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By - February 24, 2011

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Red State Report Movie Review

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Film Review: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008, 20th Century-Fox; Scott
Derrickson, Director)

Review by Richard Terrell

Cast & credits
Klaatu: Keanu Reeves
Helen Benson:  Jennifer Connelly
Regina Jackson:  Kathy Bates
Barnhardt: John Cleese
Michael Granier:  Jon Hamm
Jacob Benson: Jaden Smith
Mr. Wu:  James Hong

“The Day The Earth Stood Still” was a movie highlight of my youth,
appearing in 1951 when I was 11 years old.  The story of the space visitor who
disables the entire world’s energy to warn humanity of its vulnerability to
destruction should we fail to solve our problems (war, for the most part) has been
sustained over the following decades as one of the more memorable films in
cinematic history.  To this day, people who share the words “Gort! Marada,
Klaatu, Nekto!) immediately identify themselves as cultic brethren.

Today, we are reviewing the remake, glossed up with special effects and loosely based on Edmund
North’s original screenplay.  The alien Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) has come to earth indicating that his
civilization has decided the earth has to go.  We humans are dangerous, although for mostly unspecified reasons.  The film seems to assume, though, that all viewers are already informed and fully conscious of the indictment:

  • We use too many resources
  • We kill each other
  • we create global warming (who knows, maybe eat the wrong foods?)

Throughout the film we hear the tiresome refrain that we’d better change.  Assuring Klaatu that we can, indeed change (and surely deserve the opportunity to change) is Helen Benson, played by the soulful Jennifer Connelly, and a scientist friend who has received a Nobel Prize for something called “Biological Altruism.”  No doubt the Roots and Shoots people will find this film inspiring, and one can only wonder if perhaps Barack Obama and Al Gore played advisory roles to the film-makers.  (Gort, the gigantic and angry robot, strangely reminds one of Mr. Gore.)  Gort (who, Klaatu tells us, “is activated by violence”) is unhappy with hisincarceration by government investigators and is revealed to be a configured entity made up of a swarm of millions of nanorobots who set about destroying the world.  (This Gort is, admittedly, more imposing than the rather clunky proportioned Gort of 1951.)

Klaatu, who has been convinced by Helen that, indeed earthlings can indeed change, manages to de-activate the Gore-swarm,
gets back into his globe-shaped spaceship, and flies off, confident of the change to come. This film raises some interesting questions.  If, for example, Klaatu and his people have had the earthlings under such intense and superior observation to motivate an actual trip to earth, why does it require a personal encounter with Benson’s adoptive son to awaken Klaatu to the possibility of human change?

Wouldn’t they have already known that? Also, it is interesting to note the awesome destructive power wielded by Gort.  If Klaatu’s people are so damn peaceful, how is it that they have perfected such overwhelming destructive technology?  Obviously for purposes of self-defense against dangerous people who live millions of light years away!  Ironically, the film, which seeks its appeal among gentle, peace-loving people who counsel disarmament, pacifism, etc. actually argues for the maintenance of sophisticated military technologies capable of obliterating any threat, however distant.  In the end, however, the film affirms human potential, especially the potential to change, most notably as might be led by “biological altruists.”

Red State Report

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