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‘Battlefield’ Was Meant to be Low-Budget Fun

Roger Christian directed "Battlefield Earth." He also directed "Masterminds" and "Underworld."

In response to Kenneth Turan’s article “The Trouble With Great Expectations” (June 25):

As an Academy Award winner for set decoration on George Lucas’ “Star Wars,” an Academy Award nominee for art direction on Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and the director of several critically well-received films--including “Nostradamus” (which stars, among others, Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham) and the Academy Award-winning short film “The Dollar Bottom"--I have always been involved in serious and dramatic work. I am respectful of the rights of film critics who voice their opinions, and in the case of “Battlefield Earth,” Turan is certainly not alone in his.

I must, however, object to his characterization of “Battlefield Earth” as one of this year’s “biggest studio films.” For his information and that of your readers, “Battlefield Earth” was independently financed and distributed by Warner Bros. The live-action production budget for the film, which was shot in its entirety in 52 days, was less than $14 million. Less than $9 million was then spent on special effects.

The entire budget of the film, including all of the above-the-line talent, was less than $52 million. This is roughly one-half to one-third the budget of studio special-effects and action films.

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The script I was given to make was written in the pulp science-fiction style. The feel was that of a comic-strip genre movie and was based on the first 500 pages of a 1,000-page book, written in the same style. We decided to stay true to these origins, and set out to make a comic-strip genre movie with dutched camera angles, heightened dramatic shots and larger-than-life characters.

If viewed as a serious work, this would indeed seem over the top. It is interesting to note, however, that directors such as Lucas, Quentin Tarantino and Billy Bob Thornton, among others--as well as thousands of science-fiction fans--greatly enjoyed the movie, viewing it for what it is: comic-strip fun.

I would like to take this opportunity to correct another piece of misinformation that wasn’t in Turan’s article but has been bandied about elsewhere in the media: that the film contains subliminal messages by the Church of Scientology. This is simply laughable in its absurdity.

The script and the novel are pure action-adventure science fiction. There are no religious themes included. Neither the writers of the script, I nor producers Elie Samaha and Jonathan Krane are members of the Church of Scientology. Nor, to my knowledge, is any other member of the film crew. (Not that I would have dismissed them if I knew they were. I respect the right of free associations and the right of everyone to belong to whichever religion or philosophy that fulfills their spiritual needs.)

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I was hired by John Travolta to help him bring his lifelong passion project to the big screen using shoestring and ceiling wax. Under these conditions, I am proud of the job everyone associated with this film did.


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