Monday, April 4, 2011

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

I had a fitful night of sleep last night. I wound up sprawled in my chair watching one of my all time favorite movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, at 3 AM before tip toeing into the kitchen for some cereal, which I ate in the pitch black dark at the breakfast table. I am a wold man, let me tell you. The movie was every bit the classic I remembered. Rumors are floating about of a remake, although there is no script or director, with Angelina Jolie attached to play the heroine. I think TDTESS is one of those untouchable films it would be blasphemous to remake, but thinking about it even further, it just cannot updated to modern times,

The story is a Cold War allegory filmed in 1951. At that point, the brutality of world War II was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Pearl Harbor still stung, the Nazi death camps were etched vividly in collective memory, as was the different kind of Holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Cold War was then in full swing with the idea that a hundred Hiroshimas could occur on either or both sides of the ocean at any point. It was a world that seemed likely to destroy itself if given half the chance and there had been recent, bloody confirmation of the possibility. The alien Klaatu, visited Earth with the message that carrying out conflicts beyond our world would ensure our destruction by a race of robots, of which his eight foot tall companion Gort was, who policed a collection of worlds.

Every time I watch the movie, I get a new vibe from it. First off, this time around I was contemplating a possible remake and why it would not work. We have gone from an ideological struggle with the potential to be settled by nuclear arms to a religious struggle with extremists using with amounts to random acts of personalized brutality. Bin laden is not involved, nor would he ever be involved, in a space race. Our conflict just would not resonate with the message of TDTESS.

Truth be told, I had a few new flashes about the message it does send while watching it last night. Klaatu explains that a large number of planets have surrendered there policing to a race of giant robots. These robots wipe out any form of aggression with extreme prejudice, which is emonstrated several times throughout the course of the movie. It is made clear that if Klaatu is killed by humans, Gort will destroy the planet. It struck me and my Political Science/law degree holding mind how philosophically wrong that it is. I am skeptical of human nature without a doubt. I think the only way to keep a mass of people on the straight and narrow I through an authoritative force. But what Klaatu describes amounts to velvet cage slavery mized with random brutality.

He says there is no war, but that is because the robots immediately eliminate any aggressor. By klaatu’s own definition, this mean anyone from a n armyr unlawfully invading another country to a mugger slapping an old lady around. All dead in an instant. When Klaatu warns Earth to keep its destructive ways to itself, he is implying the other planets do not want their utopia destroyed. But there is no utopia. Their lives are controlled under a brutal dictatorship which will eliminate any dissenters. I am not certain why it just struck me last night how cynical a movie TDTESS is, but this was the first time the light went off in my head. Interting, because I do not generally miss cynical themes, especially in stories I have seen numerous times. I must really be in an odd mindset.

Rating; ***** (out of 5)

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