Monday, February 20, 2012

Extraterrestrial Contact: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Let’s face it…Klaatu blew it. In the 1951 film and the 2008 remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” the fictional alien engages Earthlings with a really poor plan for introduction. He is taken into custody by the U.S. military nearly immediately and never does accomplish his goal of addressing the United Nations. I suppose that’s what happens when you assume a human form: you make bad decisions.

I can’t help it- I get sucked in by this movie every time it’s on television. Sure, the 1951 film is a billion times better. However, the 2008 remake has some interesting plot lines. My favorite is Klaatu as victim. Why on Earth (sorry for the pun) he/ it would decide to approach humanity in this fashion is beyond me. He seems upset at having to deal with the U.S. Military and yet he falls right into their hands. I know, it’s just a science fiction movie and Hollywood has never been known for intelligent remakes. The movie does still make a powerful statement about the arrogance of the human race, something that the original conveyed with much more grace. We think we have exclusive rights to this planet and most likely we will make the same assumption for the solar system and then extend our privilege out into the galaxy. I can understand why the aliens might harbor some resentment. Still, landing your ship in a public place and immediately provoking a hostile human response is a dumb-ass way to go about influencing human decision-making. If you want to make a difference simply come out and say what you mean. If there’s truly no hope for humanity, don’t even bother trying to save us. If there is hope than for gosh sakes try a more effective public relations campaign. When it comes to extraterrestrial First Contact it’s all about human public relations. Aliens contacting humans would have a defined objective. To carry out that objective they would want to carefully consider how they introduced themselves and how they presented themselves. Some would argue that that is a human perspective and it certainly is a human perspective. What other perspective would you take if your goal is to accomplish something involving humanity? They have to take us into account and consider the complexity of our civilization before making First Contact. Unlike Klaatu, one would expect that real aliens might actually be intelligent (sorry, Keanu Reeves). That means they would likely carefully study human civilization before coming to say hello. Any civilization with the technology to travel to Earth would have some system of research. Why wouldn’t you have alien social scientists studying human behavior, international politics and communication techniques? It would provide the basis for a well-developed public relations campaign.

If your goal is to accomplish something in regards to human civilization it would be best to do your homework. Klaatu would have to be graded an F on that assignment.


John Carl Penn said...

I could not suffer to watch the 2008 remake till the end. Unlike the beginning which is quite good and in my opinion does really capture the atmosphere that such an event would provoke, from the initial contact the movie gets worse and worse.

The sudden mobilization, the military cordoning of the landing site, a soldier losing his nerves and opening fire - that was all very believable. However, that "the government" continually acts hostile against Klaatu, who hasn't really done any harm, not only stretches, but actually breaks, my suspension of disbelieve.

It doesn't take a political strategist, to see that making an enemy out of a being which has clearly proven to possess vastly superior technology and weapons is the dumbest possible move. Of course, people can be dumb, but no one with such a lack of social wit could ever achieve a position where he had that kind of decision making power, because he would have been outmaneuvered long before by more socially save actors in the competitive field of democratic politics. And even if the Secretary of Defense in the movie is the rare successful idiot, where are all the advisors and other important figures to reign her in.

I know, they wanted to make a point, but for me it just didn't work.

Eric said...

John: I agree...the way the government reacts doesn't make much sense. And it is too bad, the set up of movie is pretty decent.