Just about all that could be said about the quality of John Travolta’s inexplicable pet project, Battlefield Earth , has been put on record, so there’s no need to give that dead horse another beating (not that it wouldn’t be undeserved). That said, the DVD team at Warner Bros. deserves kudos for giving one of the most notorious cinematic disasters in history the best possible package. When it would have been oh so easy–not to mention excusable–to issue a bare-bones disc of Roger Christian’s adaptation of the L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi opus, the studio has released a Special Edition that has as much merit as the film lacks.
For those actually interested in the film, it has been cleanly transferred to disc, maintaining that hazy blue wash that blankets most of the visuals and the very loud sound design. But if one must sit through the feature, it would be advisable to do so only with the running commentary by Christian and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. This isn’t so much because they impart terribly valuable insight; they are spirited enough speakers, but Tatopoulos has a tendency to get giggly (and how could he not, given the film on which he’s commenting), and Christian uses the “it’s supposed to be a comic strip” defense for the film way too many times, and with no further elaboration. What distinguishes the commentary is its unspecified special feature akin to the “Follow the white rabbit” option on the DVD for The Matrix . During certain scenes, a symbol appears, and when clicked, the viewer is taken to either behind-the-scenes B-roll footage of the corresponding scene or footage that shows the development of featured effects. The behind-the-scenes footage is mostly useless, but the FX shots are interesting.
In addition to these embedded making-of bits (a couple of which are also hidden on the menus), there are three featurettes. One, “Evolution and Creation,” is about a half-hour long and was obviously designed for air on television for infotainment/promo purposes; the other two–one featuring Travolta’s makeup test for his role as the villainous alien Terl, the other focusing on visual effects work–are much shorter and appear to have been taken from the electronic press kit. All three provide some useful information though the real purpose is obviously to sell the picture. Better is a collection of storyboards for selected scenes; these aren’t navigable still images as on most DVDs, but rather edited-together and scored montages that ends each storyboard section with the completed scenes.
The other supplements on the disc are mostly the usual: theatrical trailers and TV spots and text cast and crew biographies. However, there is also a short written piece on the global popularity of the Hubbard novel; while blatantly self-congratulatory, it is also a nice capper to this well-assembled disc, if only because it at least gives some concrete justification for this execrable film’s existence.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English and French 5.1 Surround; English and French subtitles; English closed captioning.