Overview: At his retirement party, a professor reveals to his friends that he is a caveman who hasn’t aged in 14,000 years. Anchor Bay Entertainment; 2007; Not Rated; 89 Minutes
Human After All: The most important job of a high-concept film is to follow through on that concept. Having a cool idea is meaningless if you fail to explore that idea to the fullest. The Man From Earth absolutely has a cool idea, but it never goes beyond the “idea” stage. This is mainly because the film is completely incapable of portraying realistic human behavior. When John Oldman (David Lee Smith, and yes, the character’s name really is “Oldman”) tells his friends his big secret, they believe him almost instantly. Why? Because the film needs them to, or else the story can’t go on. There’s a lot of arbitrary plot beats in The Man From Earth; characters will suddenly get really upset or angry for no apparent reason, and then calm down just as quickly. The film doesn’t earn any of these moments, and the characters are little more than machines placed to churn out forced drama and occasional bits of vapid philosophical nonsense.
The Bland From Earth: All of that might have been acceptable if Oldman’s story was interesting, but it just isn’t. Rather than giving personal insights into famous historical figures or events, he mentions them and moves on. His observations couldn’t be more banal. They basically amount to: “Oh, Christopher Columbus? I met that guy. Buddha? Yup, met him too.” Even worse, the film constantly drills it into our heads that Oldman isn’t extraordinary in any way other than his apparent immortality. He doesn’t have superpowers, and he’s not hyper-intelligent. We are told this over and over again, and soon left wondering why the filmmakers were so insistent on making the protagonist as uninteresting as possible. Perhaps the filmmakers thought that getting an “everyman’s” perspective on history would make for some interesting insight, but to be interesting there must first actually be insight. This movie couldn’t be more mundane if it tried.
The Cheap Cro-Magnon: It’s not even a well-made movie, which is really the final nail in the coffin. It’s a low-budget film, but that doesn’t excuse such shoddy production value. It only came out a couple of years ago, but for some reason The Man From Earth looks like a TV-movie from 1996. The acting isn’t much better. It’s a dialogue-heavy film, but there’s not one line that’s delivered with anything approaching genuine human emotion. To cap it all off, the film ends with an absurd, contrived twist that suggests a poorly-written episode of The Twilight Zone.
Wrap-Up: The Man From Earth presents what sophomoric science fiction fans might mistake for a “thought-provoking” narrative, but the film does nothing but throw out an interesting concept and proceed to spin its wheels. It’s a misfire on almost every conceivable level.