Thursday, November 17, 2016
The Man from Earth (reviewed by Ben)
You’ve probably noticed that most of the movies we review on this page are successful, or at least well-known. So you might be surprised that one of our all-time favorite movies is one you’ve probably never heard of. The Man From Earth (2007) was made for only $200,000 and it’s brilliance lies on the fact that it’s a gripping sci-fi tale consisting of seven people sitting in a room, just talking.
A group of college professors in varying fields hold a goodbye party for their friend, John Oldman, where John decides to reveal to his intellectual pals that he is thousands of years old, having been born a Cro Magnon.
What starts out as a friendly hypothetical conversation heats up as his friends realize he might just be telling the truth (or, at least, believes he is). Talk about a conversation starter for a biologist, a devout Christian, an anthropologist, and historian and an archaeologist, all experts in their fields who can’t quite prove that he’s wrong! It is a perfect way to include almost any topic in the film. If he really is so old, then surely he can tell you almost anything you want to know.
This kind of thinking drives the arc of the conversation, as his friends go from playfully questioning him to calling a psychologist to save him, eventually pulling a gun on him to see if he really is immortal like he says. It doesn’t quite sound like the film could keep you interested for an hour and a half, and yet it does. It perfectly demonstrates the dark side of human nature, but also convinces you there is hope within the bonds of friendship.
Many films today consists of the mindless action sequences with no heart (like Doctor Strange, which I saw with my brother last week). The “action” in Man From Earth consists mostly of discussion of everything from religion to cellular regeneration. At its heart, however, it’s a movie about a man redeeming himself after several thousands years spent hiding, only to find that the world is not ready to accept him. It’s a lesson that’s hard to swallow but truly important, and not something you will not forget.
The fact that few have heard of this movie, it’s director, it’s screenwriter, and it’s stars is quite sad, but to be expected. Every year, action (especially superhero) movies, are the big cash machines. And intellectual, over-dramatic, made-on-a-grand-scale yet heartless beyond the surface films are the big favorites come award season (see The Big Short, Shakespeare In Love and many more.) This film was a drama, and the biggest awards don’t go to such small films, even one as brilliant and intriguing as this one. There are so many great films out there that no one knows about, and The Man From Earth just might be the best I’ve ever seen.
The family has actually watched this movie twice. Each time, I remembered the thoughtful, quiet perfection that makes it so great. This movie has found it onto my list of favorites of all time, along with the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, and has proved that just a few people talking in a room has twice the intrigue of a ten-million-dollar blockbuster.
Dad Responds: The official name of this film is Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth, highlighting its pedigree as the work of the writer behind some of the most memorable classic Star Trek episodes (including the Spock-with-beard classic Mirror Mirror and Requiem for Methuselah, the third-season episode that inspired Man from Earth).
It’s been a huge pleasure that both boys enjoy this film enough to write about it (Ben on this blog, Eli on one of his college essays). The movie is a genuine triumph of writing, full of chills and emotion, which tackles substantial issues (the origin of ideas, what it means to be human, etc.) through the medium of sci-fi - the very thing that made Star Trek such a breakthrough series.