We read the reviews of Battlefield Earth on the day it came out back in May 2000, and we could not stop reading more reviews of it. It was addictive.
We decided we needed to see it in the theaters. There was no way we were going to miss this. Battlefield Earth sounded like it put the “epic” in “epic failure.”
However, we did not see it opening weekend. We waited a week so we could properly dance on its corpse. We were two of six people in the theater that Friday evening in the north of Chicago. Six, tops. Four of those people did not realize they were about to watch a comedy.
At first, our guffaws echoed in the cinema. I don’t think the other folks in the theater were staring at us, per se, but they clearly did not see what we were seeing. Yet.
Yet. Because about the fourth or fifth time someone dropped to their knees and screamed “NOOOOOOOOO!,” suddenly everyone else was bursting out laughing along with us. I’d like to think we turned them, but really it was all Battlefield Earth‘s doing. Because Battlefield Earth is amazing, a glorious send-up of sci-fi tropes that is willfully unaware of the fact that it is a send-up of sci-fi tropes.
It is not often you see a big movie so universally panned in such gleeful, delightful ways. Here are some of our favorite take-downs.
Wesley Morris, San Francisco Examiner
(And bless Battlefield Earth for introducing us to Wesley Morris.)
As menacing as Terl appears, (John) Travolta’s performance scales the walls of camp, as though he was starring in “Butterfield Earth.” His scenes with dim sidekick Forest Whitaker – who, wearing day-glo contacts and mounds of fake hair, looks like a sleepy doppelganger for rapper Lil’ Kim – resemble episodes of the Warner Bros. cartoon Pinky and the Brain.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in The Fugitive. I watched it in mounting gloom, realizing I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies.
Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide
Clumsy plot, misplaced satire, unbelievable coincidences, and a leaden pace trample Travolta’s weird but amusing performance.
Nathan Rabin, A.V. Club
A film too staggeringly inept to be believed, Battlefield Earth is a contender for the worst movie of any year, decade, or century.
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
He tries to make Terl into one of those literate, crisply enunciating villains, but all that means is that he sounds like a fifth grader impersonating Dr. Frankenstein, complete with a vaguely British accent that comes and goes.
Elvis Mitchell, New York Times
Sitting through it is like watching the most expensively mounted high school play of all time.
Desson Howe, Washington Post
But hey, let’s cut to the chase: We’re talking “Ishtar of the Apes.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
With this journey into the heart of rubbish, this full-throttle adventure into the hyper-space of drivel, Travolta not only incinerates what is left of his own reputation, but takes someone else down with him: Forest Whitaker, making a prat of himself as Terl’s sidekick.
Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire
Seriously on par with Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space as one of the worst motion picture in science fiction history, this bloated, brain-dead, narcissistic, almost completely nonsensical cinematic disaster is likely to make anyone with any kind of summer movie standards long for the return of movie-mocking Comedy Central series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)