What have they done to my movie? Well, not my movie, but my favorite movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Klaatu, the humanoid emissary sent to Earth to warn us against weaponizing space with nuclear weapons lest the other planets in the universe unleash the power of their giant robot police force (represented by Gort) to destroy us, arrived on Earth the same year I did: 1951. Klaatu arrived in a breast shaped spaceship, which also proved to be his life support system. When I arrived I latched on to another breast shaped life support system. Klaatu came to warn the planet, I came to help warm it. The links between us go on and on, even if I can’t think of any more.
And now Klaatu is coming back in a 2008 remake of this, the greatest movie of all time. But it is not a remake, but a make over. Not only are the actors different—Keanu Reeves rather than Michael Rennie plays me, I mean Klaatu—but the plot has been changed. In the 1950’s Klaatu came to save the planet and the humans. This time he comes to save the planet from the humans. Shades of Al Gore! In fact I think it is Al Gore who plays Gort in the remake of the movie. Who else would substitute fear of global warming for the fear of global nuking in the new version of the film?
But this isn’t all. In the original, Klaatu visits the Lincoln Memorial to gain some insight into the nature of humanity. He sees us at our best, he sees our potential. In the remake Klaatu goes to a McDonald’s and sees us at our fattest. What has happened to us? Have we really replaced Of the people, by the people, and for the people with “Two all beef patties, special sauce, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun?” Have we truly fallen from With malice toward none; with charity for all to “Would you like fries with that”?
O the humanity!
And what of you, dear Gort? Once played magnificently by a 7’7” doorman from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (Lock Martin), you are now reduced to a CGI replica. Who is going to be frightened into doing good by a cartoon?
But my deepest complaint about the new film is its replacing of nuclear horror with global disaster. They are not equivalent. Even if we humans warm the planet and drown our species, life itself will not disappear. Evolution will continue, and in time apes will learn to talk and eventually capture the past president of the NRA after he accidentally lands in earth’s post human future. But if we ignite the planet in a nuclear war all life will die. If we humans choose suicide it is none of Klaatu’s concern. But if we take the entire planet with us, then, maybe, he has a point. But the concern of original Klaatu was not with our planet, or us but with the evil we might spread beyond our world by weaponizing space. Klaatu was prepared to kill all humanity to save the cosmos. To do so just to save the spotted owl seems a bit too extreme.
I could probably go on and on about The Day the Earth Stood Still, but I have to watch my favorite soap—As the World Turns.