As filmmakers defend themselves from any connection between Battlefield Earth and Scientology, the wreck that is the John Travolta flick opened at theaters today, and the reviews are about as ugly as a Psychlo.
The $73 million wannabe sci-fi blockbuster is based on Scientology founder's L. Ron Hubbard's 1982 novel of the same name. The story is set in the year 3000 and follows the invasion of Earth and the enslavement of humans by the nine-foot-tall, oddly coifed Psychlos. Travolta plays Terl, the Psychlo security chief who takes sadistic pleasure in whacking humans. Barry Pepper is the revolution-minded human who wants to topple Terl.
Because of Hubbard and Travolta's association with Scientology, the film has come under scrutiny as critics allege it's just more propaganda for the controversial church.
Last month, an anti-Scientology group named FactNet put out a press release saying Earth "may contain sophisticated subliminal advertising designed by the cult Scientology, to recruit viewers into their cult and influence them to reject psychiatry and other mental health organizations." Then, the pop culture Website iFuse.com ran a story quoting non-Scientologist crew members saying they were creeped out by their L. Ron-following coworkers.
But at every turn Travolta (who also produced the film), director Roger Christian (whose major previous credit was as second-unit director on The Phantom Menace) and even church officials have denied any relation between Earth and Scientology. "There is no connection," Travolta said in a prepared statement. "L. Ron Hubbard wrote numerous science-fiction epics. Other than being created by the same person, the two have virtually nothing to do with one another."
Adds Christian, "First, let me say I'm a Buddhist, not a Scientologist. So don't you think, as the director, if I were going to plant subliminal religious messages, they would probably be rooted in Buddhism?
What this movie is, is a fun ride and that's all," Christian says. "It's a sci-fi film with the feel of Planet of the Apes. John [Travolta] likes to call it a sci-fi Pulp Fiction."
Of course, any controversy might be moot considering the film's notices (some of the worst since, say, Ishtar) might keep even the most devout Scientologist at home.
There may be an upshot to the bad reviews, though. As Newsweek says, "[C]ontrary to cult-hater reports, nothing about Battlefield Earth will draw weak movie-goers into the open arms of the Church of Scientology. That would be like saying Showgirls was a recruitment tool for strip clubs."