The Day the Earth Stood Still

Release Date: December 12, 2008
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Movie of the Day for Wednesday, August 29, 2007
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He's disobeying the Laws of Robotics!

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68/196 Max Braden Contemporary audiences may see this as a mix of Contact and War of the Worlds, but not as impressive as either.

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In the 1950s, the world was being invaded by that most wonderful of movie genres, science fiction. Though quantity was far more prevalent than quality, there were a few standouts. Among them was the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. “Klaatu barada nikto!” Though this quote won’t actually control robots (or make you a hit with the ladies) it does demonstrate your familiarity with this sci-fi classic.

Director Scott Derrickson is reported to be at the helm of the remake, and given his taut and compassionate direction of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, this may turn out to be not only an entertaining film but also an interesting morality tale as was the first one. In the aforementioned Emily Rose, Derrickson was able to deliver some very haunting images and genuine scares while maintaining a PG-13 rating (a feat most horror directors today are physically incapable of accomplishing). He also managed to more than triple the producer’s investment as the film took in $75 million dollars with an estimated budget of only $20 million.

In the original film, Klaatu (an alien) and his companion Gort (a member of a powerful race of robots) land in Washington D.C. to deliver a message. This message is something along the lines of “Keep any fighting relegated to Earth or the giant robots will DESTROY you!” However, before Klaatu can get that thought out, he is shot by a soldier when he reveals a device that was intended to be a gift for the President. That was enough to make Gort spring into action as he quickly destroys every weapon in the area without causing a single casualty (now that’s power).

The wounded Klaatu is taken to Walter Reed hospital while Gort stays behind with their impenetrable ship. Klaatu tries in vain to organize a meeting with the leaders of the world only to find that they just can’t agree on a time and place. Confronted with such a frustrating situation, he manages to escape to a boarding house where he befriends a young boy who takes him on a tour of Washington. Klaatu begins to see the finer side of our past leaders, and decides that his message of warning will not be entirely lost on our fragile civilization. Though he manages to get shot again (some people just wear out their welcome), he does convey his warning to the world about our destruction by Gort’s race should we continue to develop and spread our methods of war.

In an era of silly, “hubcap on a string” productions about space invaders laying waste to the world while the dashing hero (whose acting abilities were horrendous) saves the beautiful damsel (see previous parenthetical statement), The Day the Earth Stood Still was a standout because of the relevant and meaningful messages it conveyed. Of course most of us didn’t really listen, but at least it demonstrated that a worthy film could be based on a premise that was wildly imaginative for the time. Look for the remake to focus on the original's messages (while incorporating much better effects, of course). (Bart Lasater/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Day the Earth Stood Still
Main Cast Jennifer Connelly, Keanu Reeves, Jon Hamm
Director Scott Derrickson
Screenwriter David Scarpa
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Screen Count 3,560
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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