Monday, April 1, 2013

Movie Review: The Man From Earth (2007)

The Man From Earth movie poster
The Man From Earth (2007) - Directed by Richard Schenkman; Written by Jerome Bixby; Starring David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley

By Jason McDonald

Not many TV shows or movies can produce a filmgasm. It’s that moment during or right after watching a thought provoking movie where your brain is still tingling and trying to connect the dots that are no longer there. You start drawing conclusions to pave the rocky resolution you’ve been given, if you’ve been given one at all. Your brain wants a neat and tidy ending and the best mind melting movies will deny you of this need for clarity.

This is the reason why I prefer early Star Trek to Star Wars and the reason why I think The Twilight Zone is one of, if not the best show of all time. If you think you hate Star Trek then watch The City on the Edge of Forever or Dagger of the Mind from the first season. If you still hate it after that, then go burn your television because there isn’t much hope for you.

The Twilight Zone has so many of these moments that other movies and shows with clever plot twists are described as having Twilight Zone endings. When I was a kid, The Twilight Zone was the first show that had any real impression on me. I remember watching the episode Where is Everybody? and it nearly melted my four-year old brain. It was about a guy who wanders into a completely empty town, but by all indications, people were literally just there. It starts to lead us in a direction of believing that something catastrophic may have happened or may be happening, and that he may in fact be the last man on earth. It turned out that the guy was actually just hallucinating everything after being locked in a tiny isolation room for over 400 hours. It might be a bit gimmicky, but it blew me away when I was a kid.

I felt the same way when I watched (warning: spoilers coming) the young Bruce Willis, watch the old Bruce Willis get shot at the end of 12 Monkeys. I felt the same way when I discovered Rosebud was Charles Foster Kane’s boyhood sled in Citizen Kane, and also when I found out who Tyler Durden was in Fight Club and who Keyser Soze is in The Usual Suspects. They’re plot twists, but they’re also points in the story where you have an emotional drop, and it either confirms everything preceding it or destroys the fabric of the story entirely.

I started thinking about this after watching the movie The Man from Earth. The story was written by Jerome Bixby who wrote episodes for both Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, while he was supposedly on his death bed. The story centers around John Oldman (David Lee Smith), a college professor who’s decided to quit his job and move after 10 years. Several other professors show up to his house to send him off and to try to find out why he’s leaving. Over some drinks he reticently reveals that he’s actually 14,000 years old. While he’s telling his life story his friends can’t decide whether he’s lost his mind or whether he’s playing a game with them. It would be classified as science fiction, but not in the sense that you’re going see trolls or 3D dragons jump out of the screen. The movie consists almost entirely of dialogue and looks like it was shot for about $20, with one exterior and one interior. But it’s captivating, intellectually stimulating, and it’s perfect filmgasm material. 

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