Sunday, December 16, 2007

Man from Earth: Grade B


Man from Earth (2007)
David Lee Smith, John Billingsly, Ellen Crawford. Director Richard Schenkman.

This is definitely a thinking person’s sci-fi story because there are no space ships, no aliens, no explosions, not even any developed characters or serious human relationships. It is 87 minutes of 6 professors discussing whether it is possible that a man born 14,000 years ago, toward the end of the last ice age, could have lived to the present time. The biology professor does the mandatory hand-waving to explain that it is theoretically possible, and we are off.

Professor Oldman (get it?) (Smith) claims to be that man. He stopped visibly aging when he was 35. The others are incredulous at first, but very quickly take leave of their critical thinking and become persuaded, to various degrees. Unfortunately, their questions gravitate to what Oldman experienced and remembers about Biblical times and characters, which is, to my mind, the least interesting topic they could possibly have chosen. Nobody, not even the anthropologist or the psychiatrist, has the wit to ask about the origins of human language, social patterns, the effects of population growth, technological changes, the meaning of the cave paintings, climate changes, medicine, the invention of agriculture… I would have had a very long list of questions. But these professors are only interested in whether he knew any Christian apostles.

Acting is no more than adequate, the same for directing. I liked the way the room became increasingly cave-like as day wore into evening, but I was annoyed by the contrivance of having characters erupt into anger, tears or threats for no reason other than to break up the monotony of conversation, for the benefit of those who find conversation monotonous. On the plus side, the directing was true to the Twilight-Zone genre, an homage to Jerome Bixby, author of the novel on which the movie is based, and who wrote for Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek. If you can visualize Rod Serling monotoning, “You unlock this door with the key of imagination…”, then you are in the right mind-set to enjoy this film.

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