Operation Clambake

This text is from MEAN Magazine, Vol 1, Number 5, Sep-Dec 1999.
See also the MEAN magazine website: http://www.meanmag.com/


Former Spy contributor Mark Ebner explains why the gluttonous, greedy John Travolta--soon to star as a 10-foot-tall alien in a film adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's lousy sci-fi epic Battlefield Earth--is an especially gross example of Hollywood's current downward spiral.


The screen adaptation of Hubbard's Battlefield: Earth was penned by unknown scribe Corey Mandel: the film is to be directed by action director Roger Christian. Anticipating a budget that could well top $120 million MEAN thought it would be cool to play development executive for a day.

We took Mandel's screenplay and changed only the title page to read "Dark Forces by Desmond Finch." Then we dropped it into Hollywood's time honored development pipeline called ³coverage,² in which the screenplay was subjected to expert criticism by professional Hollywood script readers. Script Reader #1 is a male reader at uber agent Mike Ovitz's management/production concern, Artists Management Group (AMG); Script Reader #2 is a woman who reads for a busy television/feature film production company.

Here's how the professionals assessed Battlefield: Earth.

From Script Reader #1:
"A thoroughly silly plotline is made all the more ludicrous by its hamfisted dialogue and ridiculously shallow characterization. Functioning only as the broadest of cartoonish stories, the script reads like a 1950ıs Earth versus the Martians film with a bit of Conan-esque heavy breathing mixed in. The premise is fairly standard genre stuff: sort of a poor man's Independence Day. The storyline, however, is slow-moving, predictable and obvious. The characters are overdrawn types who behave along no consistent unified tone: some act like mad scientists while others seem sword-wielding Xena rejects. The dialogue is laughable, at best, dwelling heavily on the rather obvious irony of the premise.

"The storyline functions, barely, but its slow pace never entertains or arouses much excitement as it pauses frequently to linger on its own profundity. The opening scenes set a bizarrely, Conan-like tone as the silent sword-wielding young hero defies the gods and his elders by leaving the cave. This tone is quickly made ridiculous as hero Jonnie is revealed not to be in some medieval underworld, but wandering around the San Fernando Valley. Once he is abducted by the aliens, the tone shifts again into its kitschy sci-fi talk as the aliens marvel at these stupid little humans who are too dumb to speak and the ugliness of Earth's blue Skies..., The aliens finally manage to figure out that humans are not completely brain dead, and the humans learn not to live in fear of superstitious myths of the gods, but instead to fight for freedom, The quasi-anti-spiritual message is a laughable attempt at high seriousness in the context of this schlocky story. The thrills and the fights are fairly standard action sequences,...[and] the conclusion is a thoroughly confused climax as Jonnie hatches an incomprehensibly complicated plot to defeat the aliens."
Recommendation: PASS

From Script Reader #2:
"Planet of the Apes meets Total Recall with a touch of Armageddon and Independence Day thrown in for kicks...a completely predictable story that just isnıt written well enough to make up for its lack of originality. The basic story has been done before with a more interesting setting, stronger characters and better dialogue. The [supporting] characters are all straight out of Central Casting... Such miserably uninspired characters are well-suited to this exceedingly uninteresting story. The dialogue is dull, historical allusions painful, and the few laughs Finch tries to work into the script fall horrifyingly flat. If that weren't bad enough, Finch uses the "everything AND the kitchen sink" approach to plotting a screen-play. Think of your least favorite cliche, and I guarantee you'll find it in Dark Forces.

"Sadly, in the age of disturbingly derivative movies, a film with plot points from nearly every science fiction flick ever made could reign as king.... But as a screenplay, the patchwork quilt Mr. Finch is trying to pass off as a movie is about as entertaining as watching a fly breathe."
Recommendation: PASS