Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Opens locally Friday, August 12th, 2011 (check for showtimes)
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother
Directed by Mike Cahill (documentary film, “Boxers and Ballerinas”)
“Another Earth” is pure science fiction fantasy…minus the aliens, action sequences, and computer-generated craziness we are used to in recent films of the genre. It plays like an elongated episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and has the spirit and imagination of something Steven Spielberg might put his name on. If only it didn’t take itself so seriously.
The concept of the film is definitely interesting: Another planet is discovered within view of our own and to the surprise of the scientific community. As it is examined, not only does it show similar features of our planet Earth, but it shows exact similarities. Same contours, same city structures, same landscapes. Is it some kind of mirror-world? And if so, is there another you and I up there somewhere?
These questions ring close to home for Rhoda (Brit Marling, who also co-wrote), an aspiring student, who looks up into the sky and sees the other Earth for the first time before causing a brutal and fatal accident. The only survivor of this accident besides Rhoda is John, best known as the ultimate creep-ster Ethan from TV’s “Lost.” Surviving this tragedy, John never learns Rhoda’s identity, and a few years later Rhoda’s guilt leads her into John’s life, unbeknownst to him that she is the person responsible.
The interesting take on the material from director Mike Cahill, is that the sci-fi elements of the other Earth take place completely in the background…quite literally, as most of what we discover about this other world is overheard on the radio, or shown in passing on a TV set. This is not a movie about another Earth…it is a drama about two people learning to face themselves, and there just so happens to be a major discovery of a nearby planet going on around them.
While some sci-fi fans will applaud the high-brow concepts found within the film, many will be overwhelmed with the dreary and depressing tone. Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on, but there just seems to be a missed opportunity here. It plays like a half-introduced good idea…an interesting premise for sure, but with nowhere to go.
Without revealing twists and turns of the plot, the movie ends on a “what the??” cliff-hanger that surely will make you ponder. The best science-fiction asks us to suspend our beliefs and to stretch our concepts of reality to conform to the confines of the plot…within the rules that are introduced to us, the movie needs to make sense, and fit. Good examples of this recently have been in “Source Code” and “Inception.”
So does the ending of “Another Earth” make sense, and does the sci-fi heavy ending work within the confines of the film’s own rules? If I have to ask, I guess “Another Earth” didn’t really do it’s job. Challenging us for the sake of challenging us isn’t high-art…it’s just frustrating.