The Essentials- #91
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Do you any of you believe in aliens? If the answer is yes, then have you ever wondered if they are watching us from space? If they are indeed watching us, what do you think they would take away from their observations of the human race? We are dangerous animal, and its sad that we see the worst of ourselves almost every single time we turn on the news. Would another civilization attempt to destroy us because how unstable we are as a civilization?
That is the painful question "The Day The Earth Stood Still" asks. This is more than just a science fiction B-Movie, a subgenre that was wildly popular during the 1950's. When fully and completely analyzed, "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a stunning nightmare. Instead of an alien race coming down to conquer humans for glory and greed, the aliens in this movie come down to destroy a race they see as incapable of saving itself, a race that is doomed for self-destruction. This is, in my mind, a near-perfect way to set up an alien invasion for a film.
Let's reflect back on the time this was made. The 1950's were taking place at the dawn of the Cold War. Our country had just won World War II, but there was barely anytime to bask in the glory. We headed straight into another war, but not a war filled with death and destruction...at least not at that time. The belief that a war could spark between America and Russia was a very high threat at the time, and it was something that brought tough anxiety on our nation. But if a fight did break out between America and Russia, would not have been about tanks and soldiers, but possibly nuclear disposals and that scared thousands.
When Klaatu arrives on Earth at the beginning of the movie, bearing a message from a powerful alien empire, it is immediately tense. Klaatu is essentially telling the leaders of Earth that they will be destroyed if the leaders of the world do not halt their abundance of atomic power. If such a request was given to the world during the Cold War, would it have been satisfied? It is tough to really deduce. Thinking about our world now, would it be easy for our leaders to just hand over our most powerful weapon out a threat by an unknown force? I love "The Day The Earth Stood Still" for how amazingly thought-provoking it is. It is pretty clear that the filmmakers had some Cold War anxiety during the making of this movie, and I loved how completely they channeled it.
The acting isn't bad for a film of the 1950's. This was an era of overacting and extreme emotions in scripts. I think the cast overall handles what they were given really well. I think they all paint a portrait of a world that was as realistic as they could get it. This was powerful material to begin with, and they took it all in with stride.
"The Day The Earth Stood Still" was a very early example of how our world as strong impacts on our art, and it is interesting what artists take away from historic events.