The Man From Earth: Holocene Blu-ray Review

Cult Sci-Fi Sequel Disappoints

John Oldman, the 14,000-year-old immortal caveman, returns in this tedious and disappointing sequel to The Man From Earth. In good news, director Richard Schenkman and star David Lee Smith return in the highly anticipated follow-up to the cult science fiction favorite. The Man From Earth was a thoughtful, intelligent movie with a veteran cast of character actors. It built a cult fanbase over the past decade by word of mouth.

The Man From Earth: Holocene is a shadow of the first movie’s taut scripting and masterful writing. Doubling down on the most controversial aspects of the first movie, The Man From Earth: Holocene is a much more conventional and deeply less satisfying expansion of science fiction author Jerome Bixby’s original idea. The subtle world building and intellectual dialogue is gone, replaced by an inferior bunch of characters and pointless conflicts.

The Man From Earth had an excellent cast of veteran performers in small but vital roles, carried by David Lee Smith’s riveting portrayal of John Oldman. His erudite immortal was convincing in both personal philosophy and demeanor. This sequel has a much less impressive cast, featuring a slate of younger actors that dominate the plot. They aren’t terrible in their roles, but their youth takes away some of the gravitas and adult tone that was so important to the first film.

It doesn’t make much sense to watch this sequel without seeing The Man From Earth before it. While the sequel vaguely stands alone, many plot elements are taken from what we learned about John Oldman in the first movie. Many fans of the first movie have been dying for a sequel since it came out over a decade ago. Now that it is finally here, some of those fans are going to be greatly disappointed.

The first movie was a small, independent film crafted around a memorable script by acclaimed science fiction author and television writer Jerome Bixby. Based around a striking concept, it struck a chord with many science fiction fans, ending up as one of the higher ranked science fiction movies of all time on IMDB’s master rankings. The fantastical idea of a 14,000-year-old caveman never aging, and having seen all of recorded human history, was spun into a tight little piece of speculative science fiction.

The Man From Earth: Holocene’s problems start out small and only grow. Most of the atmosphere from the first movie is gone, replaced by an ongoing mystery narrative driven by the new cast members. A group of young college kids stumble upon the true identity of their eccentric college professor, uncovering one of history’s greatest secrets. John Oldman has continued moving every ten years or so to keep his immortal life a secret, this time taking up residence as a comparative religion professor in California. We learn that Art, a familiar face from the first movie, wrote a book exposing Oldman’s secret and has since lost his career over it.

It turns from speculative science fiction to a poorly reasoned anti-religious screed

Using the college kids as important characters driving the drama are a real mistake. What made the first movie so different was its relaxed, adult focus on bigger issues than mere drama. Here we get one of the college girls, Tara, dying to sleep with her professor. It’s a mundane emotional plot that lessens the intellectual weight of the franchise because her characterization is so shallow. Sadly, that is not even handled well from a character standpoint and ends up being pointless in the story. The one new theme raised with resonance is Oldman confronting the first hint of his own mortality, but it’s left hanging with little resolution.

Most problematic of all in The Man From Earth: Holocene is the character Philip, a practicing fundamentalist Christian. It’s the nature of the beast that a movie claiming that Jesus was in fact an immortal caveman, who also happened to rip off the Buddha for his teachings, would upset Christian viewers. This part of John Oldman’s backstory was handled far more smoothly and intelligently in the first film. This time it feels like significant portions of the screenplay are little more than direct attacks on Christianity and Christians. What was a small scene in the first film becomes the central focus and the primary conflict.

The final act has a ridiculously overwrought, personal confrontation between Philip and John Oldman, bringing in hairy anti-Christ references and other biblical citations. What was merely a mediocre mystery turns into a direct attack on Christian believers with little intention of hiding it as subtext. It turns from speculative science fiction to a poorly reasoned anti-religious screed.

Fans of the first movie will be mightily tempted to watch this sequel. The Man From Earth: Holocene struggles to find its purpose as a sequel and ends on a terrible note. Keep your memories of the first movie pure by leaving the sequel alone.

Video

The Man From Earth: Holocene shows a quantum level of improvement in picture quality over the first film. The first film was shot on antiquated MiniDV cameras a decade ago, locking that film forever in largely SD resolution. This sequel is a new digital production made with state-of-the-art HD cameras, resulting in pristine HD most of the time. The improvement in clarity and definition is amazing. Distributed by MVDvisual, this is an excellent Blu-ray presentation worth checking out.

The 99-minute main feature is shown in its native 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The clean video doesn’t tax the efficient AVC encode, given a BD-50 for ample space. The 1080P video has a remarkably consistent, bright appearance. Aside from a few clips taken from the first film in much poorer resolution, fine detail is readily visible in the razor-sharp cinematography. A few stray artifacts doesn’t impact the high-quality nature of this Blu-ray’s video.

Audio

The dialogue-driven sci-fi drama offers a restrained 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that largely mirrors the companion 2.0 PCM option. Aside from a gentle expansion of the instrumental score for ambient support, there are few discrete audio cues worth mentioning in surround. This is a front-forward presentation with crystal-clear fidelity. The dialogue remains intelligible throughout the movie and integrates well with the score.

Eight different subtitle options are included. They display in a yellow font. These include English, English SDH, French, German, Icelandic, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish.

Extras

The film receives a solid assortment of special features, including a decent director’s commentary. The featurettes include interviews with the cast and crew.

Walmart has an exclusive edition that includes a DVD copy of the movie in addition to unique cover art and slipcover.

  • Audio Commentary with Writer / Director Richard Schenkman and Producer Eric D. Wilkinson
  • Behind the Scenes Documentary featuring cast and crew (39:17 in HD)
  • Behind the Original Score Featurette (18:05 in HD)
  • Dances With Films World Premiere: Red Carpet interview with Writer / Director Richard Schenkman (11:15 in HD)
  • Dances With Films World Premiere Q & A (16:05 in HD)
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes with optional director commentary (03:04 in HD)
  • Matt Douglas Primal Kickboxing Instructional Video (00:47 in HD)
  • Photo Gallery (01:51 in HD)
  • Original Theatrical Posters / Character Posters Gallery (HD)
  • Pop Books Cover Gallery
  • The Man From Earth Holocene Trailer (01:30 in HD)
  • The Man From Earth Holocene Teaser (01:24 in HD)
  • The Man From Earth Remastered Blu-ray Promo (01:29 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The unaltered images below are taken directly from the movie’s Blu-ray. For an additional 12 The Man From Earth Holocene uncompressed screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 12,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.