This will be a The Man From Earth review, which might seem odd. It’s a small little movie that came out five years ago, and you’ve probably never heard of it. But, like most good little things, you can find it streaming somewhere online.
I’ve been under the weather recently (thus the absence in a podcast this week), but that really just means one thing. I got to clear out my Netflix instant queue. It got me thinking. Netflix gets knocked for having an uneven split between big Hollywood releases and smaller, independent movies sometimes decades old. But some, though not all, of these smaller movies don’t need a whole lot of money thrown at them.
So, Streaming Gems is born — I’m open to suggestion for a title. Like I said, under the weather, so this might the dumbest name in history.
Let’s just get the bad stuff out of the way, because I actually like this movie.
The Man From Earth (2007) is atrocious in so many ways.
It’s a discussion movie, like 12-Angry Men. But you have about half that number so there’s not much tension to bounce back and forth.
Events happen just to spur the story along and make it seem like there’s some kind of plot. There isn’t. The movie begins with a discussion, and it ends when that discussion is finished.
A lot of the directing and general cinematography will make you wonder if a student made it. And the score is annoying and pulled from the early ’90s, plus it’s mixed badly. But the $54,000 budget kind of makes everything suddenly seem well done. You really have to hand it to them for delivering with limited resources.
Three, maybe four of the actors are quite good, especially Tony Todd. He, like many of the actors here, are the kind of professional who is never out of work but never remembered. You will recognize him but not know what from. A lot of it is about the size of The Man From Earth, but like anything in this life, you do enough reps and you get stronger. Todd is very, very strong.
And the writing is well wrought. Sometimes it’s a little on-the-nose, and other times it’s so generic that anyone could have said it. But, the ideas behind the dialogue are surprisingly fresh and innovative for a pretty well trodden concept.
Here’s the basic synopsis: A college professor calls his work friends over for a going away party and decides to tell them a secret he’s not shared before, he’s a 14,000-year-old cave man who never ages.
So you have the classic questions, and it helps that these are college professors. They’re skeptical. They never really believe him. And they want to disprove him for their own reasons, to satisfy their own beliefs. But all of his answers are, for the most part, so unexpected that you almost question if the writer has firsthand knowledge. Maybe he’s really an immortal cave man.
It’s not surprising that it’s written by Jerome Bixby, a somewhat notable sci-fi writer, and based on his own short story. The screenplay he wrote on his deathbed a decade before the movie released. It’s that kind of prose writer mentality, to really probe character nuiansce and get behind the eyes that shows here. And it’s why the one-act-play feel is forgiveable. As are all the technical maladies.
Watch The Man From Earth alone on a rainy weekend. It’ll make you think. It won’t dazzle your senses or get your heart racing, but it will make you think.
DEDUCTIONS: Overall production low. Plot stands still.