Dec 11 2009

Article VI – In Which A Robot Does a Bad Thing (Surprise)



“Michael Rennie was ill, The Day the Earth Stood Still…”

Anyone know the reference?  It’s Rocky Horror Picture Show, you morons!  We’re never gonna get to regionals if you guys can’t even remember the basics!

I realize you may be a little confused as to what this week’s movie might be – so let me spell it out for you: it doesn’t star Keanu Reeves.  Or Jennifer Connelly.

Yes, friends this week, thanks to a Netflix shipping error (and some slight laziness/incompetence on my part) I was not able to watch the film I’m supposed to be reviewing for you.  Instead, here I am sitting in front of my laptop freezing to death while it rains outside trying to figure out a way to waste as many words as possible before you figure out I may or may not have anything particularly interesting to say this week.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was made in 1951 and is 92 minutes long.  Considered by some to be a simple “B” movie, this amazing science fiction piece is one of the best executed and interesting ideas of the 1950s.

The film starts with a flying saucer landing in Washington D.C.  Unlike Independence Day, Klaatu – the benevolent main character alien – announces that he has come to Earth in peace.  Of course, he is ignored, and accidentally shot by a nervous soldier.

This is when shit goes down.  A robot named Gort appears and destroys all the weapons present.  Uh huh, and you thought this guy Klaatu might be a good guy alien.  Right, anyone allied with a robot gets a big check minus in my book (as they should).  So Klaatu escapes and lives among the humans for a while, learning about how terrible humanity is, as well as how full of hope they can be.
Eventually, of course, humanity screws up, and Klaatu is forced to show the world how much power his robot wields.  Every powered apparatus on Earth is forced to shut down, thus making the Earth “stand still.”  On his way back to the spaceship, Klaatu is shot, and Gort goes crazy, murdering two guards before Helen Bronson (the chick Klaatu had been living with up to this point) can utter the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” which stops Gort’s killing spree and allows him to return to the ship with Klaatu’s lifeless body, only to return moments later with a fully healthy alien.

Klaatu announces his findings on Earth, threatening to return with certain doom if we do not turn away from our violent ways.

Whew, I think that might be the shortest summary of a film I’ve done yet. [Editor’s Note: definitely not the shortest summary you’ve done ~A] As is painfully obvious, this movie is about the coming of the nuclear age and the burgeoning Cold War threatening to engulf the world.  Klaatu is a silent observer of the world, while Gort is his omnipotent Angel of Death.

Alien Bully and his Robot Lackey

Pictured Here: Robot Lackey and Alien Bully

For fear of this turning into a real review – I’m going to toss some knowledge your way.

The comparisons of Klaatu to Christ are astounding – what with him being resurrected from the dead and all, not to mention him taking on the name Mr. Carpenter.  As an impartial observer of the world at this certain point of time, it’s interesting to see his reactions to humanity and their politics and thoughts during this period.  It’s almost as if this is Jesus in alien form WITH A DEATH DEALING ROBOT FRIEND. Come to think of it – this movie is nothing like that and I’m going to call Hollywood with my new movie idea – ALIEN JESUS.

Anyways, I don’t believe that’s as prevalent as the obvious references to atomic power and Cold War sentiments.  Klaatu believes that humanity, if left unchecked, will let its wars and violence spill out all over the cosmos, destroying other space faring races in its own quest for more land and power.  This is, of course, ridiculous, as proved by such films as Star Wars, Dune, Battlestar Galactica, Aliens, and WALL-E.  Don’t bother trying to convince me that these films/TV series don’t depict an idealistic vision of the future – I’ll put my hands over my ears and yell “I’M NOT LISTENING TO YOU LALALALALA” over and over again.

Which brings me to another point, actually.  Continuing my analysis of robots in our everyday science fiction life – Gort.  What a scary name for one of the scariest robots in film history.  This guy can do anything, vaporize you with a stare, strip your world of all power.  I mean, is it really necessary to scare the living hell out of robot fearing folk like me with such monumental displays of power?  If anything, this film teaches us that we NEED our nukes and violent tendencies, if only to try to fight off the terrible machines eventually coming to destroy our way of life.  As many of you know, there are many movies that deal with the awesome power of the machine person – and this is one of the best examples of the potential of an artificial being.  Gort is an interesting contrast to the loving and peaceful (kind of a wimp) Klaatu.  I suppose it exemplifies speaking softly and carrying a big stick.  Yeah, that’s my quote, Roosevelt stole it from me after I silently beat him up with a big stick.

Heat Vision?

Heat Vision?

As for my own personal spin on this film – I loved it.  This is an example of why I got into science fiction in the first place.  Take a solid concept (alien Jesus) and throw in some danger (robot murder) and apply it to current events (Cold War) and you’ve got everything you need for an instant classic.  This film oozes style and class, while still delivering a solid message without being too blunt or over the top.  The special effects are pretty spiffy and the camerawork is normal.  But like I (maybe?) have said before – science fiction is about the idea and the characters’ reactions to that idea, not the special effects.  I may or may not change my tune when it comes time to review Star Wars.

What more is there to say about this film?  Lots, probably.  But it’s damn near 3AM and I can’t really see straight anymore so I’ll see everyone next week.

If the LHC hasn’t rewritten time, that is.  BOOM, current events!  Relevancy!  Who says I’m not a journalist?

2 Responses to “Article VI – In Which A Robot Does a Bad Thing (Surprise)”

  • Mitzi Says:

    You lost me at Alien Jesus.

    Or would that be.. you HAD me at Alien Jesus?

    Whatever, that needs to happen.

  • Rosser Garrison Says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite films…..from the eerie Bernard Hermann score (dig that electric violin!…and excerpts of the film score are on CD…) right down to the farewell speech by Michael Rennie ranks as one of the best closings for a film of all time. I will not repeat (much..) what has already been said about this film…that it was the exception to the rule as regards Sci-fi films…no giant spiders or monsters due to nuclear radiation, no Ray Harryhausen effects, etc. But I think it significant to note that the film was made during the height of the Cold War and McCarthy era (remember that you oldies?? I do!). It is also hard to believe that Robert Wise, the director, was the same guy who would later direct “The Sound of Music.” This original 1951 version still holds strong despite its age and the recently made attempt is just that…an attempt, and a very poor one, at that. I can testify that the DVD version of this film is lovingly restored with lots of fascinating extras. I highly recommend this as one of the best Sci-fi films ever made…and I’m glad that Fil agrees with me also. Now Fil…go get some badly needed sleep.

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