An Alien Tree-Hugger Scoffs At Earth's Governments

This past weekend saw the debut of a remake of the classic 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. The original movie was so good that I don’t know why anybody really thought it necessary to make a new version. But much of modern culture has turned into a cheesy imitation of the past. So why should the movie biz be any different?

The story line in both Earth Stood Still movies is pretty straightforward. An alien spaceship comes to Earth and lands in Washington, D.C. in the 1951 movie, and in New York’s Central Park in the current remake. Out pops an alien with a “Take me to your leader” gleam in his eye. But in both movies, some trigger-happy soldier shoots the alien. (Although in the current remake, it could have been accidental — like what happened with New York Giants football player Plaxico Burress.)

After the alien gets shot, a giant robot appears from the spaceship and begins firing death rays at the assembled human greeters. But the wounded alien calls off the robot. Then the alien goes to a hospital, where earthling doctors try to figure out how to patch him up. Turns out that the alien looks a lot like the movie actor Keanu Reeves. 

Later, the authorities come in and ask the alien what he wants. “Why did you come to our planet?” they inquire, with a false sense of innocence dripping from their collective lips.

“Your planet?” replies the alien.  Uh oh.  It’s worse than we thought.  The aliens are mad at us.  And it doesn’t help that we shot the guy.  So it’s time to call Houston and tell them that we have a problem.

Death Ray Gap

Of course, the authorities fear the alien because they know that his death rays are better than our death rays. In true Cold War fashion, we have a “death ray gap” that leads to a chasm of misunderstanding.  That, and the unnerving sense of territoriality that the alien seems to exhibit towards our blue orb.

The bottom line is that the alien is visiting Earth to tell mankind to clean up its act, literally and figuratively. In the 1951 movie, the alien wanted to tell mankind not to kill itself off with nuclear warfare. It was an early sop to the anti-nuke movement. In the new release, it’s an environmentalist sequel to Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. That is, the alien declares, “I’m here to save the planet.” 

No kidding. Justice is coming from outer space.  The aliens are going to save the planet, and save it good and hard. This particular alien and his kind are ready to out-do even the Earth First! crowd.  Tree-spiking?  That’s for sissies.  Burning down a Hummer dealership?  They’ll see that, and raise us by a few orders of magnitude.

“If the earth dies, you die,” says the alien.  “If you die, the earth survives.”  Whoops.  This cannot be good.

On cue, the giant robot — GORT, for genetically organized robotic technology — decomposes into a locust-like blizzard of nanoparticles. These tiny particles take flight like a dark cloud and start devouring all man-made substances (including people) in their path, breaking them down into the constituent elements.

There are some serious special effects involved. How serious?  Let’s just say that the New York Giants will need a new stadium in which to play.  And Donald Trump will have some new development opportunities in lower Manhattan — if there is anyone still around who wants to live there.  Yep, these aliens are going to save the planet by killing off mankind and leaving behind wide swaths of mineral sands. It’s urban renewal on nanotechnology steroids.

Girl Meets Alien

But there’s this good-looking female astrobiologist from Princeton. It’s the ageless and eye-popping pretty Jennifer Connelly who won an academy Award for her 2001 efforts as a Princetonian in A Beautiful Mind.  She also appeared in the 2003 movie version of The Incredible Hulk.  So I guess she’s into both smart and genetically altered guys.

It seems that astrobiology-girl took a bunch of government grant money for her research. Apparently, she never read the fine print. There’s a clause in the government contract that says, “If aliens show up, we draft you into the service of the nation.”

So our Princeton Tiger gets shanghaied off to help the government people deal with the alien. She shares a tender moment with the alien when he is in the hospital. And guess what? The alien guy kind of likes her, which is not hard to do when someone as hot as Ms. Connelly is holding your hand.

So to make a long story short, there’s this series of exciting chase scenes. Cars careen and crash. Helicopters hover and hit in fiery collisions. Kindred souls bond. Eventually, the Princeton lady uses her feminine charms to convince the alien to call off the nanobugs.

You go, girl.  Another Academy Award for Ms. Connelly?  She’s good but I don’t think she needs to overspend her budget for the gown she’ll wear to the Kodak Theater.  Even though, to Ms. Connelly’s great credit, the Earth is saved while mankind has to promise the aliens that we’ll stop wrecking the environment.

Stop wrecking the environment? What does that mean? Will the aliens be satisfied now that Carol Browner is going to make energy and environmental policy at the Obama White House?  Or do the aliens want something more than that?  Is there something more than that?  Really, even science fiction has its limits and Carol Browner may well be the one to take it to the edge of physics.

Well, for our purposes it means that the movie is over. That’s all you get for the $9.50 ticket.

After all the action and flying nanobugs, The Day the Earth Stood Still (v. 2.0) does not get to the part about how 6.5 billion people can continue to exist on this planet without using an industrial level of energy supply and industrial levels of agriculture, minerals, water supply, public health and much more. I guess that’s in the next remake, in another 57 years if we’re lucky.

Until we meet again,
Byron W. King

December 23, 2008