Making the Grades
IN JUST 9 MINUTES, aliens from the planet Psychlo practically eliminated Earth's inhabitants. By 3000 A.D., surviving humans have reverted to a caveman-like existence in the Rocky Mountains. Determined to find a better life, Jonnie (Barry Pepper) leaves this refuge only to be captured by the Psychlos.
Taken to a labor camp, he comes face to ugly face with the Chief of Security, a dreadlock-bedecked 9-foot-tall alien named Terl (John Travolta) and his equally gargantuan minion Ker (Forest Whitaker). Being surrounded by humans is an indignity in Terl's eyes, so he eagerly awaits a promotion -- his ticket off this disgusting planet. But, due to a certain indiscretion with the senator's daughter, his request is denied.
Seeking revenge on his superiors, Terl decides to keep Ker's recent discovery of gold a secret, and make himself one rich Psychlo. But how will he mine it? Only he and Ker know of the plan. It's not long before Terl decides that Jonnie and a few other "man-animals" have the potential to be taught some rudimentary mining skills. Big mistake -- Jonnie soon learns enough to be dangerous. Sharing this newly acquired knowledge, he gives his fellow Neanderthals crash courses in basic atomic warfare and Harrier jet flight. As a result, the Psychlos learn an entirely new version of the big bang theory.
At times the movie borders on the ridiculous, with its painted backdrops, bizarre Psychlo platform boots, and the necessity to suspend disbelief on numerous occasions. But whether or not it was intended by the filmmakers, I found myself caught up in the campy humor... particularly whenever Terl displayed his "superior" intelligence by jumping to wrong conclusions (aren't rats a human's favorite food?), or when teaching Ker the blackmailer's art of leverage.
Like many "good vs. evil" sci-fi flicks, parents should be aware that viewers of Battlefield Earth witness many shootings and deaths (which may be too intense for pre-teens), but at least these portrayals are handled in a sanitized manner. Besides, it's always easier to justify violence when your opponent is as ugly and arrogant as a Psychlo.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Battlefield Earth.
How much do we really know about the past from experts with “superior intelligence” interpreting the facts for us?
How many different cinematic effects were employed to give the viewer a sense of oppression and suspense?
How many hours in a simulator would be required to fly a jet fighter? Would aviation fuel be combustible after 1,000 years? Finally, why would a superior race have rotten teeth, while primitive cave-dwellers sport a Colgate smile?