The best science fiction embraces its premise. This is clear 20 minutes into “The Quiet Earth,” when the protagonist gallivants around an empty chapel wearing a dress, screaming, and firing a shotgun, that the movie wholeheartedly embraces its wild world.
The story is simple: Scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence, “The Delinquents”) awakens one sunny morning to find that everyone in his town has disappeared. That is until he meets Joanne (Alison Routledge, “Rain”) and Api (Pete Smith, “Once Were Warriors”).
“The Quiet Earth” is refreshingly quiet. Against the backdrop of movies like “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “Brazil,” “The Quiet Earth” packs each shot with empty space and ruined buildings. Even when it reaches a fever pitch, the movie pulls back. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, the movie keeps its focus more on the characters than big explosions and the disaster itself. On the other hand, it’s in these moments that the movie shows how limited its budget is.
Even being made with little money in a small New Zealand town it’s remarkable that the movie can be as cinematic as other sci-fi flicks of its era. Each scene is beautifully composed and vibrant without being overwhelming. The viewer gets to know the setting so well that it becomes as much a character as Zac or Joanne.
The acting is where the film falters. For the most part, the actors seem comfortable in their characters, but some scenes are just unconvincing. These moments are few, but they break the viewer’s immersion easily.
Is “The Quiet Earth” the best sci-fi flick of the 80’s as the box claims? Maybe. Either way, it’s a captivating entry into an already captivating genre. “The Quiet Earth” is gem that will delight science fiction fans all over the world.