January 05, 2010

250. The Day the Earth Stood Still

  • Year of release: 1951
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • IMDB Page

Starting at the bottom the first movie I watched was #250 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'. From what I gathered from several comments and online reviews about the film, it is a timeless classic. And I cannot really deny that it truly is a classic.

The story is simple, but effective. An extraterrestrial being named Klaattu lands on earth with a message of peace. Us, humans, need to learn to live in peace with each other or face extermination. Klaattu's people are supposedly afraid that the humans upon reaching space travel would lead to some serious issues because of the human's violent nature. However, before Klaattu gets to say anything about his message he gets shot down by the US military. Upon recovery in the hospital and diplomatic issues, Klaattu escapes and rents a room in a boarding house. He acquaints a small boy and his mother who live in the boarding house and Klaattu offers to spend time with the boy in an effort to learn more about the human world. Klaattu meets the renowned professor living in the city he crashed into. He urges the professor to gather the smartest people on the world to hear him out, as the politicians failed to do. To strengthen his words Klaattu stopped all electrical apparatuses and vehicles from working for half an hour, hence the name of the movie. While being chased by the military, Klaattu gets shot again. He who thought that Klaattu wouldn't get to deliver his message is wrong as his robot can revive Klaattu, albeit for an undetermined time frame. Klaattu delivers his message to the wise men and the police. And they are left behind, amazed and flabbergasted, as Klaattu takes off in his spaceship.

"Yes. We, aliens, all wear our pants this high."

The story is in many ways still relevant today. The most obvious is the fact that the wars are still being fought today. Man has still not learned to live in peace. Another way is the diplomatic scene of suspicion. I think Copenhagen '09 showed us yet again that the leaders of the world cannot cooperate for the greater good, like in the movie the various leaders would even argue about the location where Klaattu would speak to them.

The open ending of the story is one of the many things I like about it. Klaattu doesn't await the answer of man, he just leaves after delivering his message, telling us he will see our answer soon enough. The movie leaves it to the viewer to fill in what man would do. Is man going to destroy himself or is he going to find a way to cooperate? The morality of the story is a bit too much, but that's what makes it a classic I think. It portrays man as a violent creature in such a way that you are subtly forced to think that man really is violent. Normally I would not like this kind of approach and the storytelling wouldn't get the appraisal it's getting now, but I feel that the portrayal of humans is done in such a way that it forces you to think about man's behavior towards his fellow man.

The acting is in my opinion very good. The acting of Michael Rennie, Klaattu is of a superb level and makes for a very credible alien, despite his human form. Patricia Neal is also one of the brighter lights in this movie.

The special effects in this movie aren't very good, in fact, I can't think of five special effects in the movie. But that doesn't matter, the plot and the acting are the keystones of this movie and are the reasons why you should watch it.

I'd say something about the quality of the directing and stuff, but I'd have no clue what I'd be talking about, but it's all good.

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