The day the earth stood still (film review)

This should have been done as a tongue in cheek comedy, then at least the adults could have got something out of it. Instead it was played straight and as a result, it limited itself to being a second rate allegorical tale for pre teen children.

Some of the pre release chatter led me to believe there might be some intelligence in this modern day remake of an old sci-fi classic but intelligence and Hollywood blockbuster are terms diametrically opposed. This is absolute formula stuff; global threat, cute kid wanting to be loved, well meaning scientist, puzzled, rational aliens… The standard clichés are there too; ‘ah, these humans, they are vicious, feckless murdering bastards but, I don’t know, there is just something so goddamn cute about them. I think I will stay and die with them’. You get the picture.

The important philosophy that is at the heart of this story is debated with as much subtlety as might be displayed in a red top tabloid newspaper. The super hero robot guardian reacts to violence by reciprocating with more of the same (a strangely human characteristic) and the most risible moment in the film is when Klaatu the alien informs the well meaning scientist that humans are to be punished for misbehaving in the garden of Eden by being destroyed. The scientist cries, “We can change!’ This reminded me of another movie, a comedy, where an evil cowboy asks the voluptuous and virtuous heroine to run away with him. She demurs and sensibly points out the problem with the relationship; she was good and he was evil. The evil cowboy looks imploringly into her eyes and fiercely reassures her, “You can change!”

Yes we can change but usually for the worse. When pushed, by catastrophe or the threat of violence from a higher power for example, we can adapt.

The film must have been far longer in the initial cut because the released version has some holes in the narrative and the ending is surprisingly abrupt. There is also a scene with John Cleese, who plays a Nobel prize winning mathematician, which seems to have been gratuitously shoe-horned in. It parodies his factual audience with the Dali Lama several years ago. He explains to the superior being that humans are misunderstood and not all bad. The superior being furrows his brow and seems to be reconsidering. My, if only governments were that easy to influence.

The only real bit of critical insight in the film is when the alien asks to speak to the world leaders at the United Nations. The American secretary of state claims to have the authority of her President. The alien then asks if she speaks for the entire world. She declines to answer audibly but her silence speaks volumes.

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