Cavemen make great fighter jet pilots
Lost in the mazes of this dungeon that I call home, I often have to use cunning and stealth to avoid being ensnared by dangerous creatures looking to do me harm. How I wish these creatures were even half as dumb as the villainous Psychlos from John Travolta’s pet project film, Battlefield Earth.
This movie is one of the greatest box office flops of all time. There are some who argue that this can be put in the so bad that it’s good category. I consider myself somewhat of an expert in bad films. This is simply so bad that it is bad. Totally and completely bad. I don’t find any redeeming qualities in this film and it’s downright painful to watch.
I’ll tell you the premise and then I’ll go into some finer detail on the awfulness of this abomination.
The year is 3000 A.D. and the human race has been nearly wiped out by a vicious, war hungry race of aliens called the Psychlos. When these aliens attacked, virtually everything on earth was wiped out. To the point that humans are basically living as primitive cavemen. They think that old structures that were once office buildings were built by “the gods”. They have some simple encampments and ride horses and things like that. Things that visually look almost identical to the opening of Planet of the Apes. There’s a standard heroic caveman dude with the standard heroic name of Jonnie. The humans at the beginning know that there is a threat out there but it seems like they haven’t encountered the aliens in a while because some think these creatures are real and some don’t. Caveman Jonnie is out hunting or something and comes across a few more cavemen and they are suddenly captured by the aliens. Just like Planet of the Apes they are then herded into cages and put to slave labor. They even get the same hose down. Then we get to meet the career defining performance of John Travolta.
Travolta plays the evil Psychlo, head of security, Terl. He has wild cackling laughter for no reason for most of the film. He overacts to the point of absolute insanity and most of the time he is talking to another Psychlo named Ker, played by Forest Whitaker of all people. You can feel Whitakerr’s pain just emanating out of his face the whole time, wondering how the heck he ended up in this film.
Back to a bit of the plot, Ter, wants to get off Earth and the only way he can do that is by making some money for this corporation on the Psyhlo home world. The Psychlos are pretty dumb though. They see humans as a menial labor species but don’t seem to think they are capable of using weapons, pushing buttons, or speaking with each other. In a weird effect in the film, the Psychlos and humans go back and forth, neither knowing the other language. It kind of works but it’s really distracting when they suddenly go from weird grunts in one perspective to speaking perfect English the next.
Jonnie, is able to nearly escape, kills a Psychlo and hangs onto the weapon. Ter’s reaction to this is disbelief but as soon as he sees that it’s true, decides to use the humans to mine gold.
Okay so to put this in a more succinct summary, bad aliens who are dumb, want cavemen who are slaves to mine gold. The cavemen want to not be slaves. With me so far? Good.
To train the humans, Ter hooks Johnnie up to this magic technology that will teach Johnnie the Psychlo language. But it doesn’t just do that, it also teaches him about the entire Psychlo history and culture. Johnnie is suddenly converted into the only human who actually knows what is going on. Now he’ll be able to mine gold and fly spaceships.
But of course, humans always endure so Johnnie is smart enough to figure out that he can use this to defeat the Psychlos. In the end, as expected the humans win.
Again to make this summary a little more succinct, the evil aliens give the cavemen the very technology they need to overthrow the aliens.
On the surface, in some ways this could have worked. Like say, if it had been, I don’t know, Charleton Heston playing the lead character and the bad guys were actually apes and we called it Planet of the Apes. At least in that one, Charleton Heston was not an actual caveman and knew stuff.
Now, one tendency I have when I watch virtually any movie is to overthink it. I wouldn’t write movie reviews if I didn’t. But here are some ways that this movie goes completely stupid.
The makeup on the Psychlos is absurdly bad. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture at the top of this post. That’s a rejected Star Trek alien if I ever saw one. These creatures are also supposed to be bigger than humans. I’d say they are roughly Shaq sized but the framing of the shots often makes the size relatively flexible and you really notice that. Also, why do they have fur on their hands?
The effects in this film are abysmal. They look clunky and weird compared to today’s films certainly but even for the time they were just bad. The blasts from the weapons are a vague streak of white light. At least make them red or blue or a bright color. Also, these guns sometimes outright kill, sometimes can blow a hand off and sometimes launch someone non-lethally through six panes of window glass. The ships look like there is no chance period they could stay airborne. The one or two shots we get of the Psychlo home planet looks like someone built the same building five bazillion times and then turned some lights on.
The acting is so bad. It’s not just John Travolta who fails here, it’s almost everyone. The cavemen are never believable at all.
Then there are the Psychlos and their plots. First off, fine they want to mine gold. why would gold in specific be a precious metal on any world besides earth? There’s no more intrinsic value to it than any other ore, especially if you come from a planet that is not Earth and might not even have gold. But okay, I can kind of get past that, there are other space movies where gold is precious.
But why would you give the humans access to all your technology? I mean any good warrior wants to know their enemy before the fight. But the Psychlos are like, hey here’s everything about us, have at it.
There’s good reason for the Psychlos not to go to where the humans mine the gold, the area is radiated. Why this particular kind of radiation doesn’t harm humans is never explained.
But instead of setting up some way of monitoring the humans. these aliens, who are smart enough to figure out space travel, don’t even think to monitor with some kind of camera to see what the humans are up to.
Then there are the cavemen. This is the oddest problem in this film. So, Jonnie is the leader and he got to learn from the magic machine. But they meet this other group of cavemen and they are never exposed to the magic learning machine. However, even without it, these cavemen are able to fly fighter jets. Why? Because it’s “like taming a horse”. Yup. Horses, fighter jets, pretty much the same thing for sure.
Also, the humans are able to defeat these Psychlos due to a series of ridiculous events. First of all, they fake mining the gold because Jonnie read about a place called Fort Knox. It’s convenient they had time to travel and get the gold and that they were easily able to break in and that the gold was still completely intact. Cause. you know, breaking in to Fort Knox should be relatively inconvenient for these guys right?
Conveniently, they are close enough to an Air Force base, the fighter jets still work, there seems to be working fuel which should have expired roughly one thousand years before, and they have nuclear weapons there.
There’s a fairly serviceable battle sequence at the end where the humans trick Terl into transporting a nuke to the home planet of the Psychlos but the visual of the cavemen in the fighter jet blows all credibility here.
In summary, do not watch this film. It’s not good. It’s worse than not good. It’s beyond terrible. Stay away at all costs.
This one left me frustrated enough that I want to go in a different direction for my next review. I am going to watch Undercover Grandpa. It could be about a grandpa who goes under cover, or it could be about someone who goes undercover as a grandpa but my bet is that this is ninety minutes of an octogenarian under a blanket.