Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day the Earth Stood Still; Science-fiction drama, USA, 1951; D: Robert Wise, S: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Billy Gray, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

One day, a UFO lands in Washington, DC. An alien comes out in a spacesuit and a nervous army soldier shoots and wounds him. The alien is then transported to the local hospital while it's giant 8 foot tall robot remains to protect the spaceship. The alien takes off his suit and it turns out he looks like a normal man. After saying that his name Klaatu, he runs away from the hospital to bring an important message to humans. The army starts to search for him, but he finds a place at a boarding house presenting himself as "Mr. Carpenter", gaining the trust of the little Bobby and her mother Helen. While in a taxi, the army shoots Klaatu, but he is awakened by his robot and brings his message: the Earth must abandon it's hostility and live in peace.

Even though it was named 7th on Arthur C. Clarke's list of best SF films of all time, it's hard to wrestle off the impression that Robert Wise's classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is rather dated today, both in it's fake set design of the UFO and the robot and in it's naive approach towards problems, which was obviously shaped as a commentary on the Cold War, especially in the cheesy scene where Klaatu and Bobby exchange these lines: "In my world, there are no wars." - "Jeez, sounds like a good idea!" Still, the opening sequence where the UFO lands in Washington and people all over the world listen to the news is still quite eeary and legendary. The sole concept about an alien warning people against their aggressive actions that could bring the end to their race is fairly well conceived, but once he takes off his spacesuit and reveals that he looks just like an ordinary man the story takes one step back, and then a second one when it turns out the whole movie is just going to be revolving around Klaatu residing in a boarding house to observe humans. It seems the screenwriter's story got aimless and lost rather fast since Klaatu could have well told his message the minute he came out of the UFO, making all other events unnecessary, but he still makes one of the best comments ever on the hostile US-Soviet relationship when he says he doesn't want to interfere with their "childish quarrels".


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