While You Were in Diapers: When another Psychlo mocks Terl and says that he could have taken a much less stressful job, he says something to this effect - that he was trained to be a Galactic Conqueror since birth (see the quote under Memetic Mutation).