MOVIE REVIEW: “The Man from Earth”
“The Man from Earth” is something strange among modern science fiction movies in that it has almost no action and all drama and tension derive themselves from the characters and their dialog. The script was crafted by Jerome Bixby (the movie is also known as “Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth”), who was most famous for writing the original mirror universe episode of Star Trek and the original story that the “It’s a Good Life” episode of the Twilight Zone was based on.
The premise is astonishingly simple, “What if a Cro-Magnon caveman managed to survive 14,000 years from the Ice Age to modern times? What would he be like?” This is the question posed by Professor John Oldman as his friends and colleagues track him down to question him about his sudden decision to leave the small college they work at after 10 years and wish him goodbye and good luck. The answer comes out that if it were possible then he would be just like anyone else, and he would have learned as the race learned. John then cops to being said caveman and we are on our way through a whirlwind discussion in a living room as his friends try (rather unsuccessfully to prove a negative), and we are then on a review of John's historical life. We're taken through pre-history as he moves east, through the formation of villages as humanity progresses from hunter-gatherers to agriculture and cultivation. He speaks of traveling further east and eventually studying under the Buddha. He speaks of his life as a normal person interacting with some of the big names in history.
Eventually one of his friends tire of the fruitless debate and call another colleague who happens to be a psychiatrist at which point we're treated to a similar runaround from a psychiatric point of view.
The story ends with John claiming to be a significant figure from the Bible which triggers a quasi breakdown from the token evangelical Christian in the group. At this point the psychiatrist threatens him with medical observation if he doesn't recant. John recants and apologizes and the evening ends but we're treated with a twist as one of his friends refuses to believe that he would be cruel enough to jerk his friends around like that and it's pointed out that his name is a play on words.
Saying I enjoyed this movie would be an understatement in league with "the south pole is cold". I've re-watched it several times and my enjoyment is still right up there with the first time I saw it. A lot of that has to do with the writing, which is very smart and flows wonderfully. But the actors all carry their weight; actually the cast is like a who's who of B movies including William Katt, Tony Todd, David Lee Smith, and John Billingsley. I also think that the original concept is rather original as well as the approach in the execution. This could easily been turned into something like 10000BC with a bigger budget, something I think would have been a real loss with the story they developed here.
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS MOVIE?
Absolutely not. If you're a Christian, undoubtedly you will not. If you're not a Christian, it depends if they can get over the whole caveman is a "significant figure from the Bible" issue. I can see Evangelists having a hard time with that part.