Viking Night: Battlefield Earth
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000
By Bruce Hall
January 27, 2015
Do not let the name of this article fool you. I come to praise John Travolta, not to bury him.
Let's start with that fantastic title. "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" (or BEAST3K, as I shall henceforth call it) is not just a title born of hubris. It is a major motion picture steeped in it, forged in the brazen fires of it, and unleashed upon an unsuspecting world in a mad, orgasmic, molten metal tsunami of it. John Travolta swore he'd make a movie for the ages and was mercilessly mocked for it. He begged, cajoled, threatened, whined, huffed and puffed until he got his movie made - and it will truly outlast the ages. It is, in a word - no, TWO words - unholy perfection.
BEAST3K is one of those things that can only happen when one man has so much power and influence that no matter how stupid the plan, he WILL eventually get his way. It is that rare combination of unbridled ego, misguided passion and garden variety hucksterism that happens maybe twice a century. You don't need to see this film; you must see it, simply because it's a great example of what can happen when you don't listen to people.
When it was released, Travolta compared it to everything from Star Wars to Pulp Fiction to having unprotected sex with an angel. He was correct on all counts, not because it's that good, but because it's that BAD. You know how Nazis are so far right and Fascists are so far left they're pretty much the same thing? BEAST3K is so far bad, it's actually kind of brilliant. But to make a movie this horrifically perfect, you've got to start with the right source material. And there's no better source for bad science fiction than L. Ron Hubbard.
I'm not saying Hubbard wasn't a genius. He was so much MORE than that. He was a writer of questionable ability who realized he could make more money by starting a fake religion, and he was absolutely right. BEAST3K the novel is unreadable dreck - so much so that only the passion of a True Believer could get it on screen. So, I guess if you've got a novel sitting around about an exotic dancer who solves cold cases by shooting ping pong balls out of herself at old mugshots, here's your blueprint. Just reinvent yourself as a god and send free copies to your supplicants.
You certainly couldn't do worse.
BEAST3K takes place 1,000 years after an alien race called the Psychlos devastated the Earth and enslaved humanity. The story begins in the Colorado Rockies, where a primitive band of humans eke out a living in caves, wearing obvious prop animal skins. The men are mostly clean shaven with perfect teeth, and the women have flawless skin and meticulously crimped hair. One man, Johnny "Goodboy" Tyler (Barry Pepper), can no longer live this way, and longs for a better life. So he takes his horse and his 1940s nickname and sets off into the wilderness. There, he meets Tig from Sons of Anarchy (Kim Coates) and his friend, who we'll call Casualty #1. Tig (I’m just going to go with "Tig" because that would be awesome) and Johnny are immediately captured and taken to Psychlo HQ, which is a giant dome built over the ruins of Denver, because...why not? They immediately try to escape, and almost as immediately are introduced to Terl (Travolta), the Psychlo security chief, and his right hand man Kern (Forrest Whitaker).