EPICALLY BAD MOVIES 1 – BATTLEFIELD:EARTH

I like bad movies. They fascinate me. But I like unbelievably bad movies, movies that actually hurt to sit through. Some movies are passively bad (X-Men 3, Maid in Manhattan, Ghost Rider, etc). They're just boring, dumb, poorly acted, and so on. I like movies that are aggressively bad. They're so bad it's actually shocking, and they inspire reactions like "My God, what were they thinking?" In an effort to lighten things up around here, I'm going to share some of my favorites with you – films that blast through the "awful" barrier with such force that they come full circle back to "entertaining."

So. Battlefield:Earth. I firmly believe that every man, woman, and child on the planet should watch this film. It simply needs to be seen to be believed. And if I can get everyone to watch it, it will greatly reduce the chance that such a mistake could happen again. It took me three tries to make it through this film. Honest to God. It is physically difficult to watch.

Battlefield:Earth is based on an L. Ron Hubbard novel. As if that wasn't enough to doom it to the "shit" pile, it stars (and was bankrolled by) Hubbard spawn John Travolta. A friend once asked me what made this film so exceptionally bad – what was wrong with it? The short answer is everything. Everything is wrong with it.

Start with a movie about 9-foot tall aliens called 'Psychlos' and their plucky, enslaved human charges. Add the worst special effects this side of Stargate SG-1 and high school play-quality costumes. Spice liberally with ridiculous, nonsensical plot and a script that sounds like it was written in Urdu and translated into English with a free online translator. Have all the characters act and make decisions like they are recovering from a series of massive strokes. Top it off with jerking, headache-inducing cinematography. Watch until nauseous.

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Barry Pepper (who, along with Forest Whitaker, I simply pity throughout this trainwreck) stars as the ringleader of the humans. He is the optimistic one who will show his downtrodden bretheren how to rise up and defeat their Psychlo captors. By the end of the film, he succeeds. I have kept the plot summary brief simply because most of what goes on within that framework is so idiotic that it actually makes one forget what the movie is about.

I will share only one scene, one that captures everything that is stunning and inimitable about this film. Psychlo leader Terl (Travolta) is trying to educate the pluckiest human Johnny Goodboy Tyler (Pepper) in the Psychlo language to make him an effective manservant. He decides that the best way to motivate the dirty, starved human is to tempt it with the promise of delicious food. Unfortunately, Psychlos do not know what humans like to eat. So he decides that the best way to figure it out….is to let all the humans escape and use a hidden camera (secreted in the button of Pepper's shirt) to see what they eat. As my movie-watching companion exclaimed, "That's the worst plan I've ever heard." Anyway, the escaped, starving humans end up eating rats in desperation – leading the Psychlos to think that humans like rats! Hilarity ensues! The icing on the cake is when Pepper discovers, and destroys, the hidden camera. Forest Whitaker leaps to his feet and exclaims "MY GOD, THEY FIGURED OUT THE BUTTON CAM!"

Yep. I find it hard to believe that this film could have been made by members of the same species as me. It just boggles the mind. I'd like to say that was the worst part of the film, but about 20 minutes later some illiterate, loincloth-clad cave men were flying Harrier jets. In the context of everything wrong with this movie, such unbelievable nonsense barely even registered at the time.

See this movie. It is, in the literal sense of the term, amazing. I promise you will be amazed by it.

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7 Responses to “EPICALLY BAD MOVIES 1 – BATTLEFIELD:EARTH”

  1. Erik Says:

    I am just wondering… Is there some other "Ghost Rider" that I am not aware of?

  2. Jude Says:

    Love the fact that this post follows on the heels of the previously titled "Broken Arrow"… another truly sad "Trevolting".

  3. JDryden Says:

    I'm with Jon Stewart on this one: "I missed the ending because about 3/4 of the way through it, I threw a brick at the TV screen." Amazing, yes, for the first half-hour, then a numbness–a sense of learned helplessness, if you will–sets in, and then just the most blinding rage I've ever felt at a movie in my life. Couldn't make it all the way through. Tried–and I've sat through some staggeringly bad movies ("Serving Sarah," anyone? the remake of "Stepford Wives"?)–but this one defeated me utterly. Two weeks later, I was still muttering under my breath. You're a stronger man than I, Ed.

  4. Matthew Says:

    Are you familiar with Nathan Rabin's series of articles at the Onion A.V. Club, collectively titled "My Year of Flops?"

    Not all of these would qualify as truly terrible, spectacularly bad movies… but many would. In any case, I thought you might enjoy checking it out.

    http://www.avclub.com/content/blog/flops

  5. Samantha Says:

    I'm going to rent this movie sheerly for the pleasure of watching the awesome man-packages those guys are carrying around between their legs. Holy mother of god.

    Another unwatchable film? 2004's Flight of the Phoenix, wherein the crew of a downed plane reconstruct a new plane from the wreckage on the advise of a mad engineer who, as it turns out, has based his design on…[spoiler alert]…Legos. Oh, and don't miss the particularly awful "we're all in this together so let's make the best of it" desert montage to the horrific song "Hey Ya" by the equally horrific group Outkast.

  6. Dave Says:

    If you can keep the Travolta references going, there may be a prize.

  7. Batocchio Says:

    This flick sorta keeps your attention for its train-wreck quality.

    What's scarier is Travolta had been pushing to make this for *years*, originally intending to play Pepper's part.