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"So, you're a caveman?",
This review is from: The Man From Earth  [DVD] (DVD)
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Low-budget independent production The Man From Earth is the kind of sci-fi film that's a throwback to 60s television shows like The Twilight Zone and hardcore science fiction novels rather than the more commonplace blockbuster sci-fi films. There are no big action setpieces, no big special effects, no outlandish creatures or distant universes. Instead it's all about ideas - in particular following one idea through to all its logical conclusions and permutations. In this case the big idea is what would a man who had lived through hundreds of centuries really be like? Would he be all knowing or would he be just as fallible in his own way as the mortals who briefly surround him?
In this case the man is John Oldman, a university professor whose plans to quietly sneak away from his cabin is interrupted by friends from work who just happen to form an ideal focus group representing all the scientific, academic and theological disciplines - anthropologist, archaeologist, biologist, Christian literalist and psychologist. Which is particularly handy, allowing them question from every angle his claim to have been born a caveman when they finally wean his secret out of him. For the most part the film throws up enough interesting ideas about the nature of mental, physical and spiritual evolution to overlook the fact that the film is almost entirely a handful of people sitting in a room trying to work out whether their friend is either a caveman, a liar or a nut. Yet the film is still problematic in places. It's often overscored, leaning too heavily on the score to create emotion, David Lee Smith's performance doesn't quite manage to sell the lead part, almost all of the cast have at least one opportunity to misjudge part of their performance and, probably due to the low budget and rushed schedule, the film sadly fluffs the ending, losing the chance for an emotional resolution when the human cost of immortality is finally made apparent. In many ways, at the end of the day it's just a variation on Mel Brooks' and Carl Reiner's 2,000 year-old man sketches played straight, but there's still enough going for the film to make it worth a look even if not all of the ideas and developments are entirely convincing.
The DVD boasts a decent widescreen transfer but aside from the audio commentaries extras are thin gruel - 4 very short featurettes on how great everyone is, one focusing on the screenwriter and cast members' Star Trek connections.