The Quiet Earth

| December 5, 2016

Before directing Young Guns II (1990), the immensely fun Freejack (1992), and serving as second unit director on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Zealand’s Geoff Murphy co-wrote/directed one of the most stirring and relatable films about humanity at the end of the world in 1985’s New Zealand-set The Quiet Earth. One of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s personal favorite sci-fi films, The Quiet Earth follows scientist Zac Hobson who wakes up one morning to find himself the likely last man on Earth.  We later learn that Zac was involved somewhat indirectly in the experiment that eradicated humankind and that, predictably, he may not be the last inhabitant of the planet.

What makes The Quiet Earth stand out from other post-apocalyptic sci-fi films is not merely the lack of zombies or any other inhuman horrors, but the film’s exploration of the mental and emotional roller coaster that being alive at the end of the world would result in. We of course see Zac go from desperation, as he searches for other survivors, to celebration, as he moves into a mansion and goes “shopping” for the things he could never afford when society was intact. Thereafter, though, Zac undergoes a total mental breakdown that takes us through a staggering range of human emotions with barely a word directed at those scenes by way of explanation. Yet, if you’ve the capacity to love and fear, you can surely connect with Zac’s journey on a deeply personal level.

If you’re at all a fan of science fiction, you owe it to yourself to see The Quiet Earth, one of the smartest and most honest last-man-on-Earth scenarios committed to film. The Quiet Earth is now available for the first time on North American Blu-ray from Film Movement, and Film Movement’s transfer of the film offers a beautifully sharp and color-rich image, making this as good a time to check out the film as any if you’ve yet to give it a look. Moreover, if you’re already a fan of The Quiet Earth and perhaps own some previous release of the film, you should probably just pick this Blu-ray up soon (or ask for it for Christmas, I suppose, because ‘tis the season). I was fortunate enough to get an early look at Film Movement’s Blu-ray of Quiet Earth and happily found that it offered a stunning transfer of a stunning film!

Special features on Film Movement’s Blu-ray include the film’s trailer, a commentary track with Neil deGrasse Tyson and RogerEbert.com’s Odie Henderson, and a booklet containing an essay by St. Mary’s University Professor Teresa Heffernan. The commentary, though fascinating when deGrasse Tyson actually talks about the science of The Quiet Earth or he and Henderson discuss the humanity of Zac’s portrayal, is unfortunately characterized by some long stretched of silence when the two are clearly just watching the movie. It’s no surprise, since we learn in the commentary that this is deGrasse Tyson’s first time revisiting the film since its initial, but it does make for a strange commentary track as we’re left waiting minutes on end for one of them to talk. Still, the commentary’s worth at least one listen for deGrasse Tyson’s scientific perspective on certain elements of the film alone.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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