The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (part 5 of 11)

Kathy Bates’s chopper lands at the military hospital and she is ushered into yet another briefing, this time with Scientist Guy in Charge Michael, Helen (“our chief astrobiologist”), and a geneticist named Dr. Ikegawa. The latter is played by Hiro Kanagawa, who was in Elektra for five minutes (and is therefore another newly minted Repeat Offender) but whom I know as the ill-fated Principal Kwan.

(Sidenote: As originally written, this recap said that for his sins—i.e., being in Elektra—Kanagawa was likely to be a future Repeat Offender, since I figured that a film of Elektra‘s caliber was certain to be Boothed someday. And then before this recap was finished, lo and behold, the Elektra recap was posted! I am teh psychic!!!1!)

Caption contributed by Scooter

“I suspect Clark Kent had something to do with this.”

Principal Kwan explains to Kathy Bates that the gray goop was actually a bioengineered space suit closely resembling placental tissue (ewwwww!)—which, Helen adds, is a life support system, after all. Essentially, this means that the human Keanu Reeves form needed to be “born” here on Earth, presumably because the alien form could not survive here and a human form could not survive in the alien environment. Sorry, all I got from this scene was “Keanu Reeves covered in placental tissue.” Let’s see what the Google hit count is for that search string!

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In this scene, by the way, we see another example of that whizzo interactive Microsoft flatscreen technology where you shove virtual papers and objects around on an apparently frictionless surface, as seen in movies like Iron Man and Minority Report. Clearly the most fun part of this technology is hurling the virtual papers aside, because Kathy Bates does this every chance she gets. She must love playing air hockey, too.

Caption contributed by Scooter

After being diagnosed with a charisma deficiency, Keanu Reeves was required to have head shots retaken on an hourly basis to track any improvement in his condition.

Principal Kwan says geneticists will be analyzing the alien portions of Keanu’s DNA for generations, but Kathy Bates brutally shuts him down, saying the alien’s DNA is the “property of the U.S. government” and its very existence is “classified”. So people will know that an alien landed in Central Park, but apparently the government will explain to all the disappointed scientists of the world that it had no genetic material? What’s funniest about this is that Michael shoots Principal Kwan a total WTF look, like “What’s gotten up her primordial black hole?”

They go to look at the alien, and while they’re staring at him, he wakes up and asks for water. So they all stare at him as he tries, with some difficulty, to drink a glass of water. Kathy Bates, however, is too impatient to let him finish. She introduces herself and demands to know his intentions, but he ignores her and says to no one in particular (actually, he says it to the water glass), “This body will take some getting used to. It feels unreal to me. Alien.” The alien with the human body says it feels alien—that’s irony, or perspective, or something.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“I’m not an alien, I’m… look, I’m a duck-billed platypus! And—oh, never mind.”

Helen, the only human being in the room, decides to talk to him like a person. Taking the empty glass, she asks what he was like before, but he responds, “It would only frighten you.” So I’m guessing his true form is Russell Brand.

But seriously, man, how do you know? After all, Helen walked toward you all fascinated when you were covered with placental tissue—maybe she’ll dig your true form, dude! She does at least get his name out of him, which we already know is Klaatu.

By the way, can I mention at this point that Kyle Chandler is in this scene for… no reason. He was in the last scene, too, also for no reason. My guess is the director just thinks he looks good in a suit. Don’t worry, Kyle, I’m sure they’ll give you lines again at some point. Very, very stupid lines, but lines nonetheless.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Yup, I’m—wait, checking… checking… yu-up, I’m still in the movie.”

In response to Kathy Bates’s strident questioning, Klaatu says he represents a group of civilizations “all around you” and that he wants to go talk to the assemblage of world leaders nearby (presumably, the U.N.) and “explain [his] purpose to them.” Anyone want to place bets on whether Kathy Bates thinks this is a swell idea? I didn’t think so.

And given what we find out later are Klaatu’s intentions vis-à-vis humanity, what does he honestly think will happen at the U.N.? Or do those guys just ecstatically applaud any damn thing you tell them?

Caption contributed by Scooter

“How about I give you the finger…and you give me my phone call?”

So let’s review. Despite what he believes about human nature (specifically, he doesn’t realize it has a good side until late in the movie), Klaatu’s strategy was to show up on Earth in a helpless, nascent form and go through an hours-long developmental process, hoping the humans in the meantime wouldn’t drown him in pitch and set fire to him while he was completely vulnerable. If he survived that, he would then go and calmly explain his intentions, which are not exactly full of rainbows and peppermint sticks, to the U.N. How well thought out was this plan?

Kathy Bates: Now tell me. Why have you come to our planet?
Klaatu: Your planet?
Kathy Bates: Yes. This is our planet.
Klaatu: No. It is not.

Okay, technically the bank owns it, right?

We cut next to another briefing, with Kathy Bates, the science geeks (Michael, Helen, and Principal Kwan), and Mute Kyle Chandler. How the previous conversation with Klaatu, the first alien ever encountered by humanity, ended is anyone’s guess, but I’m guessing Kathy Bates shrieked, “Well! I never!” and stormed out of the room waving her hands over her head.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Now remember, when the music stops, you have to sit in the closest chair, or else you’re out!”

Kathy Bates explains that she’s decided to sedate him (You’re going to sedate Keanu Reeves? How would you know it worked?) and move him to a more secure location, where he’ll be “interrogated”, in the George W. Bush sense of the word, no doubt. She’s learned from first contacts throughout human history that “as a rule, the less advanced civilization is either exterminated or enslaved” and so it’s urgent they uncover what Klaatu is planning. Michael objects that as scientists, they can’t consent to drugging Klaatu for interrogation. Kathy Bates is fine with that—she’ll just call in someone who will do it. Helen, however, interrupts to say she’ll do it, and the scene ends with Michael looking sad and Kathy Bates looking determined.

Okay, again, I gotta call bullshit on this one. Everybody in this scene knows that Helen is the one who walked starry-eyed toward Klaatu in Central Park and who cradled him in her arms as he lay wounded. They were all there five minutes ago while Helen, alone among the humans, displayed sympathy for Klaatu. And now no one is suspicious of her sudden interest in complying with Kathy Bates’s unethical decision to drug and torture Klaatu? It doesn’t occur to anyone that Helen is planning something?

Obviously, Helen is the last person Kathy Bates should let near Klaatu. She should see instantly that Helen isn’t going to give Klaatu a shot, she’s going to give him her car keys and a MasterCard. Let me raise my voice once more to the heavens in that tortured refrain, How stupid are these people?

Caption contributed by Scooter

“Keep a straight face…Keep a straight face…”

Helen wanders through the base’s fully stocked drug mart and goes to pick up a vial marked “SALINE SOLUTION” in big letters, but a smarmy sp00k appears and informs her the solution is already prepared. Curses, foiled again by government efficiency. She nonetheless distracts the sp00k long enough to pocket the saline anyway.

This sp00k’s distinctive dimpled sneer just caused me another garment-rending fit of “Who is that? Who is that?!“, and so this recap was delayed another ten minutes while I IMDb’ed this movie again and decided this sp00k was “Gray Man #1” (“Gray Man” is a military term for someone who stays under the radar and isn’t noticed, so, You Fail, Dimply Sneery Gray Man #1)—whereupon I discovered that I know the actor, Craig Stanghetta, from (ugh) last year’s gloriously awful Sci Fi Channel series reboot of the Flash Gordon franchise, which itself deserves to be Boothed someday. Stanghetta played Terik, the very slightly disfigured resistance leader on Mongo, in several episodes. (Compared to Terik, Pilot Abilene looks like Christopher Pike after the delta rays got him.) Are you happy I figured that out? Are you? Well, I am.

Caption contributed by Scooter

“But now, with new Flash-B-Gone, you too can have a career after Flash Gordon!”

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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