The Day the Earth Stood Still
|The Day the Earth Stood Still is a 2008 science fiction film, a remake of the 1951 film of the same name. The screenplay is based on the 1940 classic science fiction short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates, and the 1951 screenplay adaptation by Edmund H. North.
Directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, this version replaces the Cold War theme of nuclear warfare with the contemporary issue of humankind’s environmental damage to the planet. It follows Klaatu, an alien sent to try to change human behavior or eradicate them from Earth.
The film was originally scheduled for release on May 9, 2008, but was released on a roll-out schedule beginning December 12, 2008, screening in both conventional and IMAX theaters. The critical reviews were mixed; typically the film was found to be “heavy on special effects, but without a coherent story at its base”. In its opening week, the film took top spot at the U.S. box office and has since grossed over $230 million worldwide. The Day the Earth Stood Still was released on home video on April 7, 2009.
In 1928, on an expedition in the snowy mountains of India, a mountaineer encounters a glowing sphere. He touches it and then finds himself awakening after a sudden loss of consciousness, with the sphere now gone and a scar on his hand.
In the present day, the United States government hastily assembles a group of scientists, including Princeton professor Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), to formulate a survival plan when it is feared that a large unknown object with a speed of approximately one-tenth the speed of light, is due to impact Manhattan.
The object slows down just before impact and is revealed to be a large spherical spaceship, which lands gently in Central Park. An alien emerges from the sphere, and finds himself surrounded by a hostile, heavily-armed US military force. Amidst the confusion and lack of clear chain of command, some soldiers fire, shooting the alien. A gigantic robot emerges, emitting an energy wave that temporarily paralyzes humans and temporarily disrupts all electrical systems in New York City. The alien then orders the robot to shut down.
The injured alien is rushed to a military hospital where the surgeon removing the bullet discovers that the alien body is a placenta-like space suit covering a human-like being. The being quickly ages into Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) Klaatu has the appearance of the man from the opening scene of the film from whom the earlier aliens extracted DNA. Klaatu informs Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates), the United States Secretary of Defense, that he is a representative of a group of alien races sent to talk to the United Nations. Jackson refuses his request and instead orders that Klaatu be sent to a secure location for interrogation. Klaatu manages to escape with the help of Helen, and is pursued by the authorities throughout Newark, New Jersey, and the forested Highlands, with Helen and her stepson, Jacob (Jaden Smith). Helen saved a vile of the placenta material, which Klaatu uses to rapidly heal his bullet wound.
Meanwhile, the presence of the sphere has caused a worldwide panic. The United States military manages to capture the robot after it thwarts their attempts to destroy the sphere using unmanned aerial vehicles that launch missiles. Klaatu meets with Mr. Wu (James Hong), another alien who has lived on earth for 70 years. Mr. Wu tells Klaatu that he has found the human race to be destructive and unwilling to change. This confirms Klaatu’s experience so far, and so he determines that the planet must be cleansed of humans to ensure that the planet—with its rare ability to sustain complex life—can survive. Mr. Wu says that despite humanity’s destructive tendencies, he has grown to love humans and will stay on Earth to die with them. Klaatu is perplexed by this, but continues to proceed toward eliminating the human species infecting the planet. He orders smaller spheres—hidden on Earth—to begin taking animal species off the planet. Helen drives Klaatu to a forest near a pond. She witnesses Klaatu summoning a sphere that collects various species (evoking Noah’s Ark) as Klaatu walks on water. Around the planet, the spheres collect other life forms. Helen quizzes Klaatu about his statement that he has come to save the Earth and discovers that he thinks the only way to save the planet is to exterminate humans. She begs him to realize that humans can change. A police officer driving by the pond notices strange activity. He sees Klaatu and recognizes him as the wanted man. Drawing his gun he confronts Klaatu, who defends himself by using telekinesis to move Helen’s car to run him over. He then revives the officer by laying hands on his head, Lazarus-like, and raises the officer from the dead. Helen appeals to him to save humanity.
After Helen witnesses Klaatu walking on water and raising the officer from the dead, she takes Klaatu to the home of Nobel Prize-winning Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese), where they discuss how Klaatu’s own species went through a drastic evolution to survive its own star’s demise.
In meantime, The robot, named “GORT” (Genetically Organized Robotic Technology) by the United States government, is subjected to experiments in an underground facility in Virginia. Trying in vain to drill into the robot, the drill bit inadvertently releases Gort’s genetic material which produces an insect like organism with wings. The self-replicating robotic nanites begin erasing human-made items including the military facility. However it does not destroy grass, trees or non-human organisms. Apparently if unstopped the swarm will erase all vestiges of the human race, leaving the planet in its natural state. The swarm is heading to Central Park where the major sphere is located.
After speaking with Professor Barnhardt, Klaatu believes that humans might change their ways. Jacob betrays Klaatu and calls authorities with Klaatu’s location. The military captures Helen. Jacob and Klaatu finally become allies and the Secretary Jackson allows Helen to reason with Klaatu. Klaatu becomes convinced of mankind’s ability to change, and with the help of Dr. Granier, they head to Central Park and the large sphere to save humanity. Klaatu warns that even if he manages to stop GORT, there will be a price to the human way of life. The nanobot cloud arrives before they can reach the sphere and they hide from it just under a footbridge.
Jacob and Helen discover they have been infected by the nanites. She pleads to Klaatu to save Jacob, rather than herself. Klaatu saves both of them by transferring the infection to his own body, then walks through the nanites to the sphere and touches it. His actions cause the sphere to deactivate the nanobot locust cloud, saving humanity, but at the apparent expense of Earth’s loss of electrical capability. It seems that Klaatu’s body, but not his spirit, is destroyed in martyrdom to save humanity, and the giant sphere leaves Earth.