Does "Battlefield Earth" make anyone else nervous?
May 11, 2000 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Does "Battlefield Earth" make anyone else nervous? The film has a deep connection to the church of Scientology - an organization that has seen a certain amount of controversy (though I don't wish to belittle the belief system of anyone). This connection seems to have gone unnoticed. Is there cause for concern when a heavily marketed film is surreptiously tied to an organized religion?
posted by aladfar (27 comments total)
While I'm certainly no fan of Scientology and their tactics....Battlefield Earth was written well before Hubbard's initial bet with Heinlein was supposed to have occured. Whatever his true motivation, he was an avid science-fiction writer in the "golden age" of pulp space operas. I hope they make some movies out of E.E. 'Doc' Smith.

I will go and see it, "for the effects"...
posted by nomisxid at 8:20 PM on May 11, 2000

It hasn't escaped notice. I'll betcha there will be an image of an erupting volcano in there, somewhere...

It particularly hasn't escaped notice by those of us lucky enough to live right down here at Ground Zero, right in the same county with the Spiritual Headquarters of the Religious Technology Center, Inc.^W^W^W^WChurch of Scientology.

And *now*, I'm sure, I'll start seeing showing up in my referrer logs...
posted by baylink at 8:22 PM on May 11, 2000

I understand, from a usually reliable source, that Church of Scientology members are being strongly encouraged by the church to purchase six or eight tickets at a time repeatedly, and the church will reimburse its members.

if the movie fails, we can assume that this rumor is just that, hatemongering from the powerful anti-Scientology conspiracy; if, on the other hand, the film does well initially....

posted by rebeccablood at 8:31 PM on May 11, 2000

Eh, I wouldn't worry TOO much about it. It may have some Scientologist propaganda in it, but according to these reviewers over at aint-it-cool, nobody's going to want to see it anyway cause it's so amazingly bad. (link shamelessly stolen from
posted by zempf at 8:34 PM on May 11, 2000

Donny; thanks for the pointer to the archives. I used to know that the story had propogated via Mike Jittlov.

He used to have a Telebit Trailblazer that I conducted a love afair with (to England; Hi, Elana) shortly beforehand...

Check out his site, find his movie, love it, and send me a blank tape; I'll send you a copy. [The Evil Business Partnet screwed him out of the copyright; check the website for details.]
posted by baylink at 8:44 PM on May 11, 2000

The church of scientology has more than enough money. If you feel the need to see this movie, I urge you to purchase a ticket for some other movie. Be it gladiator, 28 days, Virgin Suicides, whatever, just buy a ticket to some other movie and then walk into Battlefield Earth.

With the above method you will be casting a monetary vote against the church while still being able to see their kooky film if, for some reason, you want to.

posted by bryanboyer at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2000

I think very highly of Jim Berardinelli's opinions and his review is a hoot.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2000

Oops. I forgot to turn off the italics. Sigh.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:44 PM on May 11, 2000

Bryan, that's a fabulous idea! And yes, the church has no shortage of money. That's what happens when your goal is to brainwash rich celebrities so they'll give you whatever you want.
posted by veruca at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2000

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:37 PM on May 11, 2000

bryanboyer, with all due respect, if I tried to figure out the financial connections behind every cheesy skiffy* movie I watch, my little head would explode. I mean, Disney is evil and I just bought Tarzan for the nephew, what can I say?

I'm going to go just to watch the subliminals go by. Or so I've heard. . . .

*Skiffy. Usually spelled "sci-fi."
posted by mrmorgan at 11:03 PM on May 11, 2000

I'm thinking about getting some friends together to go and mock the movie to pieces. Now to decide what other movie to buy tickets for...
posted by tregoweth at 12:05 AM on May 12, 2000


Battlefield Earth has nothing to do with Scientology.

Also, hasn't every cool sci-fi flick been given terrible reviews? And most boring sci-fi flicks get good reviews.

And how is Scientology benefiting monetarily from the film? I mean, yeah, Travolta, but he's got bucks with or without the film.

If you're so against Scientologists, go picket outside of their buildings. If people want to believe that aliens are coming to pick them up and bring them back to the home planet, fine, whatever. (Hale BOP!)

It doesn't mean I don't know the difference between mindless entertainment and reality.
posted by rich at 7:16 AM on May 12, 2000

According to Ebert, watching this is akin to taking a bus ride next to a smelly man.

posted by solistrato at 7:45 AM on May 12, 2000

Yeah, but would have Siskle had thought?

Siskle liked Starship Troopers and Ebert didn't. If I remember correctly.

Sci-fi films are like porno - you usually don't watch it for the plotlines.

(unlike sci-fi books, which are usually wonderfully crafted commentaries on society and government)
posted by rich at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2000

What's wrong with going to see the film for its entertainment value? And if you suspect the Scientology angle, then just sneak in.
posted by camworld at 9:13 AM on May 12, 2000

Siskel was always fonder of kitsch than Ebert; his favorite film was Saturday Night Fever, and he actually bought the white costume worn by J.T. I can't imagine him liking something that's just bad, though.

C.H.U.D. has some coverage of the production's background, including the financing by Travolta's wallet and a Church-backed group called ASI, as well as somewhat off-topic reminders of CoS nefariousness over the years. According to critics, when the original BE novels were published, they languished on store shelves -- until Church members were instructed/persuaded to help sales by going to bookstores and buying them up ten at a time. I believe the CoS has a great deal invested in this project for whatever reason, not just financially, but in terms of recruitment and PR.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 AM on May 12, 2000

I have a co-worker who spent half an hour trying to persuade me that BE would be "bigger than Star Wars" and had all of this alleged literary value. He didn't come right out and say he was in the CoS, but he did allude to being a "religious teacher" with classes half the week. I should've just asked him ...

I mean, really! Why not admit that it's just a pulp sf space opera with a high kitsch value, and sell THAT aspect? No, he treated it with reverence, as if L. Ron were the greatest sf author of the 20th century, unjustly ignored by religious bigots ...

(And for the record, I'm not "nervous" about CoS making a movie -- First Amendment and all -- I just feel people should know what they're buying.)

Hmmm ... on the topic of films being made to promote the views of narrow religious cults ...
posted by dhartung at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2000

I highly doubt there'll be explicit Scientology references in the film ("If you liked Terl's philosophy, check out!" Hey. Is that URL taken? Hrm... tagentalizing...), and if the fact that a film has an explicit moralistic/ethical/philisophical bent to its story line, then what do you watch?

Everything that has a story has some kind of philisophical message to it, every character (especially the well-written ones) have a predetermined morality, which is used to help determine what that character's going to do in a given situation.

Sure, there's a pretty good chance that BE is going to have some CoS sentiment to it, but Starship Troopers had an element of Heinlein's social views, Star Wars is rife with Lucas' values. I could go on, but why bother?

When it comes to a movie such as BE -- which is a Summer Block Buster Blow 'Em Up and Make The Masses Squel With Destructive Glee movie -- there's really very little point in debating the merits of it's potential cult-recruiting values. Especially without anyone here having seen it! :-)
posted by cCranium at 10:45 AM on May 12, 2000

I don't need to see the movie to shitcan it. It's called having principles.

I didn't go see "Powder" because the director was a convicted child molester. I won't go see BE because the novel's author was a nutcase whose cult has brainwashed thousands.

It's not about whether the movie is good or bad. It's not about whether the movie has COS messages. It's about having some convictions and doing the right thing.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:17 PM on May 12, 2000

That's a perfectly understandable viewpoint y6y6y6, and in my mind a much better reason for not seeing it then pretty much any other reason stated here.

Although I don't much like the implication that I'm unprincipled since I'm probably going to see the movie after it's released on video.
posted by cCranium at 12:27 PM on May 12, 2000


Ask your co-worker is he knows who Xenu was ...
posted by tranquileye at 12:34 PM on May 12, 2000

> I don't much like the implication that I'm unprincipled
Well, principles are a personal thing, and the world would be a boring place if everyone had the same ones. My principles tend to be rather rigid and overbearing. It sucks sometimes, and to tell the truth I wish I could go see the movie. I like bad sci-fi movies.

But I can't. It would be wrong. Usually there's a grey area, but not here. I've known people who got caught up in COS. It's brainwashing.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:16 PM on May 12, 2000

being principled doesn't mean doing what other people think is right.

it means knowing your own values and acting in accordance.

posted by rebeccablood at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2000

Damn. I thought I had put a ":-)" at the end of that "implication" bit in my previous post. I was joking around, and it's my bad for not properly emoting that.

(this doesn't detract from y6y6y6 or rcb's statements, they're both extremely accurate, I just want to make sure everyone knows I'm not offended or anything. :-)

(and yes, I do use smilies way too much, but I've been doing it for far too long to both stopping because people find them annoying. :-)
posted by cCranium at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2000

The reviewers are butchering this flick. 65 out of 69 are "thumbs down".

Sounds like we've got a blockbuster on our hands.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:30 PM on May 12, 2000

Fun comments picked from the radio today:

One review said this was a strong contender for worst film of the century; another said it ranked up there with Ishtar, Showgirls, and Howard the Duck (ouch!); and a third, the most damning, said it was Travolta's Waterworld.
posted by hijinx at 10:01 PM on May 12, 2000

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