The 1985 sci fi film from New Zealand, The Quiet Earth, is one of the best of the 'Last Man/Woman On Earth' apocalyptic films. That said, since that is a sub-subgenre of film (subgenre being Apocalyptic films in the genre sci fi), it's merely a good film overall, for it progressively gets weaker as it goes on, as do all films in that vein. Like most films in this sub-subgenre, it falls prey to tropes that undermine it- the first being the predictability of sexual or racial conflict (two for two), and the second being following the Dumbest Possible Action, wherein characters do really dumb things no one would do in real life, just so the film can move along.
Of course, some slack must be given to films like this re: their scientific explanations for the depopulation of the world. In this film, it is ascribed to a Project Flashlight that the New Zealand government was working on in concert with the United States of America. It seems that a worldwide power grid was to be established via airplanes or satellites (it's never made clear- as it should be, lest the science bog down in irreality) and something goes wrong at 6:12 am, New Zealand time. The universe changes to the point that only those people who were near death at 'the effect' survive. The rest all vanish- save a few corpses who were likewise near death, then died slowly afterwards. Perhaps it was a quantum shift in reality, but it's clearly a stand-in for nuclear power- something that New Zealand banned around the time of the film. A thin vein of Anti-American Big Brotherism thus hangs over the film. The film owes much to prior Last Man films- such as the obligatory scenes of a shopping spree at a shopping mall (Dawn Of The Dead), the scenes in the church (The Last Man On Earth), sexual tensions between two men over the last woman (The Last Woman On Earth), racial tensions (The World, The Flesh, And The Devil), political brinksmanship backfiring (On The Beach), the Earth changed, but still the Earth (Planet Of The Apes), and there are also some great scenes unique to it- such as an airplane that seemingly fell from the sky and crashed into a building. But, the Dumbest Possible Action tropes- such as Api almost killing Zac in a car chase, or Zac simply not telling Api of Project Flashlight, and their shared assumptions that they alone are the survivors, is simply untenable- even if one suspends much disbelief. After all, if there are at least three survivors in Auckland alone, there would likely be dozens in New Zealand, and several thousand around the world- more than enough to repopulate the world; and worth seeking out. This is yet another unredeemed cliché of the Last Man genre.
Yet, despite all its flaws, I like this film more than I should, in relation to its artistic quality; possibly because in its flaws are the possibilities of what might have been a great sci fi film, in the hands of a better director with a better screenplay. As it is, though, The Quiet Earth is merely a satisfactory entry in the Last Man On Earth sub-subgenre. But, in a medium where even mere satisfaction is so rare, why complain too much?
4 out of 5 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.