Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Roger Christian (2000, Morgan Creek Productions)
Starring John Travolta, Barry Pepper, and Forest Whitaker

A human stages a revolt on an Earth that has been occupied for centuries by a hostile alien race.



1 star

April 30th, 2003 on TV  

Although it started off with a reasonable story, that all but disappeared halfway through, leaving us with mindless action that made absolutely no sense at all.

I really don't know what went wrong. I've heard that the book is really good. I am not frightened by 1000+ page books, but I wasn't sure that it was really worth reading. I know that the movie doesn't do any justice to the book, but I lost interest in reading it, after this.

Right from the beginning, I could see the style of the movie, with so much unnecessary slow-motion. That effect was way overused. Still, I was mildly interested in the small village we saw at the beginning. But we didn't get enough of it.

After the halfway mark, I was considering this to be a mildly interesting movie. Sure, the acting was poor by all of the characters, the special effects were poor-to-good, but there was an interesting and complex story underlying it all. I was actually interested in the world we were witnessing. The movie posed some very intriguing questions, such as where the Psyclos were, and what they were doing on Earth. Since this little village had never seen them, even though there were several generations living in that community, the Psyclos were obviously not widespread.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't answer any of this, at least, not in a satisfactory manner. The Psyclos breathe a different atmosphere than humans do, so they cannot go far without breathers (which were little more than nose decorations, but allowed the actors a far greater range of emotion than if they had required full masks). They also have a deadly reaction to any nuclear radiation, so they cannot go to several places on the planet. Which begs the question why they used nuclear bombs on the population of Earth, in the first place? Surely they would have wanted some of the resources in those irradiated places?

When Johnny is captured and brought to the dome city of the Psyclos, he seems to be the only one who is intelligent enough to do anything other than fall under the whip. By defeating another prisoner, he somehow gains freedom from tyranny inside the prison. Huh? What about the other bullies, and wouldn't the leader, who didn't die, be out for revenge?

What is most interesting is the way the Psyclos have no regard for the planet other than a throwaway resource. They want the valuable stuff, but aren't willing to pay to clean up the dome they live under. Profit seems to be their most precious desire. The politics were mildly amusing, as everybody attempts to get "leverage" from everybody else. Unfortunately, the characters were played terribly. I understand that the Psyclos are not supposed to be judged by human standards, but they seemed so fake, especially in their constant laughter.

The movie starts to disintegrate when Johnny is put into the "knowledge machine". I liked the way his plot backfired, not understanding that the weapons he stole had no ammunition. But Fort Knox (didn't Terl notice that the gold was irradiated)? The military base? With a simulator that works without electricity, and Harrier jets that are still operational?

First of all, if Terl was constantly watching them, wouldn't he have noticed either the cargo ship flying off to some other part of the country, or at least that it was missing from the main mining site? Faking working only when the probe was nearby wouldn't work, because it should be able to image them from far away.

The main problem, however, is the incongruity of what is still in existence and what we are led to believe has been a long time. The Psyclos must have attacked Earth soon after "our time", as judging by the paper books and the weapons technology we are shown. This means that everything has been sitting around for a thousand years! This is proven by the fact that humans have devolved to primitives, with no memory of cities, or glass, (a giant mini-putt?) or the Psyclos themselves.

However, after a thousand years, our paper would not exist anymore. Especially paper made today, which is nowhere near as stiff or long-lived as what was made a thousand years ago today (which still falls apart upon touching). Glass would not survive. The sign that falls over when the Psyclos land to recapture Johnny would have fallen over in the smallest thunderstorm. All electronics would have broken down, corroded away. Lights would not work, and so on and so on. The cities really only look like they've been abandoned for less than a decade.

The city that the Psyclos have taken over would probably have been shored up so that it didn't collapse on them. However, the surrounding buildings would be subject to the slightest tremor, and would be extremely dangerous to traverse.

If primitives could learn to fly simple Harriers and destroy the Psyclos with simple explosives, then how did all of Earth fall in nine minutes? If the Harriers could do that much damage, imagine what F-16s, F-18s and MIGs could do. Certainly there is more than one Psyclo enclave on Earth. Otherwise humans on the rest of the planet would likely have climbed back up the evolutionary ladder, and must have a thriving civilization. How else can we explain the lack of reinforcements from around the world? I can't believe that the Psyclos only had a single mining operation in the mid-Western US.

The ending was completely ridiculous. I was left scratching my head when the Psyclo ships were all destroyed by primitives in airplanes, but what came next just dropped the whole movie, by itself. A single nuclear bomb, inexplicably teleported to the Psyclo homeworld (what was Terl trying to do, reactivating the sequence?), destroys the entire planet. Huh? If so many bombs destroyed so much of "America", yet the Psyclos could still survive outside, then no amounts of winds would cause the radiation to disperse around the entire planet, that's for sure. That's what I gathered the plan was -to irradiate the entire planet. Yet when the bomb goes off, it causes the planet to explode! One nuclear bomb!

The revolution was just way too stupid. There was no character development for anyone, aside from Johnny's unbelievable rise to a technical genius. There was no real story, either. It would have made much more sense having a recently-enslaved population being saved by people who knew how to fly and fight, in the first place.

There were some nice character and science fiction touches, however, mostly through the beginning of the movie. I loved the misinterpretation Terl makes of raw rats being humans' favorite food. He then calls Johnny rat-brain for the rest of the movie! Shouldn't at least one of the men have gotten really sick after eating the rat, though?

There was also a little but very recognizable bit of Scientology nonsense in the movie, something that the original author, L. Ron Hubbard, is very involved in. They mention that humans neglected and rejected the gods, so the gods left, and allowed the Psyclos to arrive and take over the planet. The natives believe that they must devote their lives to pleasing the gods (whatever that means), so that they come back and save humankind. I'll leave it at that...

As for the Psyclos as a race, I suspect that they were named after Psychos, because that's what they are. I really liked the fact that they didn't learn English (apparently none of the humans speak another language, even in former America). The transition between their gibberish and their language, so that we could understand them without subtitles, was a cool touch. However, other than their appearance, they seemed too much like humans. They had a similar political scheme, they seem to have similar sexuality (do all females have long tongues or just this one, and is it a sexual thing?), they drink at bars, blackmail, scheme, and torture animals (including humans) for no reason. Which really makes me wonder why Johnny offered Terl's assistant the job of being chief Psyclo, as this is the Psyclo who killed his colleague (instead of his girlfriend) out in the cow pasture.

I can see some of the good ideas that the book must have inspired. I like seeing some sort of revolution of the human spirit after a post-apocalyptic event such as alien take-over. I have yet to see a good movie made out of it, though, except perhaps The Postman (I seem to be in the minority of people who really liked that one -but I'd have to see it again to be sure). Other bad ones that come to mind are The Road Warrior (intriguing because it was one of the first of its kind), Waterworld (more boring than anything else), and Reign of Fire (really bad). So many of the ideas here just don't get off the ground. I wasn't expecting much, however, having heard nothing good about this movie. Still, I was hoping for something more interesting. At least it didn't scrape the bottom of the barrel, thanks to an intriguing beginning. If left to judge by the second half of the movie, there would have been nothing to give good credit for at all.


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