Friday, May 29, 2009

DVD: The Man From Earth

Anchor Bay Entertainment

Directed by Richard Schenkman
Executive Producers Emerson Bixby and Mark Pellington
Starring David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, William Katt, Richard Riehle, Alexis Thorpe, Annika Peterson

This is one of those rare movies which relies entirely on its dialogue and intrinsic ability to tell its own story without the need for special effects and overblown action scenes. For the most part, it's success. But not entirely.

It doesn't really have a point, and therein lies the majority of its beauty. Stories don't have to have a point to be good stories. Just like science fiction movies don't have to have hordes of aliens, fleets of space ships and more explosions than an episode of 'A-Team' to actually be science fiction movies. But they do need a little more depth of characters if they're going to completely hold interest. Viewers are likely to find themselves only caring about one out of eight of them. It's the central one of course, but the other seven are merely foils, posing key questions to further the tale.

While Ellen Crawford's Edith is somewhat irritating it's only her, and Richard Riehle's Dr. Gruber, who are given any kind of fleeting emotional substance. Alexis Thorpe's student Linda is suitably wide-eyed-inquisitive, William Katt's Art disbelieving, and Tony Todd's Dan enthusiastic, but ultimately they are all only their to enable David Lee Smith as leading character John Oldman to explain the story of his seemingly immortal existence.

And this explanation is, for the most part, enthralling, trying its best to root itself in scientific fact and the extrapolation of our scientific knowledge to date. How accurate or credible some of the science is could be debated, but throughout it maintains a comfortable level of plausibility such that at no time does the story slip entirely into the realms of complete fiction; rather those of possibility. The religious parts of the story are perhaps even less credible, but thoroughly entertaining if the viewer is open to a little "blasphemy".

'The Man From Earth' requires some effort to watch. It is not Saturday-night-with-a-beer material. Viewers are required to listen to what's being said and digest the ideas being put forward. This is not a throw-away movie or a high-impact movie. It's perhaps not as intelligent as it would like to be, lacking as it does any real characterisation in the smaller parts, but is certainly more intelligent than most science fiction which finds its way onto our screens, and is well worth the patience it demands.

“ enthralling ”

Special Features: Audio Commentary with producer/director Richard Schenkman and actor John Billinglsey / Audio Commentary with executive producer Emerson Bixby and author/sci-fi scholar Gary Westfahl / 'From Script To Screen' featurette / 'Star Trek: Jerome Bixby's Sci Fi Legacy' featurette / 'On The Set' featurette / 'The Story of The Story' featurette

Release Date: November 13, 2007 (USA)
DVD Release Date: July 7, 2008
Studio: Falling Sky Entertainment
Feature Running Time: 87 mins
Special Features Running Time: 188 mins
Certificate: 12
Language(s): English
Subtitles: None
Other Format(s): None