The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (part 10 of 11)

Klaatu hears a rumbling noise that turns out to be approaching helicopters, and Helen, Klaatu, and Jacob scramble to leave. On the way out, Helen asks John Cleese what to do. “Change his mind”, he answers. “Not with reason, but with yourself.” In other words, flash him some cleavage! Or, if that doesn’t work, go find Kyle Chandler and get him to flash him some cleavage!

The choppers are already at the house, so everybody runs off into the woods. They cover a fair amount of ground before Jacob breaks away and veers off into a small clearing to shout and wave frantically up at the helicopters. Helen pulls him back under the trees and is all, what the hell? Jacob spitefully reveals that (gasp!) he’s the one that tipped off the feds. He screams that they should be killing the alien, like his dad would have, but Helen finally yells back at the ungrateful imp that his dad is gone.

Just as Jacob is looking all stricken, a soldier appears behind Helen and grabs her, and yoink!—they’re both reeled up into one of the three choppers. Jacob stares up after it, and his face is all, “I didn’t mean to sic the entire American military on you!”

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Oh sure, like I’m going to fall for the old ‘There’s a paratrooper repelling from a helicopter behind you!’ routine.”

Klaatu appears and the two remaining helicopters train their laser sights on him. The pilots receive permission to engage and take out the target. So Klaatu, now that his life is directly threatened, is thereby allowed to fight back, according to the abstruse Hollywood by-laws governing Good Guys Killing Good Guys Who Think the Good Guy Is a Bad Guy.

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Somehow, he uses the laser targeting lights, making contact with his hands to feed energy back up to the helicopters, zapping their systems and sending them careening into each other. They explode and crash. Now, I’m confused. I thought I understood before, but clearly I don’t. Someone please explain to me exactly how Klaatu’s powers work, because up until now they’ve seemed to require direct contact with a power source, and I don’t think light, even laser light, counts as direct contact.

Caption contributed by Scooter

That’s one hell of a stagmata.

Klaatu then turns and looks blankly at Jacob, who gets a priceless oh-shit look on his face and makes a run for it. Klaatu calmly walks after him, and I’m suddenly reminded of Soultaker and all those other movies where the chaser keeps up with the chasee, no matter how fast they’re running, just by walking briskly.

Jacob scampers onto a wooden footbridge, whimpering for Klaatu not to hurt him. Klaatu makes to walk past Jacob, but Jacob steps on a rotten timber and nearly falls into the creek below. Klaatu grabs him at the last minute and pulls him back onto the bridge. Jacob thanks him, looking perplexed, and Klaatu also seems unsure why he saved Jacob. Hey, that makes three of us.

Jacob suddenly realizes he’s just a kid, and Klaatu is the only adult available, so he asks for help getting home. So he can watch the apocalypse on TV, I guess. (At least Jaden Smith plays this with a little chagrin, which is nice.) Klaatu stares at Jacob as if he had asked for an orangutan, then says, “This way.” Hmmm, things to do today: (1) Make sure child gets home safely. (2) Kill everyone.

Back in the flash chamber, a Redshirt in a hazmat suit enters and removes the damaged drill-head. We zoom waaaaay into the old drill-head on the microscopic level and discover a little black bug walking along a surface, complete with skittery beetle wings. Suddenly it divides and self-replicates, and by the time a few seconds have gone by there’s a score of them, crawling over each other like roaches. These, I gather, must be some kind of nanobots. Why exactly the aliens designed their nanobots to look like Earth-type bugs is slightly less mystifying than the question of why the filmmakers thought staging an obvious rip-off of The Mummy was a really good idea. But more on that anon.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Hey, you know where we can find some cricket wrestling?”

Cut to a squad of soldiers marching Helen down a hall, while Kathy Bates peppers her with questions. (Um, isn’t this a conversation you want to be having in a locked room somewhere?) Helen tells her that humanity’s only chance is getting Klaatu to listen to her. You don’t understand the power of my hugs! She thinks that Klaatu trusts her, and that he doesn’t want to do the whole annihilation thing. Kathy Bates says stiffly that they have things under control, but Helen says they don’t. So there!

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Listen, Kathy, just because I have more lines than you doesn’t mean you can have me dragged off the set!”

And now we cut back to the woods, where Jacob and Klaatu talk about Jacob’s fear of being left alone. Jacob says he already is alone—Helen’s just a stranger who got stuck with him after his dad died. He clearly expects some kind of reaction to this, but then he realizes he’s talking to an alien played by Keanu Reeves.

And now we cut back to the flash chamber. (I think the editor’s Ritalin just wore off.) The new drill-head is good to go, but Colonel Hawk-man notices the Redshirt’s hazmat suit is compromised. Kyle Chandler belays the colonel’s order to let the guy out of the flash chamber, and orders the technicians to start the drilling again. Hey, the first drill-head broke and nothing else can penetrate this thing, so let’s just—try drilling some more! Everyone gives Kyle Chandler big ol’ WTF looks while the Redshirt screams in agony and then dies. Don’t worry, guys, Kyle is about to get his. Of course, you’re about to get his, too, but them’s the breaks.

Kyle Chandler notices the restraints around Gort are undergoing super-rapid corrosion, and then the plate glass in front of him starts to star in a bunch of places. He presses the big red “flash” button—it’s right there in the way on the console, I bet it gets pressed accidentally ten times a week—which blasts white-hot fire through the silo chamber. Of course, Gort is unaffected. Flash! Waaa-waaa! Gort raises his hands, which start to disintegrate in the patented Sandman Gradual Swirl-Away pattern into a cloud of black nanobots.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Greetings. I come in peace. Well, actually, no.”

Kyle Chandler tries to make a break for it, but his keycard won’t work. “This facility has been sealed”, Colonel Hawk-man says stoically. “No one leaves.” The nanobots burst through the windows into the control chamber, and that’s it for Kyle Chandler and Colonel Hawk-man.

Outside, Colonel T-Bag has lined up a million tanks around the facility, as if that were going to do anything. An underling tells him they’ve lost contact with the flash chamber. The cloud of nanobots bursts out of the facility, so Colonel T-Bag orders everyone to fire on it, which leads to a ludicrous series of shots of soldiers firing artillery rounds at a big black cloud of alien microbes. For some reason, firing guns at it has no effect.

Caption contributed by Scooter

It’s the G.I. Joe Biological Warfare Kit! Deadly cloud of nanobots sold separately.

Kathy Bates gets a report from a general that no one survived (so much for Colonel T-Bag), and sidewinder attacks just made the cloud bigger. “Where is this mass headed?” she asks. The general responds solemnly, “Everywhere.” Okay, maybe we should try the whole “asking Klaatu nicely not to annihilate us” thing after all?

After a gratuitous shot of the nanobot cloud eating a semi (which is driven by Ben Cotton, who played the obnoxious Dr. Kavanaugh on Stargate Atlantis, so I know Rodney McKay would have loved to see this scene), Kathy Bates goes to see Helen. Sure enough, she’s willing to let her go to Klaatu and try the asking nicely thing. Kathy Bates gives her her effects, including her Contraband Bra Phone, and tells her she’s on her own.

But Scientist Guy in Charge Michael pipes up and says she’s not—he’ll go with her. Whoa, dude, are you still here? The last time you had an impact on the plot was, geez, an hour ago when you pulled Helen through security. You know, I’m starting to realize that this is a very gender-unbalanced movie. The only guy in this film who’s not completely useless is John Cleese!

Caption contributed by Scooter

“All right, let him come with you. But I’m warning you, he’ll just get in the way!”

Meanwhile, Jacob and Klaatu walk into an isolated, desolate shack somewhere of the sort that’s normally being exorcised by Sam and Dean Winchester. I think this is a railroad switching station; Anyway, there’s a desk, a kettle, and a phone, which Jacob tries to use. It’s dead, though, so Klaatu has to use his magic to activate it, and you can see Jacob coming around to the benefits of having your own pet alien. Jacob calls Helen, who by a pure stroke of luck got her phone back just seconds ago, so nice timing, Kathy Bates!

Helen wants to talk to Klaatu. Klaatu tells her, again, that he has to get back to the city. Jacob has been studying a map posted on the wall, and says he knows where they can meet. Believe it or not, this innocent exchange actually involves an ulterior motive on Jacob’s part, as we’ll soon see.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“So what’s Alex Winter really like?”

Two strangers in a pickup collect Klaatu and Jacob hitchhiking on the side of the road. Jacob and Klaatu end up sitting in the bed of the pickup, which strikes me as being a little impolite. I’m sure Miss Manners would say you should let your guest have the front seat, even if he is bent on destroying the world.

Jacob tells Klaatu he no longer wants everyone to kill him, which is sweet of him.

Then there’s a really weird bit where, for some reason, this between-takes conversation about the likely critical failure of the movie somehow made it into the finished cut.

Jaden Smith: So, what’s going to happen to us?
Keanu Reeves: I was just wondering the same thing.

They get dropped off at a cemetery, and the redneck driver leans out of the cab waving a beer bottle and hollers, “Wooooohoooo!! End of the world!” before driving off. I’m so proud of the human race, aren’t you?

Caption contributed by Scooter

Beck’s—The official imported beer of judgment day.

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he's nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

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