YMMV / Battlefield Earth

The Book

  • Anvilicious: The book could almost serve as an actual anvil.
  • Arc Fatigue: The movie wisely cut out the chapters involving the mining of the gold, or the long search for radiation.
  • Ending Fatigue: The book's climax is around page 320, and there's an obvious enough ending when the humans have retaken their planet. And then the book keeps going for 700 more pages.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Some of the Psychlo bases on other worlds were in the middle of occupied cities. When Jonnie checks on them a year or so after his attack on the Psychlo Empire, he finds blasted, lifeless ruins, but thinks no more of it.
  • Squick: The Bittie and Pattie relationship. If we're optimistic and they're both about the same age, we have two eight-year-olds who decide to get married someday. Then Bittie dies, and Pattie goes into a deep depression. And then years pass and Pattie still hasn't moved on, goes to Bittie's tomb, and demands that a parson marry them.

The Film

  • Adaptation Displacement: And to most viewers, for the worse. While the book was a bestseller in its day, it sold to a very niche audience. The film was intended to be a mass audience-pleasing blockbuster, and it is safe to say it failed to achieve that goal.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The Psychlos are so stupid and childish, it seems impossible they could have ever built their civilisation without destroying themselves with their petty infighting. It actually makes a lot more sense if one imagines that Psychlos were themselves a race of backwards slaves, whose masters invaded Earth 1000 years ago, but died out mysteriously during the interim, leaving behind all their technology for the Psychlos to abuse.
    • SF Debris commented that their use of gas-drones explains their military superiority: they can move in and destroy the local population without having a Psychlo brain screwing it up.
  • Awesome Music: Elia Cmíral's score is one of the few good things about the movie. A couple of examples: the aptly named "Battlefield Earth Theme", which plays over the opening zoom-in to Earth and pan through the Rocky Mountains, and "The Dome", which underscores Jonnie's trip to the human processing center, shooting of the wrangler, and our introduction to Terl.
  • Bile Fascination: The movie regularly places in the top (bottom?) ten of many "worst movies of all time" lists made by critics and casual viewers alike.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Jonnie explains at the end that if surviving Psychlos found out about them, they would wipe them out with their gas-drones, so he keeps Terl as a leverage, reasoning if they found out his greed led to the destruction of their world, they would go after him instead.... Even though they are still the ones who did it and Psychlos can easily just kill him and them at the same time.
  • Ham and Cheese: Forest Whitaker appears to be the only actor in the entire movie to be aware of the kind of movie he's in and plays up the Ham-to-Ham Combat with John Travolta appropriately.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Some may find it hard to appreciate the heroes' methods (flying a bomb to the Psychlos' home) after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight
  • Ho Yay: One of Jonnie's followers spends much of the movie looking soulfully at his leader. Jonnie even cuts off a lock of his hair for him, and he wraps it around his fist as a sort of talisman. There's arguably more chemistry between the two than between Jonny and his designated love interest.
    • The RiffTrax guys had no trouble picking up on this subtext. Whenever the guy makes puppy dog eyes at Jonnie, they start tearfully muttering "Love you!"
  • Idiot Plot: Characters aren't making the wisest decisions in this film. Jonnie's plan would have never worked under a competent boss who would realize things like that he and his people claimed to have 'mined' bricks of smelted gold. Thankfully, Terl is a moron and never evinces any suspicions of the humans. In fact, his myopic greed is what kicks off this idiot plot in the first place.
  • Memetic Mutation
    Jonnie: A demon? A monster? A BEAST?! YAAAAAAAAAH!
    Terl: While you were still learning how to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer galaxies!
  • Most Annoying Sound: Every single time Terl and Ker laugh. For most of the time, it sounds like they're cackling rather than laughing.
  • Narm: Has its own list of examples, unsurprisingly.
  • Nausea Fuel: Given the number of tilted camera shots, it's probably a good idea to avoid this movie if you suffer from motion sickness.
    • The entire film seems Hellbent on making the viewers as queasy and uncomfortable as humanly possible. From the dirty, grimy actors and environments, to the physically repulsive Psychlos (of both sexes) and ridiculous costume design. Not to mention the overly-harsh filters, making everything too blue, or too green, or whatever. This may have been the point, but that's little consolation.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Before its release, it was a high-risk property despite Travolta's unswerving commitment to it. Studios anticipated it would require a prohibitively large effects budget, thought the story was outdated, and feared negative publicity due to Travolta's involvement with Scientology. Since its release, it's become more notorious as a critically nuked Box Office Bomb.
  • Snark Bait: Roger Ebert wasn't kidding when he said this would be the punchline for jokes about bad movies for decades to come.
  • So Bad, It's Good: A lot of people called it the greatest unintentionally hilarious sci-fi movie ever made.
  • Special Effect Failure: The movie has a few scenes that fall under this trope. One of the most infamous examples is when Terl demonstrates his weapon to his human workers by shooting the leg off a cow. It's clear that when Terl does this it's just a leg being pulled off a model cow by a concealed string.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: John Travolta. Subverted in that he was too confident in the film that he was either trying too hard or not really trying.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: While the CGI is generally mediocre at best, the collapse of the Psychlo dome and the resulting destruction of much of Denver (which, unlike most of the film's other effects, was achieved with physical models) is surprisingly great.
  • What An Idiot: Terl.
    • Also, Jonnie, as halfway through the movie, he has Terl pinned to the ground and has an opportunity to shoot him and get freedom for the "Man-Animals."
      • You'd expect: That he either DOES shoot him, or another Psychlo comes to Terl's rescue.
      • Instead: Opting to TRUST Terl for some reason, he respectfully returns the gun to Terl, who turns it on him, and Jonnie is recaptured. Roger Ebert and The Nostalgia Critic call out this particular What An Idiot plot choice in their negative reviews of Battlefield Earth (Ebert did so on Ebert and Roeper at the Movies).
      • Jonnie is no longer concerned solely about himself and his friends. He knows the destructive power of the Psychlos and the radiation in places where free humans live. He wants the Psychlos gone and his people freed. It's less idiocy and more The Needs of the Many.
    • The entire Psychlo race counts as this, having enslaved the Earth for a millennium and still having zero understanding of the human race whatsoever. They even contemplated the possibility that dogs were superior to humans, and even attempted to exploit them as slave labor.
      • Their most egregious lapse in intelligence, however, has to be how in nearly a thousand years of mining for gold, they somehow never found Fort Knox.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: The Psychlos themselves, prominently featuring large elongated heads and dreadlocks, with enhanced codpieces and claws among other things. And that's to say nothing of those ridiculous jumpsuits...
    • The Psychlos' means of breathing in Earth's oxygen-rich atmosphere? Sticking rubber hoses up their noses.
    • The Planetship, with his exaggerated chin, also stands out as such.
      The Nostalgia Critic: Is that guy's chin a toilet seat?