Monday, March 21, 2016

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Klaatu berada nikto roughly translates to “There's another review up”. I think. So, talk about a movie where the poster doesn't match the film! The poster of this science fiction classic has a shrieking, buxom blonde woman being carried away by a hulking robot, as explosions erupt around them from a hellish landscape of crushed humanity. The actual movie not only stars a brunette, it's pretty short on the shrieking and explosion-ridden hellscapes, and pretty long on philosophical discussions on the nature of xenophobia and international cooperation. In fact, unusually for a science fiction film of this time period, the heroine only shrieks once in the face of the Deathbot, and that's only because she panicked for a second. She quickly regains her composure, and the Deathbot is shown to be a creature wholly dedicated to justice and purely a defensive, reactionary weapon. Just the sort of creature to fly Space Jesus around. Apparently the director was hoping the whole Space Jesus allegory would be a little more subtle, and maybe it was to the first audience. But to an audience watching after the release of Stranger in a Strange Land (erotic Space Jesus), Jean Grey in The Phoenix Saga (psychic lady Space Jesus), Neo in The Matrix (computer Jesus), RoboCop (American Robot Jesus), and Harry Potter (wizard Jesus). Note that I'm only bringing up examples that came out after 1951, so no Lion Jesus or Ring Jesus. We do love a good Messiah story, and it really isn't subtle any more when our peace-speaking hero fighting dark forces is killed and then resurrected to deliver a message to mankind, even though we've gone a few different paths (Jean Grey goes crazy and commits xenocide, RoboCop shoots everyone...). That nice Mr. John Carpenter (geddit? Because Jesus was a carpenter and his initials were J.C.?) falls under the more proactive category of Space Jesuses (Jesusi?), as he is willing to be actively physically threatening. But the movie is essentially a sermon on how we really need to straighten the hell up, because our petty international rivalries will blow us up someday. It can get a bit wordy at times, but it is overall good in tone. And it is lovely to see a heroine of an early science fiction picture not be ruled by terror and actually understand the gravity of the situation she's in. So, overall, I'd say this is a good watch, if just for the cultural curiosity. It does have some issues with pacing, but it's still a good film.

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