There's even been concern that the movie would be some sort of
recruitment film for the belief,
every 24th frame might blink "Buy Dianetics." Hardly.
The only people this film could recruit are members of the rock band
Kiss, who, with their high-heeled boots and face paint, might figure
they've got a spot if this alien thing ever really came down.
Critics of Scientology,
who are almost a cult unto themselves, have accused
Hubbard disciple Travolta of loading "Battlefield Earth" with
subliminal messages designed to indoctrinate the unsuspecting. But
there's hardly a intelligible moment in "Battlefield," much
less a subliminal one.
Some feared the film would contain subliminal religious propaganda
thousands racing into the arms of the nearest Scientologist.
Fear not! That stampede you'll hear will be audiences racing to the
box office for a refund, because this attempt at a sci-fi action epic
fails on just about every count.
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.
I don't think it's an insidious religion meant to undermine
Christianity, and I don't believe – as one e-mailing group has
contended - that the picture is full of
subliminal messages meant to seep into my consciousness.
The only message I received was an overt one: Warn readers not to give
Travolta any of their disposable income.
Detractors have described ``Battlefield Earth'' as a feature-length
recruitment poster for Scientology,
minefield of subliminal messages designed to influence
impressionable viewers. I don't think so. I didn't detect any hidden
messages in the film, only the pungent aroma of a stink bomb of colossal
(Hubbard reportedly despised psychoanalysts, but I don't think naming
his villains Psychlos qualifies as subliminal).
Opponents of the church consider it a cult and have charged that the
film – which stars Scientology proponent John Travolta - is filled
with subliminal messages on its behalf. So
wear your aluminum-foil helmet to
block them. Better safe
The massive book, too, could be littered with such messages, but it's
hard to tell when your eyes glaze over.
Travolta's longtime ties to the Church of Scientology (Hubbard's
brainchild) raised concerns among some that the movie would be a piece
of religious propaganda, loaded down with Dianetics philosophy and
It is to laugh. Anyone
who can find any semblance of a lucid system of beliefs in this murky
turkey is looking too hard. The only message audiences are likely to
take out of Battlefield Earth is, "I want my money back."
Because L. Ron Hubbard is the founder of Scientology and because John
Travolta is a Scientologist, there have been those who have already
a prejudicial syllogism about "Battlefield
Earth," an adaptation of a Hubbard science-fiction novel starring
and co-produced by Travolta.
The logic of these skeptics has
the movie in advance as some sort of solemn
religious tract. There are even some
types who believe the film carries subliminal
messages intended to convert the masses who will supposedly flock to
this picture the way seagulls gather at Jones Beach at sunset in July.
But it's hard to imagine any message, subliminal or otherwise,
piercing through the swampy goo of this post-apocalyptic war story.
Other than having the villains hail from the planet Psychlo (as I
understand it, Scientology has a very low opinion of psychology),
didn’t notice anything surreptitious or subliminal. Even
if I had, it would have been among the least of the film’s problems.
Travolta insists there's
message, agenda, or subliminal recruitment tactics in
Battlefield. Good thing, too—at least for Scientology. If there
actually had been, it could have done more to damage the church's image
than that Time magazine expose a few years back.
Holy mother of Terl, we're all going to fall under the dark spell of
a nefarious cabal of uber-rich Scientologists, out to brainwash us with
L. Ron Hubbard propaganda and Barry Pepper action figures!
Such was the paranoid caterwaul of blue-faced
right-wingers when the film adaptation of Hubbard's
rich, epic sci-fi novel was announced last year. Don't see this movie,
or you'll be at the devious beck and call of Barbarino! Don't buy that
Battlefield Earth toy, lest you inadvertently assist in financing
Scientology's covert plans for world domination!
reactionaries had only waited for the film to be
released, they'd have realized the only danger in seeing this film is in
busting a gut at its unintentional hilarity.
"People have asked me if there is a connection between
'Battlefield Earth' and Scientology," Travolta is quoted as saying
in the film's press notes. "There is no connection... The two have
virtually nothing to do with each other."
And good thing for the Los Angeles-based religion, too, for it's hard
to imagine the swanky halls of (Dianetician Hollywood hangout) Celebrity
Center so ever-populated and well-monied if this film were at the core
of Scientology's philosophical tenets.
So what threat does Battlefield Earth finally pose to humankind? None
at all, but for the inevitable brain-drain most of this summer's action
spectacles will claim, and the uneasy and inexplicable yearning with
which one is struck to sit through a similarly-themed, vastly superior
(but still horrendous) Lori Petty movie from a few years back. Viva Tank
2001: A Space Odyssey, it's not. (Neither
is it a recruitment vehicle for Hubbard's Church of
Scientology, as some had initially suspected).
doesn't work anymore)
In the end, the fears expressed by anti-Scientologists
that "Battlefield Earth" would be a church-recruitment film
are wildly unfounded.
There isn't anything in this overbudgeted mess to inspire a moment of
traditional moviegoing awe, let alone a religious conversion.
The first thing to talk about with "Battlefield Earth" is
not the subliminal messages allegedly
sneaked in by the Church of Scientology. (If they're
there, they don't work.) Nor is it John Travolta's unintentionally (I
presume) hilarious performance as a villain who's part community-theater
Iago and part Rastaman pimp. It's hair. There's more of it in this movie
than in the sink trap at Supercuts.
OK, maybe those
mind-control rays have affected my judgment after
all. The first 20 minutes or so of "Battlefield Earth" are
quite enjoyable, if you have a weakness for the cheapo decrepit future
envisioned by the "Planet of the Apes" series.
Extreme opponents of
the film have even called it a Scientology recruitment tool, claiming
that subliminal messages were inserted in the movie.
Christian puts his own spin on it, "I'm basically a
Buddhist. I'm at the helm of this thing and I'm not a Scientologist, so
if anyone has to accuse the movie of being something, it should be what
my religion is. Travolta said something to me when I started this, he
said that there are going to be so many detractors with egg on their
face when they see this movie because it's nothing but summer fun. It's
pulp fiction in the year 3000 and that's all it is."
I wasted more time watching Battlefield Earth, based on the novel by
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, than I've spent reading news reports
of the church's affairs in the past year.
won't catch me probing for subliminal messages or inscrutable motives in
Warner Bros.' latest release.
This movie simply isn't worth that much thought.
There is no noticeable sermonizing in Battlefield Earth, certainly
not to the extent that Billy Graham's old movies, The Spitfire Grill or
The Apostle conveyed for Christian faiths. Brains aren't washed, but
they could be numbed.
The movie is based on the book of the same name by L. Ron Hubbard.
Yes, Hubbard founded Scientology and Travolta is a Scientologist.
However, there didn't seem to be overt
Scientology references in the movie, and Travolta
insists the movie has nothing to do with Scientology.
The Psychlos are apparently stand-ins for the psychiatric
establishment, which Hubbard (my information comes from a knockout
feature in last November's Washington Post by Richard Leiby) considered
a timeless and galaxywide evil.
I detect few hidden messages in Battlefield Earth except
for those ripped off from '50s sci-fi pulp and Star Wars (1977).
Some will question the Scientology link -- Hubbard, of course,
founded the Church of Scientology, of which Travolta is a well-known
member – and whether "Battlefield Earth'' carries any Scientology
subtext. Frankly, I could barely wade through the movie's text, and
disinterested in deciphering whatever subtext is there.
Few moviegoers, I suspect, will care enough to try.
Unless you're an expert on Scientology,
unlikely you'll come out of 'Battlefield Earth' wanting to join John
Travolta and his celebrity cult. All attempts at
brainwashing are put aside for two hours' big-budget,
I saw ''Battlefield Earth'' two weeks ago.
far, I have had no overwhelming urge to become a Scientologist. Though
not an expert in these matters, I use that evidence to conclude there is
no subliminal Scientology recruiting message in ''Battlefield Earth,''
the movie version of the sci-fi book written by Scientology founder L.
Ron Hubbard and starring one of Scientology's best-known followers, John
With that bit of
absurdity out of the way, we can move on to consider
whether or not there are traces of Scientology in ''Battlefield Earth.''
One thing that worried me is the months-old rumor indicating that
Battlefield Earth would be a big-screen form of propaganda for the
Church of Scientology, particularly since star/producer John Travolta is
one of its followers. Well, I know almost nothing about Scientology, but
I don't feel -- at all -- like any
morality or religious tenets were being pushed on me, or
even handed to me. No, L. Ron Hubbard was also a science fiction writer,
and as such he presented ideas for the sake of themselves, in the form
of good old-fashioned fiction.
Greener is given a crash course in the Psychlo language by a Uriah
Heep-like ghost. The knowledge is zapped into his brain via pinpoints of
light shooting into his eyes. On two
occasions, that light is turned directly on the audience.
Who knows what secret
knowledge we have unwittingly absorbed...
Battlefield Earth has
nothing to do with Scientology, although Tyler is educated by a Psychlo
brain injection beam. (Some feared the film might carry
Surprisingly, the film’s
greatest undoing may be the fact that it does not confirm the confessed
fears of many that Travolta, a devout Scientologist,
would use the film to promote Scientological doctrines. It is, in fact,
utterly inane and innocuous in the most harmless, uninteresting way--the
fruit of an overrated star’s overblown ego, recklessly indulged by
One common misconception which I should clear up is that the film's
actual purpose is to function as a pulpit from which The Church Of
Scientology can spread their message.
true at all. There are no hidden messages to decipher.
act could have made it worth watching the film for the amusement factor
alone. Regretfully, Battlefield Earth is about as
religious as an episode of WWF Raw or WCW Nitro. Hubbard's central theme
- knowledge is power - is a universal idea that isn't exclusive to
Hubbard or his ministry. What we have is a science fiction story. An
alarmingly bad sci-fi story.
Skeptics have been afraid that Travolta and his crew would use the
film version as some kind of propaganda, full of subliminal messages.
such luck. At least a little subversive action might have lifted the
does not work anymore)
There is good news, however. There weren't any subliminal Scientology
messages hidden in the film -- although
may have made it somewhat interesting (or funny
depending on your stance).
Coming as it does from Hubbard, some have suggested "Battlefield
Earth" could be a subliminal recruiting tool for the author's
Scientology sect. But if the filmmakers couldn't get the obvious
storytelling bits right, they'd be sorely challenged to deliver a
convincing subtext. If a sequel, as rumored, is planned,
we can request some subliminal snack-bar messages. Beleaguered
humans deserve a break, too.
Oh, man. What a let down.
Now I know it seems unlikely that one could be so disappointed by
something for which one had, really, no expectations to begin with, but
Battlefield Earth managed to achieve the impossible. Maybe I'm just
picky, but I feel kinda gypped. The costumes, the makeup,
subliminal messages destined to transform our nation into a
Dianetics-spewing cult -- how, after all, could the
movie that brought the phrase "John Travolta's giant prosthetic
crotch" into the public vernacular fail to at least amuse, if not
I mean, I'm young. I'm
malleable. I once longed for Danny Zuko as much as any
red-blooded American girl. Hell, I even run a scifi website. I am, in so
many ways, a prime target for indoctrination. So what went wrong? Why
did Battlefield Earth -- an adaptation of the novel by scifi
writer/All-Powerful God L. Ron Hubbard -- fail to convert? Were the
hidden messages inserted between the frames --
come on, you know they were there -- repelled by my
cynical mind? Was the profundity of the dialogue just too much for a
simple soul like myself to bear? Or could it be, just maybe, that the
movie absolutely, unequivocally, unredeemingly, sucked?
Apparently "Battlefield Earth" has come under fire for
possibly subliminally enticing audiences to join the Church of
Scientology. But if hurling a copy of "Dianetics" at the
screen is all you want to do, maybe you've been brainwashed, too.
A Scientology recruiting film would be more fun, and they're shorter.
I actually left "Battlefield
Earth" angry that the filmmakers, including director Roger
Christian, didn't try to proselytize me. Or did they?
All that lamentably crooked cinematography, the edit job that serves a
new cut every five seconds: negligible sci-fi ploy or unsuccessful
enlistment attempt? A raging bore no matter which way your head is
If filmmaking has ever been less thrilling and more disengaging, I'd
like to see it. Subliminal messages would
have made it more endurable. The only real amusement the
film can hope to stir will be if a rash of American moviegoers actually
exits the theater and heads to their local Scientology headquarters.
"Yes, I've seen the film, now I'd very much like to achieve the
State of Clear, please."
Hubbard was careful to separate his religious philosophy from overtly
impinging upon his science fiction, and his 1982 book "Battleship
Earth" doesn't perform any message-mongering, although the kids I
went to school with who opted to read his "Mission Earth"
series instead of Ray Bradbury or Robert Heinlein are Internet