General Release 2007
87 minutes approx
John Oldman -
David Lee Smith
Directed by -
Written by -
John Oldman, a professor, is leaving his job, his home, his life after ten years, without explanation and without goodbyes. His friends, however, aren't about to let that happen. They're worried for him. After all, what could drive a man from such a fine life without a word. In a moment of love, he reveals his secret - that he is 14,000 years old and has to move on every ten years or so when people start to realise that he isn't ageing. This revelation is met with a barrage of light-hearted banter, but when they can't shift him from his story, the academics start to get frustrated and angry. And then they start to question some basic fundamentals as to what they have believed to be true.
Great science fiction is not about special effects, spaceships, giant robots or laser guns. Great science fiction is about great ideas, big ideas, daring ideas. This is a film that is all about big ideas.
The premise is very simple - a group of clever people get together and, working from a single initial statement (John Oldman is 14,000 years old), tie themselves up in knots of scientific truth, theory, history and belief. Anyone who's been to university has had a few nights like these in their time, discussing ideas that can challenge everything that you hold as true. The thing is that, whilst sitting around shooting the scientific and philosophical breeze over a few glasses of wine is a great night to have, it's not a very cinematic one.
THE MAN FROM EARTH is a stage play. It may have been written in film script form, but it is a stage play down to its very core and I have to admit that it would probably make a fabulous night out at the theatre. The structure is that of a stage play, the pacing is that of a stage play and the direction by Richard Schenckman does nothing to open out the essentially one set. Performed live in front of an audience this would probably be electric. As it is, it feels flat and stagey.
Which is not to say bad. A script this good could not be made into a bad movie. It starts off rocky enough with the one location, the mannered performances and the very intrusive music, but as the conversation starts to deepen, as the characters start to be defined by what they say and as the big revelation is made that all pretty much drops away and you find that you've been dragged into the story anyway no matter how flat the staging is. This is why it's called JEROME BIXBY'S THE MAN FROM EARTH because this is all down to the writer. Of course, you may not think you know who the hell Jerome Bixby actually is, but you are probably familiar with his work. He was responsible for the story of FANTASTIC VOYAGE, wrote IT!THE TERRROR FROM BEYOND SPACE which is far better than its creature and was reworked as ALIEN, his story It's a Good Life was one of the memorable episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE that was subsequently reworked for the film and he provided the original STAR TREK episodes Mirror, Mirror, By Any Other Name, Day of the Dove and Requiem for Methuselah. All of these works play with big ideas and are rarely dull.
It's an interesting cast as well. John Billingsley is familiar from STAR TREK ENTERPRISE, Tony Todd from the likes of CANDYMAN, William Katt from THE LAST AMERICAN HERO, Richard Riehle from too many things to mention. They manage to give the story an intensity that the staging doesn't deserve. We would love to see this cast do this on stage.
If you're looking for a whizz bang science fiction adventure then you need to be looking elsewhere, but if you want to settle down with a few glasses of wine and some friends then THE MAN FROM EARTH will give you enough to keep you disputing till the early hours of the morning.
And after all, isn't that what science fiction is supposed to do?Top
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