Showtime’s The Man Who Fell to Earth remake (almost) promises a future we can believe in

When President Grover Cleveland pressed a button to turn on the 100,000 incandescent lamps at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the luminous glow, which left attendees in awe of modernity, finally made the world shine. the proverbial dark age in the future. In the Showtime limited series by Jenny Lumet and Alex Kurtzman fallen man, a host of tech royalty gaze out of windows at a dazzling London skyline illuminated by the power of quantum fusion, capturing a similar sense of promise and wonder. This show understands the delicate balance between mystery and intrigue, madness and lucidity, progress and heartbreak. It doesn’t always light up its own world in the same way, but it does manage to deliver a warm spark.

Based on the 1963 science fiction novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, the series’ main character, Faraday (Chiwetel Ejiofor), falls naked from the sky in search of water. The police come looking for him, requesting the presence of Justin Falls (Naomie Harris), a disgraced quantum physics graduate from MIT who is now shoveling manure in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Faraday can barely speak. He learns by listening and then regurgitating what he hears in a riot of phrases and obscenities that worries everyone around him. It is not the first time that he has faced the police. And if there’s one big flaw in the show, it’s the colorblind stories of black characters interacting with cops (especially when Faraday acts unevenly) but surviving mostly unscathed and ignored, requiring a real break. of disbelief

Faraday is on a mission commanded by Thomas Newton (Bill Nighy), a great inventor, now gone and barely remembered except by his heirs. Before Spencer Clay (Jimmi Simpson), a needle-studded CIA agent, can stop him, Faraday must find Justin, the world’s expert in quantum fusion technology, so they can build a machine that will save his planet and mankind. Land of the ravages of climate. change. But going on a globe-trotting adventure with Faraday isn’t easy for Justin. For one thing, she doesn’t know him except as a troublesome stranger with no personal boundaries; Faraday often says exactly what he thinks, no matter how cruel or strange it sounds. He also has a young daughter, Molly (Annelle Olaleye), and an arthritic father in constant need of care and medication, Josiah (a charming Clarke Peters).

Photo: Aimee Spinks/Showtime

Bill Nighy as Newton standing in a bush wearing sunglasses and a hat

Photo: Aimee Spinks/Showtime

Justin helping his father, who is sitting on a couch with his daughter in The Man Who Fell From the Earth.

Photo: Aimee Spinks/Showtime

The man who fell to earth initially subsists thanks to the peculiarity of Faraday. Ejiofor delivers a torrent of accents on a William Shatner cadence. His spasms and his physical kinetic energy generate a whole range of emotions that provoke both laughter and anguish; given the opportunity, he would have been an excellent doctor. doctor who. Simply put, this show isn’t afraid to be silly: In one scene, Faraday, searching for water, shoves a few feet of garden hose down his throat. In another, he vomits up a mountain of gold pawn rings.

Similar to the 1976 film starring David Bowie (who was always like an alien in his own right), Lumet and Kurtzman lean toward Tevis’s musings on the apocalypse and human error. Enter Justin Harris, a brilliant woman who hides her genius from her because of a mistake she made long ago. The emotional Harris usually provides significant power, and she doesn’t disappoint here, as she falls apart and rebuilds herself to create a character whose strength lies not in her anger, but in her admittedly fragile moral core. Together, she and Ejiofor add immeasurable power to a series that sometimes slows down as it looks at the various doomsday scenarios around us.

Adaptation themes can also often leave a bad taste in your mouth. At one point he resorts to ableism, portraying a character’s disability as a burden to her family, leading to a moment he remembers. the green line. Writers, admirably, want to do The man who fell to earth a comment on refugees. The series, in fact, begins in the future, with a successful Faraday as a Steve Jobs-esque tech master speaking to an auditorium packed with fans. He proclaims himself an immigrant who will tell his story. But what are the key elements of an immigrant’s story? Of course, there is the fish-out-of-water element of being a traveler in a foreign land with strange customs and a difficult language barrier. But the series doesn’t address the political element of this in a series that features multiple layers of American law enforcement. Granted, only four of the show’s 10 episodes have been reviewed, but so far the immigrant component is stingy at best.

Faraday and Justin standing next to a truck;  he holding a technological device and she with her arms crossed looking at him while he leans on a truck

Photo: Rico Torres/Showtime

For all the themed holes, the series offers a visual wonder. Wide panoramas of desert landscapes, emphasizing the repetition of desolation, imbue the rugged terrain with the spirit of the inexplicable. The cinematic lighting in particular, as it cuts sharp beams through stark compositions, accentuates the suspenseful tinge of the series, as does the rhythmic score. Still waters flow through some episodes, like Ejiofor and Peters’ duet on “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (it’s as adorable as it sounds), as well as Faraday and Falls rooting for each other even when everyone doubts it.

An undeniable urgency pushes The man who fell to earth not only in Faraday’s mission and his belief that the end justifies the means, but in the environmental critique that guides his journey and ours. Our planet is dying. And the people in power care very little about this fact. Sooner than you think, the damage will be irreversible. Faraday comes from a world where the only way to go back in time requires him to literally travel through space and time. Why do we let petty rivalries and grievances destroy our collective future? Probably because we are human. It is our fault and our strength. We can point to the future when the light shines brightest, then flip the switch when the light reveals an uncomfortable truth.

The man who fell to earth it’s full of these truths but it doesn’t necessarily break the switch or even reinvent it. There is a narrative universe in which the show could be more strange, more transgressive. Instead, the series needs more bracing before its thematic investments yield solid results, but it’s worth exploring strong performances paired with a quirky tone that leads to tantalizing storytelling opportunities.

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