The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

man_who_fell_to_earth_ver1I’m going to be forthright and admit that I mainly got to know this film because of its star David Bowie. I could go at length at how great of a musician he was, but for the sake of this review I won’t. Besides, we all know that David Bowie had many other great qualities, and one of those was acting. This was a film many turned to when they talked about Bowie’s talent as an actor, but it’s a film that was very much a reflection on its time, offering its take on the culture that created it. Even some of the critics who reviled the film later looked on it as an example of what is now missing in the soulless artifice that calls itself Hollywood.

The film sees David Bowie cast as an alien in the form of a man named Thomas Jerome Newton, who came to earth in search of water for his own planet, which is dying at the hands of a catastrophic drought. To save his planet he has to find a way to transfer water from Earth, and to that end he uses the advanced technology of his home world to patent numerous inventions on Earth, and becomes exceedingly wealthy as the head of a technology conglomerate, which he will need to construct a vehicle that can ship water back to his home planet. But then he meets a woman named Mary-Lou, and is introduced to the pleasures and vices of life on Earth.

I find the story to be very fascinating, and tantalising to certain degree after further exploration. Many sci-fi films featuring aliens visiting with the intent of conquering Earth and enslaving mankind have come and gone. The idea of an alien visiting Earth and falling prey to its temptations certainly made for a much more interesting premise. Think of it like E.T. mixed with Liquid Sky, only it’s far superior to both films. The main problem I have with the film is with how it seems unfocused. I get the point that the film is trying to make, but it often seems like there isn’t a lot happening, perhaps because of how cold and distant the film seems to be.

For what was his first starring role, David Bowie performed splendidly here. It’s worth noting that at the time the film was being produced, he was still using copious amounts of cocaine, and he seemed to simply throw himself into the role, giving you his authentic self, and he is virtually flawless in this role. Of course he practically steals the entire show, or he may as well because the other characters kind of fade into the background.

For all its flaws, I would not pass it up, not just for the Bowie fanservice, which you will get plenty of throughout the film, but for its depth and substance, the amount of which I would say equals the fanservice, even if you had to wait through the more indulgent parts of the film.

  • Score: 77%
  • Grade: B
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