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The Man From Earth, or Paleolithic Forrest Gump: A Review

Because I am hip and cool and up on all the latest atheist thingies, I just watched The Man From Earth, a movie (from *cough*2007*cough*) that was recommended to me by, well, every atheist I know. I didn’t bother to find out anything about the plot before watching – I assumed I’d love it because all my friends loved it.

Man you guys, did I hate it. I’m thinking of shopping for new friends.

Before you all begin to pour your anger into the comment form, please! Allow me to explain!

Heads up, kids: there will be spoilers. I’ll try to call them out as I go but the big one is sort of the whole plot of the movie so I can’t avoid it.

Really, there were only four things wrong with this movie, and they were as follows:

  1. Bad production values
  2. Bad acting
  3. Bad writing
  4. Bad storyline

Let’s take them in order!

1. Bad Production Values
I can overlook the first problem for an otherwise good story, but I wanted to mention it because it’s really pretty terrible in this movie. The audio is badly dubbed and I know nothing about cameras but I do know that you should probably either use one that works in low light or not bother having scenes that take place in dimly lit rooms.

2. Bad Acting
I’m willing to forgive the second, since the actors are saddled with clunky dialogue and witless witticisms with subject-verb and pronoun problems. So I’ll just jump right to

3. Bad Writing
Things like:

John Oldman: Believe in what He tried to teach without the rigmarole. Piety is not what the lessons bring to people, it’s the mistakes they bring to the lessons.

or

John Oldman: I had a chance to sail with Columbus, only I’m not the adventurous type. I was pretty sure the earth was round, but at that point I still thought he *might* fall off an edge some place.
The Group: [incredulous looks all around the room] Art: Look around John, we just did!
Me: You just did what?

or

SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT!

Dr Gruber: [climax of the movie requiring the channeling of vast amounts of pathos]: What was our dog’s name?
John: Woofie
Dr Gruber: [beating breasts and crying] WOOOOOOFFFIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Me: LOL

/SPOILER ALERT!

If I had the time or energy to rewatch the film, I’d gladly list a dozen more examples, but I’ll just move on to

4. Bad Storyline
Here’s where I have to give away the main plot point, so turn back now if you want to remain blissfully ignorant.

John Oldman is leaving town, and at his going away party he informs his university colleagues that he has been alive for about 14,000 years. Not only that, but he’s met pretty much everybody, like some kind of Paleolithic Forrest Gump: Picasso, the Buddha, that guy who painted the caves at Lascaux – you get the idea.

Eventually the topic turns to religion. John doesn’t want to talk about it, because in 14,000 years he’s learned that it’s impolite at parties to discuss religion or politics. OH AND ALSO BECAUSE HE’S JESUS!

This didn’t exactly come as a shock to me, since by this point I knew that 1. atheists love this movie and 2. the storyline was as subtle as a brick to the face, so I pretty much figured.

One of the other party attendees is a grumpy old lady who also happens to be a Christian, and just on the saner side of being a Biblical literalist. Her job here as a character is to be one-dimensional and cry a lot while saying things like “Say it isn’t true!” over and over again.

John explains that he’s not the son of God, just some guy who wanted to pass along the Buddha’s teachings. I guess this is why atheists like this movie? Because Jesus is just some guy? But . . . he’s also a supernatural being who is ostensibly immortal. Oh and he says that the Old Testament totally sucked but the New Testament was all happy love, which makes me wonder why in all this time he never bothered to read the books that were supposedly written about him. Like Matthew 15:22-26, where a Canaanite woman begs Jesus for help and he calls her a dog. NICE, Jesus.

And that brings me to my biggest criticism of the movie: it would have been so much bolder and more interesting if the screenwriter had embraced John as an unsympathetic character.

Some of the conversation at the party revolves around the fact that John has to move on every ten years when people begin to notice that he doesn’t age. There’s a girl at the party who tells him that she’s in love with him. He admits he’s fond of her (and sexually attracted to her) but that’s it, and he’d just move on in ten years again. She basically says, “Good enough!” She’s completely one-dimensional as well, so I can only assume that she has incredibly low self-esteem, and John is going to hit that so hard. Why? Because he’s Jesus and he can.

Now I’m going to have to spoil the last obvious “twist” at the end of the movie, so you may want to avert your eyes.

One of the party attendees is an old psychiatrist (Dr Gruber) whose wife has just died so he unconvincingly pulls a gun on John because he’s angry? I guess? At the end of the movie, John is on the porch with the piece of tail laughing about some of the stupid names he’s had to make up in the past. Dr Gruber overhears one and realizes that John was his dad. Then the conversation I quoted above happens (WOOOOFFIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!). Gruber whines that John abandoned their family. John says, “Yeah, sorry about that.” Then Gruber keels over and dies. I think this all happens over the course of maybe a minute.

The dialogue is laughable (WOOOOFFIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!) but this was probably the best opportunity for the movie to be something interesting, or at least thought-provoking. What does an immortal do when confronted with the death of a son he abandoned?

I’ll tell you what he does: hops in his truck with Candypants, smiles, and takes off for a new town. THE END

The incident wasn’t long enough or powerful enough to make John into a complex character. He’s still supposed to be likable, and I think we’re even supposed to feel sorry for him because he can’t settle down for long.

When I Tweeted last night about my feelings on the film, a few people responded to say they enjoyed it as a long Outer Limits or Twilight Zone-style show. I agree that had this been a 20-minute episode of the Twilight Zone, I’d have been pretty happy with it, and I probably would have wished it could be expanded into a full movie. But then I would assume that the other 70 minutes would be full of actual character development instead of more stilted dialogue and senseless banter.

So, that’s a fairly thorough wrap-up of my thoughts the day after seeing it. Since I know a lot of you have seen it and loved it, I’d like to hear your thoughts on why you enjoyed it. Obviously people have different tastes, but I wonder how many people enjoyed this movie simply because we don’t see a lot of movies that deal with religious themes like that.

Also, I wanted to end this review by recommending a better movie in this vein, but I’m honestly stumped. Any ideas?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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72 Comments

  1. I watched this DVD several months ago and had an odd reaction to it. I also found the acting and writing to be sub-par, but there was something in there that prevented me from immediately forgetting about the whole thing.

    What I finally decided was that the overall concept had potential, but it didn’t work at all in this format. I think I might have enjoyed it much more had I seen it as a low-budget play in a small theater.

  2. entertaining review, I think I’ve heard of this film, and will promptly avoid it as a result of that review. Doubt was a much better film regarding the certainty people have when it comes to their beliefs, and I would recommend that one over this one, I liked Stigmata, though that one is kind of goofy and really only cursorily deals in the truth value of religious claims and what it all means in the end (plus the protagonist is ostensibly an atheist). There are other films that deal with religious themes in interesting ways, I just cannot think of them off hand. I still need to see Legion though. That movie looks awesome.

  3. This is going on my Netflix queue because I loves me some bad movies.

    A better movie “in this vein” escapes me because I’m mot sure what you’re specifically asking for. Stupid movies? I’ve got a ton to suggest. Movies about immortal guys? There’s always the Highlander movies. Movies that involve good character development? Tons of those, too.

  4. Thanks for vindicating my decision to avoid this movie despite several recommendations. The first person who tried to sell me on it described the premise, and my first thought was basically, “Is that it?”

    I mean, it’s pretty much just one of those Silver Age comic book stories where they reveal that Samson or whatever was actually Superman who got sent back in time and accidentally ended up in a biblical story. Only without Superman.

  5. This movie would easily makes my top 20 list of favorite films. I’ll explain why in a second. I noticed tops on your list criticisms “bad production values”. Of all the ways to criticize a film this has to be the shallowest. It is a useful metric to find the most expensive films, but a lousy one to find good films.

    Reasons to watch this film:

    1) An excellent script. Here are a room full of intelligent people with diverse interests and backgrounds, some eloquent, some not, faced with what turns out to be a very interesting puzzle: Who is “John Oldman”? At first it is a game and they approach it as such. As the obvious answer starts to dawn on people the reactions shift more to the emotional. Jerome Bixby’s dialog is fairly good, but the way he can work an idea is what makes him one of Science Fiction’s great authors. Given that the film explores some fairly heady ideas I never once felt like I was being talked down to, or worse, preached to.

    2) Uniformly wonderful acting. I once saw David Lee Smith in a Criminal Intent episode and I thought to myself “I really want to see this guy in a movie.” (I felt the same way about Jeremy Renner when I saw him in House MD.) Smith has the perfect intensity with a very human quality to play a person who has lived way too long and see way too much death. I also very much enjoyed the always reliable John Billingsley for the more comedic moments. William Katt was great in the everyman role.

    3) Originality. I didn’t feel like I had seen this movie before. So much of what hits the multiplexes these days is tired retreads of very familiar stories. If they are especially well done, like Batman Begins, I can get swept away and enjoy it. More commonly we are treated to films like Avatar that have only good looks and good production values and I wind up checking my watch within the first 20 minutes.

    I wouldn’t recommend this film strictly to atheists. The subplot about this part of his life is not central to the story, but I understand why the other characters reacted so strongly to it. I recommend this film to people who like to think about movies while they are watching them and enjoy noodling over a good idea. (This is not in any way an attempt to belittle people who didn’t like this film. Movie taste is very personal.)

    Lastly, and most important to me, my wife and I were still having long discussions about this movie at breakfast the next morning. How many movies make you do that?


    For those of you who did watch and enjoy this film I have some other recommendations along the same lines:

    _Primer_
    _Happy Accidents_
    _The Sticky Fingers of Time_
    _Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead_

  6. @Joshua: The first person who tried to sell me on it described the premise, and my first thought was basically, “Is that it?”

    Your friend did you a disservice. I watched this movie based on personal recommendations and a movie review which said “This is a great film. One of the pleasures of watching it is letting it unfold naturally. If you want to enjoy the film as much as I did stop reading this review now.” And I did.

  7. Also, as far as psuedonyms go, “John Oldman” is a pretty lazy one. I would expect someone who has been coming up with new names every decade for 14,000 years to do better than that. He picked the most common male first name in the country, and then picked Oldman because he’s an old man (I see what he did there). Maybe after 1,400 name changes he had decided to just give up and stop trying.

  8. Lastly, and most important to me, my wife and I were still having long discussions about this movie at breakfast the next morning. How many movies make you do that?

    I had a long discussion about The Phantom Menace a few months ago.

  9. Low budget isn’t the same as bad production values. Some movies have a small amount of money but use it well. At the extreme indie end of this spectrum, you’ve got Aronofky’s Pi (1997), which was basically funded by the director and his friends asking everybody they knew for $100, promising to pay them back $150 if a distributor ever bought the movie. The mathematics in the movie gets pretty silly, but the aesthetics are pretty accomplished.

    If the people making the movie can’t use what resources they have, it’s a bad sign.

  10. Ok, I’ve been lurking for a while, never commented before, but as a former art school nerd I have had my feathers ruffled:

    @davew, I don’t think I understand why evaluating a movie on its production values is shallow and unreasonable? Movies are a visual medium. If you cannot find a way to make your movie’s visuals interesting or at least believable within the story context, then on some level you have failed. It isn’t a question of budget. “Primer” had a budget of about $3 and change, and managed to be fairly visually arresting, despite being shot in DV in an office park.

    I thought it was a perfectly valid critique, and it strikes me as rather dismissive to be all, “well, clearly your criteria are flawed — you’re REALLY MISSING OUT if you don’t evaluate this film on my scale!”

    I just think that if filmmakers don’t want to be evaluated on their production values, that maybe they should reevaluate this whole “film” “making” thing.

  11. This sounds delightfully terrible. I have to watch it now! I’m downloading the torrent as soon as I get home!

    …er I mean, going to the store to buy the DVD. Yeah. That’s it.

    And the movie in sort-of this vein I’ve seen most recently that comes to mind would be Agora. My wife hated it for bad production values, and it is a little hokey, but sat through it.

  12. Also, I wanted to end this review by recommending a better movie in this vein, but I’m honestly stumped. Any ideas?

    There was a pretty good episode of the original Star Trek in which our heroes discover that Jack the Ripper was an alien (“Wolf in the Fold”, stardate 3614.9).

  13. @Blake Stacey: Low budget isn’t the same as bad production values.

    I agree. I’ve seen both _Pi_ and _The Man from Earth_ and they have similar budgets and similar levels of quality both in the original film and in the DVD transfer. You didn’t think so?

    (Now I have some problems with the nausea-inducing style choices Aronofsky made, but by all accounts he did them on purpose. And I so wanted to like Pi, but in the end I found the story unsatisfying.)

  14. Hahaha, I’d completely forgotten I’d seen this one until this review dredged it up. Like being trapped in a theoretical conversation with a bunch of super-duper-enlightened liberal arts majors. Without a drink in my hand.

  15. I’d forgotten all about that movie. Nice concept and a lot of potential for a good story but, yeah, not done well at all. In the “immortal guy just wants to be left alone” subgenre, this one ranks well below L. Sprague de Camp’s “The Gnarly Man” or even Star Trek’s “Requiem for Methuselah”. At least that one had Louise Sorel as the hot robot girlfriend.

    And why are these immortal guys always, um, guys? I can’t think of a single story about an immortal woman. You could do the whole she’s-every-famous-woman-in-history thing and maybe even Jesus too (what a twist!)

  16. How this for an idea: The Skepchick Movie Club. You guys pick a film and give us a few weeks to watch it and we discuss. I’m sure given the collected wisdom here there would be no end of interesting choices.

  17. Timothy Findley’s novel Pilgrim, (of which I own an autographed copy) also deals with the literary device of a long-lived immortal person, taking on famous personae throughout history. The first thing I thought of was Requiem for Methuselah

  18. @Steve D: I can’t think of a single story about an immortal woman.

    M A Foster’s _The Morphodite_.

    Larry Niven has a few characters of both genders that are practically immortal. Some are Paks and others are just life-extended humans.

    And of course there are endless gods, demigods, vampires and such.

  19. I was one of the people who compared it to an extra-long episode of The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, and I stand by that (having also already seen and mostly approved of the episode @R0guescientist mentioned).

    And I also liked the “chamber play” feel of it, with all of the action confined to the one location.

    There were definitely some cheesy moments in the script, and I thought that they tried to have it both ways with the whole “reveal” at the end regarding Woofie and all that.

    But all things considered, I really enjoyed The Man From Earth. I liked the concept fine, and was only slightly bothered by the whole Forrest Gump-esque thing of the protagonist having met EVERYONE FAMOUS EVER. I liked the general idea of a caveman, one of perhaps a handful of mutants who don’t age, living from the past to the present, always an outsider, moving to wherever big things were happening so he could witness and learn from them.

    I thought that, taking it from a chamber play perspective, having each character represent a specific point of view was acceptable– even if it meant some of them felt a little one-sided. Could there have been greater depth of character? Probably, but it really never bothered me.

    Also, I should note that the film was never recommended to me as an “atheist” movie or specifically by godless folks. Perhaps that meant I was less likely to expect the religious sub-plot and therefore didn’t find it lacking in that regard.

    Either way, I’d never call it a GREAT movie. It’s a small, low-budget bit of entertainment that makes an OK night’s viewing if you’ve got nothing else to do. It would probably help to be a fan of, or at least familiar with, the classic Twilight Zone-esque school of sci-fi, because it is very much of that era.

    Of course, if you’ve read this review there’s probably not much point in watching it. It IS the kind of thing that isn’t exactly rewarding on multiple viewings, and should be seen with as little foreknowledge of plot as possible.

  20. I had never heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on NetFlix Sunday night. Their description made it sound like “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: The Movie,” but Serious.

    Instead, I opted for “A Boy and His Dog,” whose NetFlix description is full of spoilers and lies. Sounds like I made the right call.

  21. @Rebecca Watson: Umm, I appreciate your opposing opinion on the movie but please don’t misrepresent what I wrote quite clearly about the production values of the movie.

    Right you are. I should have gone more by what you wrote than the order you wrote it in. Apologies.

  22. I just watched it on youtube, and it sucks. It wasn’t so much a movie as it was a fart trapped in my computer screen. Either my cat used the litter box while I was watching the movie/fart hybrid, or The Man from Earth literally stinks. I’m just sayin’.

  23. I haven’t seen this movie but want to make a couple of recommendations anyway…

    First a couple of book recommendations: James Morrow’s “Towing Jehovah” and its sequels are perfect for atheists looking for a little snarky religious commentary. God dies. His body falls in the ocean. The Catholics, naturally, want to entomb it in a sepulchre of ice. The Baptists, naturally, want to turn it into a theme park. But what actually happens is even more fun — God gets put on trial, posthumously, for His crimes. It’s all very surreal and literary.

    Morrow also has a novel called “Only Begotten Daughter” in which, to quote Wikipedia “Jesus’ half sister, the daughter of God, is born into contemporary society.” So for the person who wanted to see more stories like this about women…

    Finally, the book that’s got to be closest to this in terms of subject matter (Jesus got all his ideas from Buddha, was friends with all the other old-time celebrities) there’s the always hilarious Christopher Moore with “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” I personally really enjoyed this one.

    Movie-wise, not really the same at all, but the whole conversational format reminds me a bit of “Waking Life” which is this very philosophical roto-scoped talking heads movie about waking and dreams and philosophy.

    And then there is Monty Python: “The Life of Brian” and “The Meaning of Life.” But everyone’s seen those, right?

    And a Robin Williams movie that I may be the only person to like called “Being Human.” It’s not about one guy who lives from caveman times to the present, but about, oh, maybe five guys from different periods covering that span whose lives have certain commonalities… And they’re all played by Robin Williams. But serious Robin Williams, not wacky Robin Williams. Slightly less pretentious and pretty than his even more philosophical “What Dreams May Come”… which is about the afterlife. And has Cuba Gooding junior.

    But really I just came into the thread to recommend “Lamb.” Because it sounds much better than this movie.

  24. @Steve D: I can’t think of a single story about an immortal woman.

    Polgara from David Edding’s Belgariad and Malloreon (I’m not saying that it’s good, just that it exists :) – and I believe she had her own prequel volume detailing her 3000ish years of life before the Belgariad starts).

    I think I’m going to have to watch this just based on the wide range of opinions about it. If it’s got so many people talking about it, I reckon it’s worth a look, good or bad.

  25. @mks.mary: Finally, the book that’s got to be closest to this in terms of subject matter (Jesus got all his ideas from Buddha, was friends with all the other old-time celebrities) there’s the always hilarious Christopher Moore with “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.” I personally really enjoyed this one.

    Yes! Loved this. Chris Moore is also a heck of a guy in person. You can usually catch up with him on one of his book tours.

  26. I second mks.mary regarding Towing Jehovah and the sequels, as well as Lamb: … which had me roaring with laughter over and over again. This is easily Moore’s best book but I like most of his others as well. Fool (retelling of King Lear from the Fool’s POV) is great for the first 3/4 and then completely falls apart (Is it just me or do others find that many, many books fall apart toward the end. I’ve come to assume that it must be really difficult to end a novel.). Of course I have no idea how Fool found an audience to begin with. How many people are familiar enough with Lear to even understand the book?

  27. @Rebecca Watson: Having just seen “The Invention of Lying”, I suppose that kinda fits in there, though it’s more a religious satire, which you probably wouldn’t pick up from the trailer. Plus, it was declared blasphemous by a group of Catholic bishops, which I find is usually a good recommendation!

  28. @Andrew Nixon: Thanks for reminding me of that one. I’ve been meaning to check it out. A Catholic friend of mine wrote a review of it on her blog a few months back, and apparently she was pretty offended, to the point where she got up and walked out.

    I know, I know; I’m usually the whiny accommodationist who’s all like “oh, being offensive for the sake of being offensive is so tacky”. What can I say? After the fact, it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s like an aged wine.

    Besides. It’s not like I’m going to make anyone watch it with me.

  29. Jesus, you made this movie sound about as compelling as a “Magic Bullet” infomercial. I think I’ll pass.

    As for fictional movies that deal with religious themes from an atheistic viewpoint, I rather like (OK LOVE) Defending Your Life.
    Nothing beats good old Albert Einstein… er Brooks.

  30. Started watching, tried, really I did. and I lasted a boring fifteen minutes. I was struck by how poorly made it looked, and how bad the acting was. It didn’t grab my interest enough to not be distracted by something else.

  31. Hello all,

    I’ve watched this movie many times, mostly because I like movies that are all conversation once a while. The acting and story are not great at all yes, but it’s kinda fun to watch. I always, always make sure there is scotch on hand (not that JW green crap, real single malt stuff). I have never shown this film to religious friends, nor just atheist friends, just actual good friends. We laugh, we cry, we discuss, that is the only thing one can get out of this film….discussion.

    Like Primer, I want people to discus what they have just seen. Movies are part of an art medium, and I want them to make people discuss things.

    The movie was b by most perspectives, but realize that it was more realistic than almost every movie on syfy and (not really)History. I love watching this movie unsober, and will continue to to so. I will bring skeptics along simply to maybe show that the non-believers have stories very close to this.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on way too long.

    -Christopher

  32. I can’t share my thoughts on why I liked the film, because, like all sane, good-hearted people… I hated it, too.
    Actually, what I remember most vividly about watching it was muttering, “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” every two or three minutes.
    I don’t want to be mean to people who are saying they agree that the writing, story and performances were bad, but they liked it anyway… but it may be difficult to construe what I’m about to write as anything but.
    Speaking not just as an actor and a writer, but as a human being, I must state unequivocally that a film with bad writing, story and performance is the very definition of a thing no one should like. “The Man From Earth” is assuredly awful, but doesn’t quite reach that level at which a film crosses the Awful Event Horizon, (like “Mars Needs Women”), and becomes amusing.
    So, in conclusion, yuck!

  33. I saw the movie a couple years ago, so here are the thoughts I can recall:

    I wasn’t really struck by the “low production values” in any way that left an impression. In that regard, I actually thought the production values for “Primer” were much much worse, to the point that I had a hard time following the plot. In this case, it actually felt like I was watching a movie adaptation of a stage play, which made the somewhat stiff dialog excusable.

    I actually enjoyed the plot, with the exception of the Dr. Gruber twist at the end. That was just silly. I mean, if the guy never ages, Why didn’t Gruber ever recognize him during the 10 years they were colleagues? Not to say that I found the plot believable in any way, I just thought it was an entertaining and thought-provoking idea.

  34. That sounds like it was a pretty terrible movie. Even in terms of moral message, as ‘the divine is living right now’ or ‘everything is always the same’. There are ones that do this much better.
    Christopher Eccleston was in an okay-decent one, in terms of production, acting, and overall story, called “The Second Coming”. Arronofsy’s “The Fountain” is one like this as well. Christopher Moore’s “Lamb”, like they are saying above, is bee’s knees, making the ‘holy’ -0 that Jesus fellow – into something completely human, warm, and relatable, if not totally lovable (in a way you share with friends and spouses, not cats on the internet). It will also ensure you do not look at a turnip the same ever again (if you have read it, you cannot un-read it).

  35. I kinda liked the film warts and all. It stuck with me for more than just the 5 minutes that it usually take me to forget what I just watched.
    What I think is that it would make a great play (with the cheesier parts edited out of course). I agree the Forest Gumpier moments and the final scene were pretty lame,but like some others have said,I think the basic idea has potential.

  36. @DanSRose: That sounds like it was a pretty terrible movie. Even in terms of moral message, as ‘the divine is living right now’ or ‘everything is always the same’.There are ones that do this much better.

    Criticizing a movie you haven’t seen?

  37. Excellent review, Rebecca. I watched this about two weeks ago and I first thought it was filmed in the 80s because of the production value. I was drinking while watching though, so that aspect was more entertaining than anything.

    I actually enjoyed some of the movie. I liked playing with the idea of a paleolithic man, and their discourse brought me back to fond memories of critical theory courses.

    I was bothered by both of the older female characters: the paleolithic’s piece of ass and the quixotic old lady who is initially smitten with John. Also, anything the biologist said was either horribly corny or outright annoying based on his voice alone. These characters are just so one dimensional, it’s intellectually insulting.

    The Gump-like coincidences were also terrible. This is probably one of my largest pet peeves; it’s so unnecessary

  38. I put the movie in my Netflix Instant queue when this blog post was published and watched it tonight. I rated it 2 out of 5 stars on NF.

    Production values, acting, etc. aside: the movie just did not unfold in a believable way. It’s not that I couldn’t suspend disbelief about the major premise. It just seemed that the screenwriter came up with an interesting question: *SPOILER ALERT* wouldn’t it be fascinating if Jesus was an immortal early Homo sapiens, who hung out with Buddha, and later on tried to spread his message, and then survived into modern times? Which is a pretty cool premise! But then he fumbled about constructing a movie-like coat rack on which to hang that premise, with some random drama thrown in to give it some’a that zazz all the kids are into.

    The whole premise could have been explored far better as a short story or novel, maybe with an omniscient narrator to get us sympathizing with at least, say, ONE of the characters in the story. It sort of reminded me of the novel Ishmael, in which a sentient gorilla pontificates at you, the lowly human reader, for 400 pages, without managing to insult your intelligence (or at least my intelligence, when I read it like 6 years ago).

    I did think the ambiguity of “is he really who he says he is?” was interesting, but that’s been far better explored in other sci-fi, most recently last year’s Moon, as well as in some (most?) of Philip K. Dick’s works.

    All in all, it was an interesting concept, but I didn’t think the characters reacted in believable ways (example: why did everyone suddenly decide to believe OLD MAN at the end when he said he was lying, except Love Interest, who thought to employ her Woman’s Intuition?)

    AND ANOTHER THING! All the comparisons to Primer are ridiculous. Primer had a deliberate, formalistic, disquieting, stark aesthetic to it. Primer was conceived and shot, from script through post-production, as a cohesive work of art. The Man From Earth was a bunch of solid, working actors, awkwardly maneuvering around the producer’s uncle’s upstate cabin’s cramped living room, delivering tenuously connected beats of dialog, complete with totally pedestrian direction.

  39. ( Sorry, I got cut off typing in my phone)…It just adds an additional layer of unrealistic crap. Why would you do that when you’re trying to convince the viewer or reader that this is real?

    Lastly, the movie I thought of most while watching was, “Interview With a Vampire”. It’s not a great analogy; more of a vinous connection. Even still, I found Brad Pitt’s character far more believable, entertaining and I sympathized with him more, even drenched in all that vampire hullabaloo.

    Also, after further consideration of John’s girlfriend, you do have to consider how long he’s been around. I mean, after a couple thousand years in existence, you’d probably be pretty ridiculous in the sack, just based on muscle memory alone. Factor in the fact that he was Jesus? I mean, if the man can turn water into wine, then turning an awkward moment into an orgasmic one would be trivial. No wonder she clings to him like a lost puppy.

  40. I see from the date of the last post that this thread is almost dead, but I avoided reading it until I’d seen the movie (it was in my Netflix Instant Queue – free streaming).
    I agree that the production value is low – after the first couple of minutes, I was thinking “Billy Jack” (for similar production value).
    This would be much better as a one-set play.

    I agree partly with the dialog, in particular Harry the biologist, in one of John Billingsley’s worst roles.

    Despite all that, I found the premise very interesting and actually enjoyed the movie and gave it a 3 out of 5 (Liked it). However, I didn’t save it in my queue – I knew my wife wouldn’t enjoy it, and if you already know the plot and twists, you’d get nothing out of it.

    Good premise for a play, not so good movie – although I enjoyed it, it’s not something I’d recommend or ever watch again.

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