Friday, May 5, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #31: "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)

Movie Stats:
Released 1951 (USA)
American, in English (several brief, non-translated languages that are unimportant to the film)
Director - Robert Wise
Stars - Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Billy Gray

Plot Summary:
Klaatu (Rennie), a human-like alien from another planet, arrives on Earth with a message for its people. Neal co-stars as Helen Benson, one of Klaatu's roommates in the boarding house where he lives incognito, and Gray as her son, Bobby.

Very minor violence.

Bad Stuff:
It’s pretty slow and boring. Once I realized that it’s the same director as The Andromeda Strain, the pacing made so much more sense.

I’m a little confused by the message. [SPOILER] The whole movie, Klaatu’s all Mr. Smuggy McSmugface saying, “We’ve moved beyond violence” and then at the end he’s like, “Oh, BTW, we created a bunch of robots that will destroy us if we get violent.” I’m not so sure you get to be super smug about your non-violent nature when the only reason you’re non-violent is because you’ll be destroyed if you’re not. [SPOILER]

The writing is weak. People’s reactions are both exaggerated and oversimplified. I felt like half the movie’s problems could have been solved if Klaatu wasn’t so cagey about his purpose for visiting.

Good Stuff:
The special effects have held up pretty well.

The acting was good. I even liked Billy Gray. Normally I dislike child actors, especially ones from the 1950s who did a lot of gaping, but he was quite enjoyable.

While the effort may have been ham-handed, I did enjoy that it was an allegory for America’s over-the-top reaction to Communism.

The Verdict:
Meh. I did see this once before, in a theater no less. I couldn’t remember much of anything about it other than that I found the ending anti-climactic. I still feel that way. What’s more, I thought it tried too hard to be dramatic when all it’s really about is [SPOILER] a guy who swings by the planet to say, “Hey, stop being assholes or we’ll blow you up” [SPOILER] P.S. I know they were different times, but even in the 1950s would a woman leave a person she hardly knew in charge of her son for a whole entire day so she could go on a date? That bugged me for half the film. Anyway, although I see lots wrong with it, ultimately I think it’s harmless. You might enjoy it more than me. I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from giving it a shot.

I give it 2.75 stars.


Patricia said...

"...especially ones from the 1950s who did a lot of gaping..."

Heh. Ain't that the truth. I think of the kid on the Dick Van Dyke show who was a terrible actor.

Patricia Neal was married to Roald Dahl, the children's book author. I believe they had children together? Maybe even four?

All of my off-topic comments are pointing toward the fact that I will never watch this movie.

balyien said...

Eh, I don't think your life will lack completion without seeing this. Wiki tells me Patricia Neal had 5 children with Roald Dahl, but one died at the age of 7. :(

There was definitely a very specific idea as to how children should "act" in the 1950s and it's a style of acting that I find especially irritating, but every now and then you find a young actor who bucked the trend. A particular favorite of mine is Johnny Crawford, who played The Rifleman's son on The Rifleman. That kid was so good at playing terrified (during the many, many times he was terrorized on the show) that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.