A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 265 – Battlefield Earth

Battlefield Earth – November 20th, 2010

Why yes, we do own this movie. We own a lot of crappy movies. It’s sort of a thing for us and I will point back to The Worst Witch and Sharks in Venice and remind anyone reading that yes, we bought those intentionally. We specifically went looking for the former and when we saw the title of the latter we snapped it up in a hurry. We watched the latter for our anniversary this year. We do have a thing for bad movies. And so, for our halfway through movie (yes! tonight represents our halfway mark for our collection as it currently stands!) we are watching a really bad movie. It’s commonly accepted that it’s a horrible movie. And I think that’s fitting. But we have another reason too.

Two years ago my brother-in-law mentioned this very cool thing going on around the time of US Thanksgiving. A group of sketch comedians in Canada had gotten together to play a supremely boring video game in a 24 hours a day marathon for donations to Child’s Play for as long as people would donate money. And my computer could not handle things like streaming video and so I didn’t look. Then last year, I was reminded of it just in time for the first morning and tuned in and ended up watching for days. Desert Bus for Hope is truly one of the most awesome things I have ever seen. The LoadingReadyRun crew are fantastically funny all the time (and super cool in person), but they are even more funny when they’re doing things like singing songs they don’t know, eating blended Big Slam Breakfasts and reading out fanfic like this. And they do it all for the children. So while we’re not really doing this for the children, we thought we’d join them in spirit and endure a little pain ourselves. And if you’re curious, go check out the live feed from their marathon and if you donated some money for the children I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

So, on to the actual review. Apparently we got this for just under two dollars and it came with a coupon for a two dollar rebate (with book purchase). That would be a good deal right there if not for the book purchase bit. I’m not buying the book, so I’ll just have to deal with having spent two bucks on this. I certainly never would have spent more on it. I mean, I’ve seen worse movies. I’ve seen some really bad stuff. Being an MST3K fan exposes one to some truly hideous movies. Things with no production values to speak of and I’m not even talking about Manos: The Hands of Fate. There are worse movies out there. This isn’t one of them. But it’s bad. No doubt about that. It’s just that it’s a bad movie with high production values and a blockbustery sort of promotional effort when it was released.

There’s a whole plot where the aliens try to gain leverage over the main characters by determining their favorite food. And how do they do that? They let them loose in a barren wasteland and watch them to see what they pick to eat. Out of what? Nothing! This is a superior race of aliens. Yup. They finally settle on Humans wanting nothing more than a good raw rat. Yum! I cannot believe this was made seriously. I cannot believe the cast wasn’t laughing their asses off when the cameras stopped rolling. The sad part is that the bits with the humans are passable post-apocalyptic pulp. I can buy the human stuff – even the silly learning curve they manage. The aliens, on the other hand, are thoroughly laughable. They’re ridiculous and foolish and the only thing that makes them a threat is superior firepower/technology. The aliens themselves are big and strong, yes, but mostly they just have extra stuff. Including giant clunky boots that make it hard for them to walk. I cannot for a moment take them seriously.

I do have to wonder if I’m intended to take them seriously, really. I’d be more divided on this if the movie was more obviously mocking of itself, but the big battle scenes are pretty seriously done and so is the soundtrack. This is no Starship Troopers, and if the trivia on IMDB is to be believed, the original screenplay was less serious and the producers and Travolta brought in another screenwriter to “fix” it. So I have to conclude that this movie was supposed to be taken seriously as a post-apocalyptic alien-invasion epic. And as a serious epic it fails. It fails so hard. And it’s hard to narrow it down to any one reason. It’s a whole collection of reasons. But I’d have to put a lot of the blame on the aliens themselves. I simply can’t get over how unimpressive they are. High foreheads, lots of hair, big boots and yellow contacts just aren’t enough for a kickass alien. You need some good character design and writing and whatnot. And no. There is none of that here. I blame the source material.

The story itself isn’t unique. Evil aliens who’ve overmined their own planet travel around strip-mining other planets and destroying the life on them. They invade Earth, destroy human civilization, mine the hell out of the place and are then taken down by a plucky group of rebellious humans who’ve managed to somehow learn how to work ancient human technology and bizarre alien technology. That’s not unique. That’s not revolutionary. It’s not even a new twist on the plot. It is utterly typical and unremarkable in any positive way. I’ve seen a lot of post-apocalyptic stuff and this did not wow me at all. And on top of the plot being so un-imaginative in terms of other alien stuff, it’s just not done well. Yes, it has a big budget. The special effects are fine and the sets are fine and the makeup is fine. The costumes are meh, but whatever. It’s just all so uninspired overall, and then the ridiculousness of the aliens just makes it all so silly.

I hadn’t seen this prior to tonight. I don’t think I’m ever going to watch it again, though it does definitely fall under the “laughably bad” heading and I’ve been known to enjoy some of those. But ultimately? It’s boring. It’s silly, but not silly enough to reach unintentional satire. It’s bad, but not bad enough to make me laugh my ass off. It’s just. Not engaging. It’s foolish and uninteresting and boring. And I think that’s all I really have to say about it. Now I’m going back to something entertaining and opening up Desert Bus again.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Battlefield Earth

November 20, 2010

Battlefield Earth

Amanda and I are huge fans of the crew at Loading Ready Run so naturally we’re having a wonderful time this week watching their annual childsplay fundraiser Desert Bus For Hope. For at least another one hundred hours they are going to be playing the infamous non-game Desert Bus – driving a bus down a completely barren desert road in real time from Tuscon to Las Vegas and back. And Back again. With nothing whatsoever except the occasional bug splat and the extinguishing of the sun to keep them amused. Well, that and all the chaos of a room full of hilarious people taking challenges from the internet in exchange for charitable donations.

For our movie project we have a number of infamously and truly bad movies set aside. We had intended to do some kind of fund raiser of our own, but were never able to figure out how to get people to donate to watch bad movies which, according to the rules of the project, we were going to have to watch anyhow. We pondered going out to buy bad movies in exchange for donations and reviewing them – but were somewhat afraid of what our readers might inflict upon us. And don’t have money to burn ourselves on bad movies. So instead we’re just going to watch some bad movies in a show of solidarity. If you feel the need to donate please go visit the Desert Bus website and click the donate button there.

I have in fact seen this movie before. I couldn’t resist seeing a movie which swept the Razzies and was so universally panned. And when we found this in a discount bin at our local FYE we figured, well, how could we not? For the children (as the Desert Bus mantra goes.) Particularly amusing is that we bought it for $1.97 and it had c coupon inside for a $2 rebate – if we bought the book as well. So at this point the movie is so much of a joke that the film makers are almost willing to pay people to take the movie away.

I have to say I think they’re selling the movie short. The way I remember it this movie came out the same year as Dungeons and Dragons and the Tim Burton “re-imagining” of Planet of the Apes. Far from being the worst movie of all time I maintain that this was hardly even the worst movie to come out that year. I mean, sure, it’s a stupid movie. Sure the Psychlos (the ludicrously silly alien overlords of the Earth in the year 3000 are laughable and seem to be played mostly for camp value, but… well it’s at least funny, right? I enjoy watching it, so it has that in its favor.

The question is – and this is the question Amanda asked me quite early in the movie – is this movie intentionally camp? It definitely falls into the category of movies that are so bad they’re good, but is that deliberate? Did John Travolta give the scenery chewing performance he delivers here because he honestly believed it would read on screen as a compelling bad guy, or was it that nobody had the guts to tell him how stupid he looked, or is it deliberate lampooning? If it is either of the first two then this movie is just kind of sad, if it’s the latter then I don’t really know what they were going for.

This is the tale of a human uprising in a post-apocalyptic future against an alien species that has conquered all of humankind and enslaved us. If that sounds thrilling or compelling then you clearly have never seen this film. The script, acting and general directing of the movie work at every point to underline the point that the aliens are incompetent, bumbling, and rock stupid. It’s not simply that they underestimate the resourcefulness and intelligence of humans – it’s that the aliens don’t have a brain cell between the lot of them. It doesn’t help that in what I assume was an attempt to make the aliens menacing and tall all of them are wearing massive platform shoes. The poor actors have a LOT of trouble walking in these shoes, which reduces the Psychlos to lumbering slapstick a lot of the time.

I understand that the gist of Scientology is that we can overcome the obstacles in our lives by overcoming our inner demons – which are apparently some kind of parasitic aliens. It makes as makes about as much sense as any other organised religion in my head. I also understand that John Travolta cared deeply about this project as some kind of allegory for Scientology. But it somewhat undermines the notion of a deep inner struggle to depict the source of everything negative in the human psyche as laughably feeble-minded stumbling fools.

Um. Sorry. I’m not feeling well and my brain isn’t really functioning too effectively. I feel like I should have more to say about this absolutely wonderfully and inexplicably awful movie. It’s fun to see Forest Whitaker because he pretty clearly is simply enjoying hamming it up. The effects in the movie don’t stand out as awful, and there are a very large number of well done miniature shots – particularly during the hilarious and improbably epic conclusion. This is one of those stupid movies that you can pretty well enjoy if you’re like me and enjoy bad movies. Luckily I am one of those people.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment