Back when it was first announced that Scott Derrickson would direct a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951; my comments), I asked how the message of the original film could possibly translate to the present day, given that we no longer seem to face the threat of two superpowers destroying the planet in a full-on nuclear exchange.
Rumours of an answer to my question reached my ears a while ago, but now, the star of the film, Keanu Reeves, has put it on the record himself, in an interview with MTV News. Simply put, whereas the first film had a sort of pacifist theme, the new film has an environmental theme:
“The first one was borne out of the cold war and nuclear détente. Klaatu came and was saying cease and desist with your violence. If you can’t do it yourselves we’re going to do it. That was the film of that day,” Reeves explained. “The version I was just working on, instead of being man against man, it’s more about man against nature. My Klaatu says that if the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the earth survives. I’m a friend to the earth.”
While humanity still engages in a staggering number of international conflicts, the environmental message is one that, not only encompasses wars, and fights, and terrorism, but one that goes beyond constrictions to become a millennial message of “what we are doing and who we are as a species,” Reeves insisted. “We’re trying to reach beyond the idea of [just] environmentalism.”
As it happens, this film is being produced by 20th Century Fox, and at least two of that studio’s previous blockbusters — The Day after Tomorrow (2004) and The Simpsons Movie (2007) — also dealt with environmental themes. Coincidence, or a sign of something more intentional? The studio is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who made a big deal about going green last year and vowed “to weave climate messaging into the content and programming of News Corp.’s many holdings.”
One other point to ponder: The robot Gort, who comes to Earth with Klaatu, is revealed at the end of the first film to be part of an all-powerful group of machines that are determined to enforce the galactic peace, even if it means reducing our planet to a cinder. Well, obviously they won’t be doing that in the new film. But you do have to wonder: Has the alien race represented by this movie’s Klaatu handed its autonomy over to a race of machines who are determined to protect flora and fauna, even at the expense of sentient humanoid beings like the ones who created them? Is the threat this time that artificial beings will take up arms against natural beings in defense of nature? If so, how bizarre.
UPDATE: One extra thought. In the original film, Klaatu and Gort come to Earth out of a sort of self-interest; they are concerned that humans will bring their warlike ways into space and, thus, become a threat to them. What is their motivation this time? Are they concerned that humans will spread their environmentally destructive ways to other planets, including their own? Or do they just go around policing other planets for the sake of it? I would assume that the state of affairs on our planet’s surface has no direct bearing on the environments of other worlds, and thus poses no threat to them, but this is sci-fi, so who knows.