The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

So the Cold War was pretty freaking scary, huh? I'm going on word of mouth here. I was born in 1985 and am trusting history to tell me the truth. I kid of course, the fear of the Cold War was very, very real. Especially in the 1950s and 1960s, the constant threat of mutually assured destruction was a very real threat, both the United States and the U.S.S.R. having the ability to wipe the other off the face of the Earth with the push of a button. The science fiction genre of the time had several movies that tried to subtly warn us of our impending doom, like 1957's The Day the Earth Stood Still.

All over the world, reports are bouncing from country to country of a U.F.O. flying at an alarming rate in the atmosphere. No one knows what it is or who or what is piloting it, and then to the world's astonishment, the unidentified spacecraft lands in the National Mall in Washington D.C.. A few hours pass and nothing happens as a crowd gathers to see what happens next. To the crowd's astonishment, the ship opens and a man steps out, identifying himself as Klaatu (Michael Rennie), a humanoid who says he comes in peace. With him, he identifies Gort, an immense robot with a special power he won't reveal. As he approaches the crowd, the military opens fire, wounding Klaatu who is sent to Walter Reed Hospital. The humanoid requests to speak to all the world's leaders but it is a request that is quickly shot down. With no alternative, Klaatu puts his own plan into action. First step? Escaping from the hospital.

As I've mentioned in some recent reviews, I've hit a rut at times finding new movies I haven't seen that are....well, good. I found myself deleting movies off the DVR, fast-forwarding through Netflix rentals, all that fun stuff. I tried to get back to the basics, looking for so-called "classic films" that I hadn't seen for any number of reasons. High up on that list are a whole lot of Academy Award winning and nominated movies and countless other well-received flicks and fan favorites. This sci-fi flick from director Robert Wise is all of those things and here we sit. I liked it, didn't love it though unfortunately. 

More than anything else, I liked the idea here, the message. 'Day' works as a smart, kinda subtle (but not so really) warning and message to not only the U.S., but the entire world and a 1951 audience. Semi-SPOILERS ahead semi-SPOILERS What is Klaatu's objective? It is both a threat, a request and a warning. Klaatu comes from a planet somewhere in the universe that serves almost as a watchguard to make sure things go on as they should. And Earth? They're causing some problems with the Cold War threat proposing not only a problem for our planet but for the universe as well. Klaatu's message is simple. Get in line...or get destroyed. His "assistant" of sorts, Gort, has the ability to disintegrate weapons with a death-like ray that comes from his eye visor. That's just the start though, more doom coming in the future should Earthlings not get in line. Pretty cool, premise, huh? I thought so.

Simply put, the message is appropriate, but the movie itself is....well, dull. After Klaatu escapes from the hospital, he poses as any old Joe America, staying at a boarding house under the name 'Mr. Carpenter.' He watches, he observes and he listens, taking it all in. There are some cool, interesting scenes as Klaatu/Carpenter walks around Washington with Bobby (Billy Gray), the son of the owner of the boarding house. He asks questions, trying to get a better read on mankind. Who better to ask for an honest answer than a young boy, an innocent of sorts. We also meet Bobby's mom, Helen (Patricia Neal), a single mom who's now dating an overbearing boyfriend (Hugh Marlowe) who's suspicious of Mr. Carpenter (as he should be). Also look for Sam Jaffe as a quirky intellectual Klaatu contacts on how to proceed about delivering his message, a cool supporting part.

I watched this science fiction flick about a week ago, and I took my time writing the review. While the reviews are uniformly positive, I came away with a cold feeling. An interesting, thought-provoking message is one thing, but delivering that message in an interesting fashion is another thing. Rennie is excellent in the lead role, but beyond that, nothing really jumped off the screen for me. A disappointing negative review.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): **/****

No comments:

Post a Comment