Cinema: A Planetary Disaster

John Travolta's Battlefield Earth is a helpless cause

A thousand years hence, Earth has succumbed to alien invaders called Psychlos. They are mining the planet's mineral wealth while reducing what's left of its population to slavery. The oppressors are personified by Terl (John Travolta), a security officer who in some shots looks like a demented Dennis Miller, and his hulking assistant Ker (Forest Whitaker). The "man-animals" are greatly in need of a heroic rebel, who appears as a guy actually named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper).

Up to this point, Battlefield Earth is a coherent if banal narrative with Earth envisioned in standard dystopian style--muddy, rusty, all its...

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