Hasn't Hollywood picked over the crumbling urban carcass of ''Blade Runner'' long enough? ''Battlefield Earth'' incorporates elements from ''Star Wars,'' ''Planet of the Apes,'' ''Logan's Run,'' and -- in one ludicrous sequence -- ''Top Gun,'' and most of this patchwork has a grimly tacky, backlot look, even chintzier than that of John Carpenter's ''Escape From'' films. The entire movie seems lit by a 40-watt blue bulb. It's future-schlock doomsville.
So who are those man-animals, anyway? They're the poor, bedraggled remnants of the human race, whose civilization was blasted to ruins, in a mere nine minutes, by the Psychlos, who then enslaved them. Terl, the Psychlo chief of security, has been assigned to patrol the bombed-out hellhole that is now Earth. He must put down an uprising led by Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), a renegade hunter who tries to reconnect his minions with their civilized past.
Pepper, so spooky as the Christian sniper in ''Saving Private Ryan,'' has melancholy eyes and a long, lean poker face honed to a perfectly sharp point. He looks like Johnny Depp with his cheeks plastered back by a wind machine, but here, the character he's playing seems lean in spirit as well -- all sinew and will, a hero without joy.
Dismal as it is, ''Battlefield Earth'' is one of the few big-budget follies that actually inspired me to feel sorry for its star. Travolta did it to himself, of course -- it may take a blind zealot to believe that L. Ron Hubbard is an inspired science-fiction writer -- but there's something in this actor, a naked lack of vanity, that makes you feel protective of him; he's too ingenuous a performer to be wasting his time on shoddy nonsense like this. He probably thinks that he's stretching by taking on the role of a hirsute, putty-faced bad guy. But there's a big difference between playing someone you love to hate and someone you'd love to have over for a Halloween party.