The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (part 8 of 11)

Oi, now it’s back to the army/robot subplot. Short version: Colonel T-Bag has gotten the message about aggressive actions triggering the robot, so they have a new plan: They move in three giant panels and, essentially, crate it up. Amazingly, this works, and they airlift the robot away. At first I wasn’t sure how they got under the robot, but on second viewing it became clear that they removed a half-foot of soil for several feet around the robot, and each of the three panels have prongs that shove right through the soil under the robot.

Two thoughts: (a) I’d love to be one of the soldiers detailed to dig a big hole around a dangerous, 30-foot tall alien robot. And: (b) Who programmed this thing, if it doesn’t interpret being crated up and hauled away (thereby being prevented from fulfilling its primary mission, if nothing else) as a hostile act? I know one thing. If some dudes boxed me up and airlifted me to God knows where, I’d tend to think they were being… yeah, pretty hostile.

Caption contributed by Scooter

Victor Von Doom’s giant statue was carefully preserved in storage during his frequent absences in Latveria.

Oh, and we could ponder why Klaatu, who’s an alien on the run from everybody and who’s being depicted on the news as a dangerous escaped convict, elected to meet with Old Chinese Alien at a McDonald’s on the Jersey Turnpike. But the movie itself now demonstrates how bright this was, as it voices over Helen and Co. driving through the forests of the Jersey Highlands with a string of 911 calls describing where exactly Klaatu was and exactly what they were driving. So I really have nothing more to say.

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They drive up to a pond in the middle of nowhere. Klaatu gets out, and now it’s Jacob’s turn to finally ask who this freak is. Helen calls him a friend from work. She’s just giving him a ride. To the forest. You know—the forest! It’s where everyone goes when they visit Jersey the first time. Jacob quite reasonably wonders why the freaky stranger wanted to come to the forest, and Helen realizes she doesn’t know. Maybe he just wants to kill a bear.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“You call me ‘Chad’ one more time and I’m gonna feed you the rest of that vial.”

So Helen gets out to follow Klaatu, nearly getting mowed down by an army of bugs zooming toward the pond like the contestants in Speed Racer. As she watches, a swirly sphere emerges from the pond, and the bugs dive into it. Fish swim toward it. A toad jumps off a rock and dives for the sphere. Hey, I know this one! Birds do it, bees do it, even toads and manta rays do it! Let’s do it—let’s get sucked into a swirly sphere! (Those are the words, right? That’s how Ella sang it at the Beacon that one time I saw her, anyway.)

Klaatu touches it and the camera slides around the surface of this sphere, merging into shots of other spheres around the globe—spheres on desert sand, in the jungle, under the sea—all of them absorbing the local fauna. At the command center, Kyle Chandler tells Kathy Bates that the spheres are all over the world, which—we just saw, so thanks for being useful, Kyle.

In one image, where locals are unsuccessfully attacking the sphere with a flamethrower, they can see something with tentacles swimming around inside. “Is that them?” Kathy Bates wonders, but Scientist Guy in Charge Michael peers at the image and says, “Nope, that’s us.” They’re looking at octopus and squid. (Oddly, this sphere is in a nonmarine, urban setting, so those squid traveled rather a ways to get sucked into this particular sphere.)

Caption contributed by Scooter

Programming on the Cephalopod Channel is not as limited as you might think.

Jacob and Helen have a fight about how weird Klaatu is (“What if you like him and he moves in?”) and Jacob gets out of the car. She runs after him, but they both stop to watch the swirly sphere ascend into the sky. And then—oh, here we go. There’s a swirly sphere rising from behind the Great Wall of China. A swirly sphere rising from behind the pyramids as Gizeh. Swirly spheres in space, rising from the Earth—wait, where’s the Taj Mahal? You must show the Taj Mahal in all sequences of two or more Highly Visible International Landmarks. Everyone knows that!

You know, I think they could be fined.

Caption contributed by Scooter

Little-known fact: Portions of The Day the Earth Stood Still were produced by Ralph Bakshi.

Klaatu returns from the pond and says he has to get back to the Central Park swirly sphere (the only one that hasn’t left yet, according to the news reports we just saw). They get Jacob to get in the car. Still standing outside with Klaatu, Helen demands to know what’s happening, and Klaatu comes clean at last. He explains that humans are killing planet Earth. Helen says, “So you’ve come here to help us.” But Klaatu denies this, reminding her he said he came to save the Earth. So Helen finally gets it: “You came to save the Earth… from us.”

Klaatu lays it out pretty clearly: “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die… the Earth survives.” So… can we get a solution where somebody doesn’t die? Apparently, only a handful of planets exist which can support complex life, which makes Earth itself more precious than the people who live on it. Having seen how dumb the people are in this movie, I’m not sure I disagree. Start fresh with somebody new! Who knows, maybe the Silurians won’t make a hash of things.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“And all this time I though he just stopped by Earth for a Big Mac…”

On the other hard, I’m not sure about the aliens’ logic. Isn’t this a little like saying a Skittles factory is more important than the Skittles that come out of it?

Helen begs Klaatu not to do this, insisting humans can change, but the aliens have waited for that to happen in vain. Me too, and yet they never do seem to cancel American Idol. Now, Klaatu says placidly, “things” have reached the “tipping point”. Oh, so this is all Roger Christian’s fault! I knew it had to be, somehow.

“The decision is made”, Klaatu tells her. “The process has begun.” Great, now humanity is going to be staring at a big blue progress bar for the rest of its unexpectedly abbreviated lifespan. Somebody click on “Cancel”!

Helen is momentarily spared an end-of-the-world freakout by the distraction of a lone cop car, driven by a lone state trooper. This should end well.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“All right, buddy, license and registration. You realize you were going three times ten to the seventh meters per second in a 65 mile-an-hour zone?”

Klaatu warns Helen that the process will continue even if he is arrested and killed, while the trooper points a gun at them and radios for instructions. If I were him, I’d be more worried about calling for backup, but then I do not possess the adamantine mien of a New Jersey state trooper. Jacob mewls, “Please don’t hurt him!” Turns out he’s talking to Klaatu, ha ha.

The trooper has been yelling at Klaatu to put his hands on Helen’s car, and so Klaatu complies. The car instantly zooms backward and smashes the trooper against his cruiser.

Jacob goes nuts. “You killed him!” he screams over and over, attacking Klaatu and beating at him with his tiny little fists. Klaatu says, “Let me finish.” Yeah, let me finish killing him, you little brat! Because otherwise I’ll have to do everything possible to make him live. That stupid Completely Dead Rule cuts both ways, you know.

Oops, looks like the rule does apply, because Klaatu now has to go about resurrecting the trooper. He does this by first taking a finger-full of Klaatu Placenta from the vial and sticking it in the trooper’s mouth (EEEWWWWW!!). He then touches the cruiser with one hand to get an energy supply (which causes the lights and sirens to start going off [??]), and uses his other hand to make a connection to the trooper’s head. The resulting power surge causes the trooper to be electrocuted back to life. So apparently, the secret to immortality is a car battery and a big yummy dollop of Klaatu Placenta. That’s, uh, good to know.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“It’s alive! Aliiive!! Well, for a state trooper, anyway.”

So Klaatu is about to wipe out the human race, but he saves this cop because, as he explains to an understandably confused Helen, “I meant him no harm.” I know I’m instigating planet-wide genocide, but it’s nothing personal!

Helen concludes that Klaatu could stop this if he wanted to. Klaatu says he tried reasoning with our leaders, but Helen says, “Those weren’t our leaders!” (Kathy Bates and Kyle Chandler? No kidding!) and offers to take him to someone who really matters. I’d make a joke about Oprah here, but the fact is Helen is about to take Klaatu to see John Cleese [!], and I so cannot top that.

Oh, and for those of you still wondering about the swirly spheres full of cephalopods, here’s Kathy Bates to belatedly explain it to us, because the government has nothing better to do at the moment than to stare at file footage on big monitors and rub their chins pensively.

Michael: Maybe they were just collecting specimens from our planet.
Kathy Bates: It’s not our planet. That’s what he told me in the hospital. [Suddenly the light bulb goes on over her head.] An ark.
Michael: ‘Scuse me?
Kathy Bates: It’s an ark. So are all the other spheres. They’re saving as many species as they can.
Michael: If the sphere is an ark, what comes next is—
Kathy Bates: The flood.

What’s interesting to me is that despite hours of direct contact with an evasive alien, it took forever for it to dawn on Helen that Armageddon was coming. Meanwhile, Kathy Bates figured it out from looking at squid.

Caption contributed by Scooter

Hillary suddenly wishes she’d stayed a senator.

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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