Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000) (part 10 of 10)
And now, to finish up, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Jet Tackles the “Making Of” Features!!
First of all, the menu for the DVD is, like, the cheapest thing ever. Green honeycomb with stills from the movie, and a “futuristic” font that I’m pretty sure I’ve got on my computer under the name of “Bladerunner”. Yep, that’s right. They used the Bladerunner font. This is accompanied by “rock” music that a fellow recapper described as sounding like “something Fatboy Slim created during a night of drunken self-loathing”.
The Special Features are listed as:
Audio Commentary [which we already covered in detail]
“Evolution and Creation” – Behind the Scenes
John Travolta Makeup Test
Creative Visual Effects [slightly misnamed, as you can tell]
To begin with, I watched “Evolution and Creation” – Behind the Scenes
This feature starts out with the adorable visage of director Roger Christian who, going by the hair, seems to think he’s Beethoven.
He starts out by talking about the book, and immediately makes himself look dumb by comparing Hubbard to George Lucas and Arthur C. Clarke. He really has a bad habit of making stupid comparisons, as he showed many times during the commentary. Oh, but then he compares it to Dune, which is a little more appropriate.
After that, there’s a quick montage of “behind the scenes” footage, all pretty standard, and then we get the title, which explodes. Man, the joke there is so obvious I’m not even sure I can make it.
And guess who opens the feature proper? That’s right: Travolta, looking very avant-garde with a crew cut, goatee, and black sports jacket. Here we learn the following interesting fact: George Lucas, the “King of Science Fiction in Film”, was the one to recommend Christian as the director, on the grounds that he had worked with him on all the Star Wars prequels. This recommendation must have been made pre-Phantom Menace.
Apparently, ol’ Georgie said that “he is the only person in the world that should direct your movie”. Ouch. Okay, George, maybe Hubbard was a hack who made your genre look bad, and maybe the movie stole quite a bit from yours, but revenge-wise, that might have been taking things a little too far.
Next up, some guy (one of the producers, probably) pops up on camera to say that they needed “a visionary director”. True, and let me know when you find one, okay?
And here’s Mr. Christian again! He says he read the script and “liked it enormously”. Geez. That’s just… not… good. I think we now have Exhibit B as to why he never made it to the big time, unless he’s lying through his teeth. He adds that it had “a very powerful story” which is “rare” in this kind of movie. Yes, a story is definitely rare in this movie. And they throw in a quick clip of Pepper giving his “inspirational” speech after the prison food fight, just to emphasize this point.
Christian goes on, spouting the standard Making Of Feature 101 stuff. It’s all about subtexts and the Hero’s Journey (I hate you, Joseph Campbell. I really, really hate you), and how they did their best to create “an interesting world”. I’m caught between contemptuous laughter and feeling sincerely embarrassed for the guy.
Next up, some clips of the cave-humans rioting and Mr. Christian tells us this world is “very realistic”. I think I’m going to cry.
Oh hell. And here’s Forest Whitaker, also talking about the “subtext” in the movie: Apparently, it’s all about how we treat those we consider inferior to ourselves. And if he starts telling us this movie is a subtle allegory about racism, I really will cry.
Christian proudly tells us that the humans in the movie are treated like animals, and kept in cages in the zoo, which is a metaphor. Man, this movie is just way too deep for this dimension. Warn me next time you spring that kind of surprise on me. I have a nervous condition, you know. And by the way, no, this was not a hidden subtext. Shut up.
He then comes up with a line that made me laugh: “If you put a human in a cage, he’ll stay there.” Really? Is that so. Like Albert once said, I’ve heard that sentences contain words…
Actually, forget that. He follows it with a bit that’s about ten times funnier, claiming that there’s “never been” a movie like this before, and that it’s unlike any science fiction film that’s come before. No, really. I’m starting to sob now.
Travolta comes back, saying that the project generated a lot of “heat”, and he implies that all the top sci-fi movie people came along and wanted to get involved. Gods, what a narcissist. He really thinks this movie is brilliant, doesn’t he?
Oh-ho! And now Christian tells us he saw and admired Patrick Tautopolis’ work from… Godzilla and Independence Day, making me again wonder why this talented designer is whoring himself out to so many horrible movies. Does he really hate the moviegoing public that much?
Expected ass-kissing of Tautopolis follows. I really dislike all the ego-stroking people do in these things, especially when they’re as content-free as this one. We’re five minutes in, and I haven’t learned anything, beyond the fact that the director wouldn’t know a good script if it bit him on the ass, and that Patrick Tautopolis hates himself.
Well, okay, I’ve just now learned something. Apparently, it took days of hard work by many talented people to get Travolta’s costume exactly right. At this point, I finally lost it and started crying for my mommy.
Then Travolta moans about how hard it is to act in costume. Well, at least he admits it.
The next person to step in front of the firing line is Erik Henry, the Visual Effects Supervisor, and ye gods, Christian’s voiceover was right—this guy is very young. He gives the standard patter about how he loves coming into work every day because of “the creativity” (mommy!). It would seem this guy was behind the “learning machine” sequence, which in fact wasn’t all that bad.
And here’s Mr. Christian again, telling us for the second time that the Future had to be “real” and “believable”. Then he compares the movie to Star Wars again. Oh gods. It’s so dark now. The cold… the horrible cold! Smothering! Terrible!
Someone else steps in with “this is not a fantasy. This is something that definitely could happen.”
Aaaaaaaaarrrrgh!!! Noooooo! Help me! I’m dying! Heeeeelp!!
Okay, Jet, just calm down. Calm down. Go to your happy place. Failing that, just bang your head on the desk for a while. It worked when you were recapping Eragon.
*thump thump thump thump*
Right, that’s a little better.
Special Effects Guy returns and talks about the teleport thing, and how he and Christian insisted on making it “unique”, and a big deal, and so on.
Now they’re talking about how they designed the ships. Apparently, small-scale models were made from a design by Tautopolis, and motion capture was used to create the flying sequences. This bit is actually quite interesting, even though the ships still look preposterous.
Oooh, and now we’re shown footage of the model version of Denver. Man, it’s astonishing to see how much work went into this. It’s really, really, really sad to know just how hard a lot of people worked on this movie. So much talent completely wasted. It’s just like Eragon, in a way: shit-quality script, terrible acting, bad props, bad soundtrack, bad cinematography… but the dragon must have been the work of a team of very talented and dedicated CGI artists.
The cinematographer appears and says that he thinks that when people see this movie in the theater, they’ll be surprised by the coloration and style of the film. He claims that it’s a “really, really different looking film”, which is actually completely true. Unfortunately, my friend, the reason other films don’t look like this is because other filmmakers know better. Sorry, but that’s just the honest truth.
This is interesting—he goes on to openly say that there is not a single level frame in the film. I believe you, man. I really do. He smilingly adds that some people might find it difficult to cope with at first. Again, no arguments from me. After I saw what it did to my loyal recapping team, I need no further convincing. He says that if anything was filmed that wasn’t at a Dutch angle (which is a lot like a Dutch oven, only worse), they threw it in the bin. Jerk.
He does explain, though, that the filming style was a necessity because of the script. Because there are these two different “worlds”—inside the Greenhouse Dome and outside the Greenhouse Dome—so they had to use filters and things to mark the difference. Yes, because the audience is just that stupid. Also, this “two worlds” thing still doesn’t explain why everything had to be tilted.
After fifteen minutes, it looks like we’re finishing up, as everyone returns to offer one final soundbite for the road. It’s amazingly innovative, it’s original, people will love it, it’s about the human spirit, everyone involved was at the top of their field and wanted to make a film no one had ever seen before. Sounds reasonable. I personally am always miffed when a new movie comes out, and it turns out it’s one I’ve already seen before. But enough about Eragon.
Travolta’s final words are to the effect that he’s very, very proud of this movie, and I don’t know whether to slap him or hug him for saying that.
And roll credits. Well, that was a big fat waste of time. I generally love Making Of features because they offer an insight into the creative process—or at least give a few interesting tidbits of trivia (for example, did you know that the fake snow in The Shawshank Redemption was made from potato flakes? Or that the execution in Monster’s Ball was filmed using a real electric chair that had fingernail marks on the arms, left by actual executed convicts?).
But this was an example of the bad kind of Making Of feature: the kind that’s nothing but a series of “cool” snippets from the movie, and soundbites in which the cast and crew kiss the director’s ass and everyone kisses the movie’s ass. Most Making Ofs are a little like that, but in this case there was pretty much nothing else. If the rest of the Special Features are this un-special, I’ll keep the recaps very brief.
As you can probably guess, we see the storyboard sketches alongside the final versions used in the movie. The storyboards are very nicely drawn, in a cartoon-strip style. Although, the breathing tubes are unfortunately drawn like long, thin mustaches. I keep wondering where the giant spectacles are. Needless to say, this is all set to more of that low-budget Fatboy Slim gunk music.
Interestingly enough, the drawings are more expressive than the actors. Maybe if they’d made this an animated movie, it might have improved matters. After all, it would have been cheaper. And they were already using cartoon logic, anyway.
Anyway, this goes on for seven minutes or so and covers most of the movie. Wow, this movie is much better when it’s only seven minutes long! We should have recapped this instead!
John Travolta Makeup Test
This starts out with Travolta telling us about how a lot of Hollywood actors (he names Cagney and Bogart—man, both he and Christian love to name-drop movies and people laughably out of their league) turned to playing villains as they got older. Actually, that’s true. I guess audiences just find middle-aged guys scarier, or something.
Apparently, Terl is “the definitive evil character”. Well, if Snidely Whiplash is your idea of Ultimate Evil, I suppose that’s true. According to Travolta, he’s “pompous”, “rude” and “mean-spirited”. Um, yeah. That’s got me scurrying for my burrow already. Hell, I’m pompous, rude and mean-spirited. I guess that makes me the most evil thing ever. Thanks for the heads up, Travolta. Now I know why I have that weird “666” mark on the back of my neck.
Now we get to watch the makeup being applied. It seems the earlier version of Terl was much hairier, and more scruffy-looking, and didn’t have the metallic button things on the forehead. From what I’ve heard, these things were supposedly a swipe at psychiatrists, who like to zap their victims—uh, patients. I don’t know if that’s true; I’m just reporting what I heard.
Travolta says the costume was uncomfortable, but claims that this helped him act during the nastier parts of the movie (i.e. all of them). I guess now we know why he had that look on his face all the time.
Creative Visual Effects
This one starts out with the same clip that started the main Making Of feature, lifted verbatim. And this is after the previous feature already used a couple of soundbites taken from there, too. That’s just lazy.
Travolta affixes his lips to Christian’s ass again, and Christian does the same for Hubbard by saying Battlefield Earth is the best sci-fi novel he’s ever read (take that, Aldous Huxley!). Supposedly, everything really cool in the movie came from the book. And my opinion of the book just got lower still.
And then there’s even more stuff that was in the Making Of feature. They even include the entire section about how the model ships were made again.
Visual Effects Supervisor Guy shows up again and talks about how he worked with Tautopolis to build models and do matte paintings and CGI, which Christian now claims were really innovative, etc.
Travolta comes back in another completely reused clip, and repeats his balderdash about “a movie that no one’s ever seen before”. Roll credits. You know, we put more effort by far into this recap than went into a single one of these so-called Special Features.
All three trailers are very standard, featuring lots of “action” clips and stuff blowing up. Every single one features the Matrix rip-off moment with the exploding pillars, along with a voiceover from Terl explaining how Earth’s inhabitants only put up a nine-minute fight before being exterminated. There’s also a sample of Pepper overacting as he tries to rally his fellow humans. Also, every trailer finishes with Travolta doing his Boisterous Evil Laugh™ directly at the camera, almost as if it were actually Travolta laughing at the audience as his evil plan finally comes to fruition. The music was quite good, but none of them made the movie look particularly good. Although, that could be my bias speaking.
I didn’t bother with the Biographies.
Well, it looks like that’s that. Done, finito, complete. You know, when I first picked up this movie, I thought, “I’m only a novice recapper and I’m not as funny or dedicated as Albert, but Boothers are calling for this movie to be recapped, and damn it, I’m going to do it if it kills me!” Sadly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I write a lot, as a habit. Not a day goes by where I don’t write over a thousand words. It’s just what I do. So writing a long article covering an entire movie in-depth didn’t look like all that much work to me. And writing just a few pages to cover only fifteen minutes of a movie, while other people covered the rest looked almost embarrassingly quick and easy. I even wondered if maybe I should do it all on my own, and to heck with the inexperience.
Well, when it comes to wearing egg on one’s face, I think this one must have been laid by a dinosaur. Albert, if I had a hat, it would well and truly be off to you. I had no idea that a Mega Recap took this much of a hard slog, and now that I do know, I completely understand why at the end of the last one you said you weren’t going to do another for a very long time. For doing five of them, you should get some kind of Bad Movie Recapping medal. So, without further ado, here it is:
As for me… well, even though it was so much hard work, I’m glad I decided to do this movie Mega Recap-style. Because, quite frankly, I don’t think I could have tackled this movie all on my own. Plus, of course, the contributions of my fellow recappers made the entire recap ten times funnier than it could have been. I read through it several times, ostensibly to edit it, but also simply because it was just so much damn fun to read.
So, one final thanks to my fellow recappers. Well done, guys. Well done.