WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Iím not a big believer in moral righteousness but I can tell you two important things, "Never, ever judge a book by its cover" and "Never let someone else make up your mind for you". After having said that, I think many people chose to do otherwise in their often scathing reviews of what many labeled the worst film of the year. Once the bandwagon got rolling, everyone opted to take cheap shots, regardless of whether theyíd actually seen the movie or not. The much maligned Battlefield Earth has finally found its way onto a solid DVD that features some cool extras and good A/V.
Set in the year 3000, we learn that human beings are on the verge of total extinction. While foraging the scorched remains of whatís left of Earth, a group of refugees are captured by an evil, nasty alien species lead by even more despicable overlords (John Travolta, Forrest Whitaker). Forced with the prospects of having to become slaves, they regroup and try to fight for both their collective freedom and the continuation of the human race.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Iím not going to lie to you, this is not a masterful piece of filmmaking. Rather, itís a schlocky camp-fest which requires you to check your brain and disbelief at the door. I went in expecting to see a horrible film but no matter how hard I tried, I could not hate this movie. In all fairness, it wasnít all that bad. It does, however, manage to pay homage (read: borrow liberally) to many other flicks including the Matrix lobby scene, the Braveheart "motivational" pep talk and the Star Wars trench scene. It also manages to put John Woo to shame in its gratuitous indulgence in countless slow motion shots, piling them on for a cheesy dramatic effect. I also had trouble believing some of the movieís more "fantastic" plot holes which seemed to defy every possible law of probability. Still, this is a science fiction movie and to properly enjoy the genre you need to immerse yourself in the environment and just go along with the ride. No intellectual contemplation required.
Considering that the filmmakers operated within a 20 million dollar budget, the movie showcases some very impressive special effects. I was actually quite surprised with the sweeping cinematography, great looking spaceships and interesting glimpses of a post apocalyptic Earth. Everything comes across as being convincingly realistic and was nothing short of a pleasant surprise. Travoltaís character, in his platform shoes and dreadlocks, was fun to watch and had me laughing at his goofy alien thought patterns. He also managed to pull off the cartoonish stereotypical bad guy to a tee, perfectly suited for this kind of movie. My only real beef with the flick was that its PG rating extracted all visual violence and tamed some of the more intense scenes. All in all, itís an entertaining sci-fi cheese-a-thon which contrary to what most critics may have thought, is still good for a few cheap thrills.
First up in the supplementals is "Evolution and Creation", a 16 minute behind the scenes look at the special effects, costuming and make up work of Battlefield. It also provides interviews with many members of both the cast and crew. "Storyboard Montage" is an 8 minute movie to storyboard comparison set to a pounding electronic soundtrack. Iíve seen many of such extras on other DVDs and this is the way they should all be done, with full animation and sound. "John Travolta Make-up Test" is a short 2 minute interview with the actor, showing his eventual transformation into the Psychlo overlord Terl. "Creative Visual Effects Featurette" is an all too brief 3 minute explanation of the blue screen and mini model work of the movie, but is still worth checking out. Also included in the extras are both a teaser and theatrical trailer and 2 separate TV spots. Cast and crew biographies as well as a short history of the novel Battlefield Earth round out the bonuses. The DVD featured some very cool menus, with several scenes from the movie and the soundtrack looping over each other.
BONUS PRESCRIPTION: While running the audio commentary track on the DVD, be on the lookout for "crosshairs" to appear on screen periodically throughout the movie. When they pop out, press the Enter button on your remote and youíll be treated to a short 20-30 second clip of how the sceneís special effect was shot and accomplished. After the clip, youíre brought right back to the movie. This is one of the cooler options Iíve seen and should be included on all special effects blockbusters. In the special features menus, as you move down the list of extras, push the Right Directional button and youíll highlight hidden "crosshairs". Select them and press Enter and youíll be treated to more FX behind the scenes stuff. Enjoy.
If youíve already seen this movie and thought that John Travolta and everyone else involved with this project should be crucified, well, then I suppose the DVD probably wonít do much to change your mind. If you havenít had the chance to check it out, hereís my advice: if you enjoy campy science fiction or action genre flicks, give it a shot and be your own judge. Why? Because thereís no greater crime than dissing a movie you actually HAVENíT seen.