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Movie Review: Science Fiction Classic ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’

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Despite some old-fashioned effects and costumes, this 1951 movie directed by Robert Wise stands the test of time.Shot in black and white, the film follows the arrival of an extraterrestrial flying saucer to earth, carrying a human-like alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and a powerful robot, Gort. The flying saucer lands in Washington DC, with Klaatu’s purpose being to deliver an important message to the inhabitants of earth.

Unable to meet with world leaders, Klaatu decides to infiltrate among humans and learn a bit more about them before delivering his message. He comes from a superior, non-violent civilization, and is stunned by how humans are behaving.

The great thing about the movie is that it follows Klaatu’s experience on earth with an intimate tone. The excellent script, written by Edmund H. North, is based on a short story by Harry Bates (available online here). The script introduces peaceful ideas and a disillusioned perspective of the world through an appealing story, filled with charming characters and subtle details.

The movie, in fact, may still be controversial, as it seems to support both peace and the right to intervene in other countries (or planets) when their actions might compromise their neighbours’ security.

What I found a bit old-fashioned is Gort’s design, more charming than threatening. Luckily enough, the strength of the film lies in much more than a handful of special effects. Moreover, its influencein further movies and TV series is amazing: from Star Wars to Twilight Zone to The Army of Darkness, references to this film, including the compelling soundtrack byBernard Herrmann, can be found elsewhere.

The Day the Earth Stood Still continues to be a must see movie more than 60 years after its release.

Photo via Aceituna Sin Cuesco

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