The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (part 3 of 11)

Cut to Helen crouching in a bathroom stall, tearfully using her Contraband Bra Phone to talk to her bratty stepson. (So the phone thing exists solely to provide a beat in their dysfunctional relationship dynamic, and, possibly, to product-place LG.) She tells him they need scientists to help with a big storm that’s coming, but Jacob is dubious—there’s no storm on TV. He tries to get off the phone. She wants to talk longer, but Mrs. Kravitz is serving dinner and he tells her he has to go.

Helen: You know I love you very much.
Jacob: Okay. Bye, Helen.

I’m starting to get a subtle suggestion that Jacob’s relationship with Helen is a little distant. Are you getting that, too?

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Suddenly a female grunt bangs on the stall door and demands to know if she’s using a cell phone. Helen nods nervously, and then the grunt abruptly softens and asks plaintively, “Can I borrow it?” Aw, isn’t that amazing? It turns out we can all stop being assholes and just be nice to each other—as long as we’re in imminent danger of catastrophic annihilation.

Actually—no joke—that’s the point of the movie! Wait and see, I’m totally not kidding.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“What do you mean, you don’t have a square to spare?”

Cut to the scientists, now in hazmat suits, being flown in troop transports toward—wait, toward Manhattan? Huh? These people are (stupidly) assuming this is an asteroid. It’s going to crash into Central Park. It’s so large, NASA could detect it from beyond the orbit of Jupiter, which is 650 million kilometers away. When this thing hits, it’s going to pulverize New York and throw tons of debris up into the air. Would you want to be nearby at that moment? In a helicopter?

Actually, the Movie Eggheads are still dickering over what the thing could be, with just over a minute to go on the clock, in exponentially more ridiculous dialogue:

Helen: What are the odds of an asteroid making impact in Manhattan?
Egghead #1: Astronomical. Plus, there’s no life signature!
Helen: Then it can’t be an asteroid! [??]
Yusef: A primordial black hole, perhaps. [!!]
Egghead #2: What??
Egghead #1: You know what that would mean?
Yusef: Whatever it is, if this object is moving at three times ten to the seventh meters per second—there will be no aftermath!

You know, I’m starting to think Michael figured that out a long time ago. Hate to tell you, but you guys are the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B, folks. And why are the odds of it hitting Manhattan any different from it hitting any other specific place?

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Come on! The evidence clearly indicates the object is the embryo of a crappy supervillain!”

A soldier relays a radio report that the missiles have been disabled. The military won’t be able to shoot down the object. Wait, wait, wait. Hold the phone. If this were an enormous asteroid, and they shot it with missiles when it was less than one minute from impact, wouldn’t that split it into multiple shards on splayed trajectories that would still rain hellfire down on the Earth’s surface, only now with lots of catastrophic impacts instead of one? Wasn’t that the whole point of Armageddon (and Deep Impact, for that matter)?

Holy shit. Do you realize what this means? There’s only one conclusion—one inescapable fact that must be faced, no matter how impossible. ArmageddonArmageddon is smarter than this movie!

I think I just blew my own mind.

Here’s where the soldier counts us down to the impact, which is only 7 seconds away now. The scientists all make hilarious scrunchy faces as they brace for impact (and Egghead #1 is muttering the Lord’s Prayer in a continuous loop), but, of course, nothing happens, and the scrunchy faces all resolve into disbelieving relief as if they’d all collectively just discovered that laxatives really work. Soldier Guy reports that the object is reducing speed and is projected to land, not crash. Huh. That’s one considerate primordial black hole!

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Everybody brace for the reviews!”

Helen spots the object out her window and the whole group rushes over to look, no doubt annoying the pilot who suddenly has an imbalanced aircraft. Out the window we see what looks like a star slowly descending toward Manhattan. Quick, who’s got a Babylon candle?

We get lots of Independence Day-style shots from street level of the glowy light moving over various Manhattan landmarks (at least this time, the Empire State Building isn’t standing astride Fifth Avenue, for Christ’s sake—man, that still bothers me), then an overhead shot of the object descending into Central Park.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Oh no, not again.”

For some reason there are dozens of civilians in Central Park, right at the landing spot, just standing there watching it come down. [!] Couples, mothers with baby carriages, the works. (What, no nuns?) So not only did the military not evacuate Manhattan—they didn’t even bother to cordon off the impact site? Really?

The object lands, throwing up a wall of dirt from the impact that sends all the lookieloos flying. Hah. Serves you right, you stupid gits.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“A blessing! A blessing from the Lord!” “God be praised!”

The transports land in the park some ways away, disgorging equal parts troops and scientists. The dust cloud has reduced visibility to nil, so everyone walks slowly through the dust cloud toward the object, turning flashlights this way and that. The scientists pick up raised radiation levels and electrostatic interference on their little handheld whatevers. Yusef and Helen sense a vibrating thrum occurring at regular intervals, which means “It’s close.”

The dust cloud starts to clear and they realize they’re standing in front of a huge sphere with glowy lights moving around the outside, about the same height as the surrounding apartment towers. For some reason, the lights are not reflecting in Helen’s visor. Maybe they’re weird alien lights that don’t reflect on plastic, or… something.

Caption contributed by Scooter

No one knew why Milton Steinwick built the world’s largest bowling ball, but they feared what he planned to do with it.

Suddenly, Helen turns to see all kinds of military hardware tearing through the Park to surround the swirly sphere and point a million guns and artillery at it. Hilariously, at the same time, a fleet of cop cars also screeches up alongside the army, as if they were responding to some kind of hostage situation at the Javits Center.

Soldier: [jumping out of a Jeep and calling into a radio mike] Checkmate zero six, who has got complete command here?
Cop: [jumping out of his squad car and calling into his radio mike] Fifty-six, this is 2917. I need to know who has jurisdiction on this site!

Wow, seriously? They’ve known this thing was coming for hours at least, they calculated the impact site was Central Park, and the cops and the army are still fighting over who’s in charge? I’m surprised there isn’t some FEMA guy running around demanding the aliens fill in insurance forms. Personally, I have trouble believing the army would let the local cops anywhere near Central Park in a situation like this. This kind of job, the military insists on screwing up personally.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Dispatch, request permission to run away screaming like a girl, over.”

Anyway, faced with an interstellar threat to the world, who would you send: the U.S. military, or the New York City police?

Actually, let me think about that one.

All the soldiers and all the cops, meanwhile, are racking slides and positioning weapons and generally being John Waynish. NYPD snipers assemble on nearby rooftops. Helicopter gunships putter around the upper reaches of the sphere. One artillery guy aboard a tank is even puffing on a cigar as he aims his huge missile launcher at the sphere. You can’t get more macho than that. I’m surprised he hasn’t hauled out his own personal missile launcher and waved it at the sphere. Yo, I got yer primordial black hole right here, buddy!—Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Now that the sphere is being menaced, we start to see that Helen is becoming afraid that all this is getting out of hand. But look, everybody! It’s a pretty swirly sphere! They must be here for nice reasons!

The bottom of the sphere starts to glow really brightly, and a barely discernable figure starts to emerge from deep within the light. All the other scientists back away. A German Shepherd police dog barks furiously at the figure [?], serving mainly to remind me of the dog that barked at the Black Rider in Fellowship of the Ring while at the same time prudently backing away from it.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Shire? Baggins? Never heard of ’em!”

A soldier is shouting into his radio, “What the hell is that thing? I need the rules of engagement now!” So… apparently there really is no one in charge. Normally, in every movie that shows an army response to a catastrophe, there’s a general in command of the operation whose job it is to make all the wrong decisions. (Sometimes there’s nothing but generals.) But not this time. As near as I can figure, the army and the police sent the rank and file to deal with this thing, while the guys in charge all pissed in their pants and packed themselves onto nonstop flights to Bora Bora.

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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