A Monument to Science Fiction Films

The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.

The Day the Earth Stood Still, one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.

I’m watching the “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which is rightfully considered the mother of all ET-related science fiction films. In fact there are premises in the movie that are really prescient in light of the advances we’re making in digital tech and robotics.

Within the 64 years since the making of this film, we have developed a cluster of technologies that could take on the combined armies in the world of the 1950s, much like the impregnable robot Gort.

Aside from film’s technological prescience is the way it unfolds.  One of the most remarkable segments in the history of science fiction film making is director Robert Wise’s staging of the alien spacecraft’s landing on the Washington baseball field  – the quiet hum of the engine as it approaches its landing site, the pandemonium that ensues below and the eerie split second of silence following the touchdown of the spacecraft.  All of this amounts to a brilliant piece of film making.

Even the commentary on humanity – Homo sapiens – is spot on 64 years later. First, we destroy a gift from Klaatu that would have enabled us to study life on other planets. Then, in spite of Klaatu’s demonstration of his civilization’s immense power during his encounter with the troops, he’s has to endure the mildly patronizing tone of a visiting presidential emissary.  Eventually, despite all of the quiet efforts he has undertaken to safeguard our planet and to assure a place for it within the larger community of planets, he is hunted down and shot like a mad dog on the streets of Washington.

Of course, the parallels to Christ are unmistakable: Klaatu’s alias of Carpenter, the inclination of most earthlings to accept him only as a mortal threat rather than a savior, his friendship with the adolescent Bobby – “Suffer little children to come unto me” – and the intent of some to destroy him for the simple reason that they couldn’t grasp his message. As I said, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” really was a monument to the ages – and what science fiction is all about: expanding human intellectual horizons.


About Jim Langcuster

A Southern late-Baby Boomer whose post-retirement focus is on building a post-racial, post-Confederate Southern regional identity. If the election of 2016 underscored one thing, it is that this country is intractably divided and that radical devolution of power to localities and states is the only way to save the American Union.
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