Saturday, 22 October 2011

Narrative: Film Review on 'The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)

FIG.: Film Poster

Made long before digital Effects, Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still is a spine chilling film, a film which was the DNA of all sci-fi films to come. The film seems familiar even if you've never seen it before, a classical earth woman being carried by a alien robot, human weapons being disintegrated by laser shooting robots with their superior alien technology. Everything has been extracted by the film and been implanted in modern science fiction films, so everything has been seen already-not before, but since. It is an ultimate classic, a film that should respectfully be seen by any sci-fi fan and an anti-nuclear allegory raising war issues that were taking place on earth during the time.

FIG.2: Landing on Earth.
Even from the opening sequence with the extraterrestrial flying saucer landing on President's Park on Washington D.C ,a giant robot stepping out from the spaceship and Klatuu (Michael Rennie) the interplanetary traveller announces that has come on earth for a goodwill mission,  it is clear how the film is going to turn out more than exciting to watch. The special effects from the beginning of the film seem really poor with a rounded spaceship  looking so fake it could be mistaken for a badly made theatre prop and a tall 6ft robot which is obviously a tall guy in a spacesuit made of packaging tape and silver foil. But from then on suspension of disbelief is a non issue as the film reveals its role as a messenger  that illustrated the fear and suspicion that characterized the early Cold War and Atomic Age. Perhaps the most unbelievable element of te film is politicians acting with intelligence and such good manners. Keith Booker gives an interesting definition for the purpose of the film: "The Day the Earth Stood Still was a film for thinking adults; serious and cerebral, it addressed crucial contemporary political issues in a mature and courageous way." (Booker.2006:31)
The most interesting element about a film belonging to a science fiction genre is how the so-called alien arrived on Earth with no bad intention but to warn humans to stop warring due to their penchant for violence which has caused concerns amongst the other inhabitants of the universe. Klatuu warns  the world leaders that if humans intend to extend their violence in space, Earth will be destroyed. He departs from Earth with a historical phrase: The decision rest with you" With Klatuu's message, The Day the Earth Stood Still is interpreted as a critique of Cold-War paranoia and a plea for global unity and a 'liberal film. Holloway points out with humour that: "It  conveyed the unwillingness of world leaders to compromise even such missions as a meeting site." (Holloway.199:135)
FIG.3: Klatuu with his Robot Body guard Gru
I conclusion, The Day the Earth Stood Still is an exciting journey to the past in the 1950's when science fiction films flourished and became a great part of the American film History. But apart from it's relation to the past it gives out a great message for the future: world peace is our own decision and guns are not the answer to the Earth's well being.  The film did not have to look visually flaw.less to bring out this message and managed to portray it in its best way.


Booker Keith (2006).Alternate Americas: science fiction film and American culture. GreenWood Publishing Group: USA

Holloway, David (1999). American visual cultures

List of Illustrations

FIG.2: Landing on Earth At:  (accessed on 21/10/2011)

No comments:

Post a Comment