Gort vs Gort: We finally review the original The Day The Earth Stood Still

Stardate: 25062012.2

It is always with a certain trepidation that I hear the thudding, metallic footsteps of Gort approaching the command centre while I am trying to get some work done. Calibrating the Mothership's targeting sensors to automatically fire on Billy Crystal's forehead every time it appears is not an easy job.

Gort vs Gort

As such, it was with a sigh that I heard Gort enter the command deck this week. He seemed to be marching with rather more of a racket than usual on that day, but I refused to be drawn in, diligently focusing on my work. Nonetheless, Gort continued to stamp his feet, trying to get my attention. It was only when he began firing disintegrator beams at random around the deck that I acquiesced and asked him what was wrong.

It seems Gort was rather distraught that he was less well known in certain areas of Earth than two refugees from a backwards planet, who had somehow gained asylum on Earth and not been subject to ethnic cleansing like the rest of their species. He maintained that something drastic must be done to ensure that his power was feared throughout the planet. After I rejected his idea of disintegrating the last surviving members of the Jedward race, we settled on another solution...

The Teletubbies have come a long way since their initial conception

Classic robots and flying saucers movie The Day The Earth Stood Still is deceptive in its simplicity. The alien Michael Rennie, along with his robot bodyguard, Gort journey to Earth to give us a warning: 'you're going to develop space travel soon and we don't want you thugs starting bar fights in our cantinas, so sort yourselves out or wave goodbye to all your Starbucks'. Predictably, humanity does not take kindly to this and the peaceful alien ends up shot and on the run. Can a friendly secretary and her little boy teach Rennie the worth of the human race before he decides to turn the Earth into a space cinder?

Despite criticism, the Millennium Dome still drew crowds

That really is the entire plot. No gun fights, no car chases, no race to save the Earth, just a solemn consideration of mankind's worth in a galactic forum; and it's riveting. Every time the pace starts to slacken, an iconic scene pops up to draw you back in.

Bobby was concerned as to the position of Klaatu's hand

What's most impressive about the movie is its progressiveness, despite the odd 50s wobble. Yes, this alien appears to be a Christian and you'd have to be a pretty bad mother to leave your young son alone all day with a man you met two days before while you head out with your boyfriend for a spot of tiffin, particularly when there's a dangerous alien on the loose. Despite this, the very fact that Patricia Neal is a single mother is something of a revelation in a 50s movie; not to mention, she's not completely helpless or spineless. She may scream like a little girl when confronted by Gort, but she eventually stares him down and saves the day, not to mention giving her egocentric boyfriend a telling off.

"Back, crack and sack, sir?"

Even more impressive is that, at the height of the Cold War, this is a movie preaching pacifism and co-operation. Even when us primitive Earthmen confront Rennie, we only act up due to misunderstanding or panic; there are no villains in this story. Still, despite the optimism, the film's ending is surprisingly dark and open-ended. There's no flu germs saving the day here!

Designs for a vastly-inferior new version of Gort

Further awe comes from the effects, which are sterling, despite the film's age. Gort may clearly be a man in a rubber suit, but the design is so iconic that a huge portion of the remake's budget went into failing to find a way to improve on it. The flying saucer may be old school, but the landing scene is shockingly convincing, even today, and the interior still looks high-tech.

The national frisbee championships were getting out of hand

Even more surprising is the quality of both the acting and the direction. This is a 50s B-movie, they're not supposed to be talented! Rennie makes you believe he's other-worldly and he manages to be both menacing and disarmingly charming, often at the same time. Look out for the elegant shot of his face slowly emerging from shadow that Robert Wise's direction somehow turns into an edge-of-the-seat moment.

Gort 2008

With all of this source material, all the remake needed was to follow the plot, point for point, and update a couple of the more-antiquated concepts. As it was, the new Gort looked beautiful, Reeves' lack of personality actually supported his portrayal and the environmental angle was interesting. Unfortunately, the script staggered in such random directions and replaced character and plot with pointless action to such an extent that the movie was simply horrible to watch.

If you've not seen the remake, spare yourself and watch this instead; if you have, you must see this to redeem the film's good name. You can get the DVD for a fiver now, so you have no excuse, baringa!

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