NOTE: This is my last John Sayles review for the foreseeable future in case you’re sick of hearing about this AWESOME filmmaker.

Many of you are probably unaware of this, but Sayles was an uncredited writer on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. However, due to his divergent views of the direction the story needed to go, Sayles found himself off the E.T. project. So Sayles decided to go off and create his own version of E.T., which resulted in The Brother From Another Planet. Now unfortunately the DVD is a fucking horrible transfer that was literally taken off the video version of the film. I am to guess that no clean version of the film was available and the home video version was the best the studio had to offer.

The Brother From Another Planet is about a humanoid alien (Joe Morton) who lands in Brooklyn. He takes on the form of an African-American male (presumably to blend into his environment even though he has no idea that the portion of Brooklyn he has landed in is a black neighborhood), but he doesn’t speak a word. Throughout the course of the film, the alien endears himself to the community, which comes in handy when alien bounty hunters arrive to kill him. If you’re wondering how in hell anyone can watch this without laughing, well, it is a scifi-comedy.

Many of you have probably never heard of Joe Morton, but you know who he is. He was the scientist in Terminator 2 who helped bring about Skynet who Arnold and Sarah Connor visit at his house one night. Here, he plays the alien humanoid. His performance isn’t ground-breaking, but its fine and you feel for the alien even though you don’t have anywhere near the level of sympathy that you do for E.T. The rest of the characters are people who live in the Brooklyn neighborhood and they’re mostly forgettable characters.

The Brother From Another Planet is certainly one of John Sayles’ weaker efforts. Rather than attempt to tell a straight-up science fiction story, Sayles uses the alien story merely as a framework to make a statement about race relations and the effect of drugs in black neighborhoods. Most if not all of Sayles films have political undertones, but none are as explicit with their political message as this movie is. As a result, the film feels preachy and the plot is weakened under its heavy political message.

It does not take long to realize that John Sayles didn’t care too much about thinking the story logically through.  As I said before, The Brother From Another Planet is really a science fiction story on its surface. Sayles doesn’t bother with details such as how the alien takes on the human form that he does, what his power exactly is, how he is suddenly able to comprehend what humans are saying, or why he is wanted by the alien bounty hunters. None of this is explained. It just is. Again, his character is used to point out racial issues affecting our society, something which Sayles cares deeply about and has been dealt with in his other films. Personally, I wish Sayles did think through the details because in watching the movie, these omissions felt sloppy and detracted from enjoyment of the movie.

Before I end this review, there is one particular scene in The Brother From Another Planet that is excellent and definitely worth mentioning. The alien is inside a subway car and in walks a young man who offers to show him a magic trick with a deck of cards. Not only is the trick very cool (if you can manage to remember it, which is tough), but the magician’s delivery is fantastic! I had to rewind the scene just to watch the performance again so if you do happen to watch this film, look out for this scene.

The Brother From Another Planet is John Sayles’ weakest effort I have seen. I appreciate what the filmmaker was trying to accomplish with his film and the message he was trying to convey. However, it felt too heavy-handed and in the end I felt like I was watching a sermon rather than watch a story unfold. I certainly don’t mind Sayles incorporating his politics into his films, but not in such an obvious and glaring manner. I recommend this movie only for those of you who are John Sayles completists and who need to watch every single one of his films.

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