The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Directed by Robert Wise

‘From out of space … a warning and an ultimatum!’

I can’t speak to how this film came across to people in 1951 (when it was released), but in 2003 The Day the Earth Stood Still is better seen as a cultural document than as a great film.

As a movie, it falls a bit flat because it is more polemic than story. It’s a cautionary tale that uses a pulp science fiction scenario (of the 1950s) as its jumping off point.

An alien comes to Earth to warn us of the impending doom that awaits us if we don’t turn away from our aggressive, paranoiac ways. The rest of the universe sees our behavior as a threat and will destroy us if we don’t change.

Of course, we’re not very open to hearing the message and this where the film’s drama comes from. However, the moral is so heavy handed in the film it never quite works dramatically. It’s a bit tedious – the good guys are too good, the bad (or stupid) guys are too bad and stupid.

Little sympathy is generated for any character because no character has any great depth. They are are generic; tools for the telling of the moral.

Overall … The Day the Earth Stood Still is interesting historically but as a movie it’s a bit lacking.

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