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Battlefield Earth: Take Back The Planet (1999)
Director: Roger Christian
review by Steven Hampton
"If man-animal prefers its rat uncooked then our job is that much easier." I think the harshest critics of Battlefield Earth may have misinterpreted the whole thing. True, it's seriously flawed, but Roger Christian's SF adventure is not a complete failure as entertainment. John Travolta's performance as the security leader of an occupying alien force is high camp space opera, especially during the amusing confrontations with his chief rival - played with scenery chewing relish by Forest Whitaker - among the legion of Psychlos, who look and act something like corporate Klingons.
The plot of this new video version, a special re-cut supervised by the director, is straightforward enough: it's the year 3000, and mankind is reduced to slavery or savagery depending on whether they live inside the aliens' domed city or not. Against his race's own rules, the ambitious Terl (Travolta) puts human prisoner Tyler (Barry Pepper) into a speed-learning programme, to be trained as a gold miner. Now that he's more advanced than his fellows, the rebellious youngster is determined not only to defeat the Psychlos stationed on Earth but also to destroy their home planet.
Although shamelessly derivative of many other genre movies (one shooting of a runaway human is a blatant rip-off of a death sequence in Blade Runner), with endless pulp style screen wipes used as scene breaks, there's good fun to be found in the transformation of a caveman into a nuclear terrorist, and primitive hunters into jump-jet fighter pilots. Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dune, BattleStar Galactica and just about every other major screen SF work is plundered for ideas and inspiration. The visual effects certainly are very impressive at times and yet, as usual, it's the routine and predictable storyline and indifferent, overly familiar script that dilutes any real impact the film could possibly have.
Let's all hope that the similarly themed remake of Planet Of The Apes is much better than this.
previously published online, VideoVista #28 - July 2001
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