The Earthling (1980)

Genres - Adventure, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama  |   Release Date - Jul 24, 1980 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - Australia , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

The final film of director Peter Collinson and one of the last for ill-fated star William Holden, this adventure drama is thoroughly absorbing, a surprise artistic success given its ill-chosen title, meditative pace, and somberly hushed, serious tone. The central tragedy that provides the film's impetus, as well as its recurring motifs of death's random capriciousness, render it inappropriate for younger children -- but more mature viewers will savor the script's ruminations on the struggle to survive, on mortality, and on the need of one generation to pass along its collective wisdom to another. There's also the filmed-on-location Australian backdrop, impressively forbidding and remote, but striking to behold and alien enough to set the action apart from other wilderness survival tales. Holden brings a worldly, cynical gravitas to his role that seems appropriately grizzled and hard-earned, while the then-young Rick Schroder turns in one of his two best childhood performances (the other in 1979's remake of The Champ) as a severely traumatized boy who learns to -- in the parlance of modern-day therapy-speak -- "deal with his reality." Its slow-moving story line and thoughtful nature virtually guarantee it a limited audience, but for those who stick around for the full running time, The Earthling (1980) yields rich thematic material to savor.