Hollywood -- The anticult networks are kicking up a fuss. Discussion on Internet movie sites is picking over the potentially sinister implications. Anonymous e-mails are whizzing around the country charging that, among other things, subliminal messages are being used to recruit unsuspecting moviegoers.
Big summer action movies, filled with stars and special effects, don't often come with such fascinating accessories.
"Battlefield Earth," starring John Travolta as a nine-foot alien with talons for fingers, will open in more than 2,000 theaters nationwide on Friday.As directed by Roger Christian, who most recently had been the assistant director of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," "Battlefield Earth" is set in the year 3000 and follows the adventures of enslaved earthlings, led by Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (played by Barry Pepper, the sharpshooting redneck in "Saving Private Ryan"), trying to break free of the tyrannical Psychlos (led by Mr. Travolta's character).
Controversy has swirled around the film because it is based on the 1982 novel by L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology, and because the film was the pet project of Mr. Travolta, who has made no secret of his dedication to Scientology. Could this be a sneaky attempt to lure unsuspecting moviegoers into Scientology?
The makers of the film and its distributors maintain that "Battlefield Earth" has nothing whatever to do with the Church of Scientology and that it is intended to be nothing more than a big summer adventure, devoid of subterfuge.
But several anticult Web sites have posted warnings about the film in recent months that contain numerous charges. For example Cultwatch and Factnet say that the film carries subliminal messages meant to lure people into Scientology, that the film was secretly financed by Scientology, and that Scientology plans recruiting efforts to coincide with the movie's release.
Scientology has been a flashpoint for controversy almost since its founding in 1954, but particularly in the last quarter-century as some former members charged that they had been bilked and sometimes mistreated by officials of what many refer to as a moneymaking cult. Scientology, which says it is a nondenominational religious organization that helps its members reach a state of mental and spiritual clarity, has vigorously denied all such charges.
Warner Brothers will distribute the film in the United States in an arrangement with Franchise Pictures, an independent production company.
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