Monday, April 27, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Spoilers below.

My son picked up The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) the other day. When I was younger, I watched the original from 1951. I don't recall thinking much of its message of moral relativism (making no ethical distinctions between the aggressive use of violence versus defensive). I just saw it as an example of a science fiction movie from that era, overshadowed by the uncertainty of the Cold War.

Having seen some reviews, I knew the new movie would have an environmental spin, rather than anti-war. Still, I gave it half a chance. Partly, I wanted to see how it compared to the original, and see if it had any notable special effects. The effects were underwhelming. The CGI of the destruction cloud was the low-quality "crumbly" type, for example.

As a skeptic of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hysteria, I expected the theme to be over-the-top hammer-you-on-the-head pontification. I got exactly what I expected. Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) even used the phrase "tipping point," so common among the most hysterical AGW chicken littles. The only thing missing was a shot of Henry Waxman aboard an orbiting spaceship, directing everything.

The anti-human hostility of films like War of the Worlds and Independence Day isn't driven by a moral cause. Rather, it's simply a matter of conquest by outsiders. If anything, such films often poke fun of the naive pacifists. But the anti-humanity of this film is one of moral judgment, taken to psychopathic extremes. As the CGI locusts go about destroying human civilization, I can't help but wonder at the hatred for progress and industry expressed by the writers and producers of this film. In the end, Klaatu relents and calls off the swarms, but only after destroying the ability of everything electrical to function. But the movie ends there, without showing planes fall from the sky, infants in PICU beds dying, massive starvation, death on the order of billions as crops rot in fields, or any of the other obvious consequences.

The childishness of such a massive destruction of human success and ingenuity, without addressing the real-life consequences, doesn't quite sink to the level of absurdity present in The Day After Tomorrow, in which tens of thousands of years of climate change are compressed into a couple days, for dramatic effect. But that isn't saying much.

No comments: