Sunday, December 28, 2008

Apparently, Klaatu Ne Barada Pas Nikto

I know that they claim it's in there. And yes, I heard a loud but indistinct moan that sounded something like it, just when Keanu calls off GORT's swarm of killer cicadas. But by director Scott Derrickson's admission in the above-linked article, it's just there for the fans, and is no longer a plot point. I'm talking about the phrase, "Klaatu barada nikto," from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Ok, spoiler alert on both the original and the remake from here on out. "Klaatu barada nikto" is the fail-safe code phrase which our alien hero, Klaatu, directs our earthly heroine to utter to his interplanetery bodyguard/destroyer-of-worlds, Gort (as opposed to the upgraded GORT). By receiving this message from the tragically-fallen Klaatu, Gort cancels his Earth-melting agenda and the human race lives another day, given another chance by Klaatu to better themselves for the sake of life, the universe, and everything.

The beauty is, we are never told what it means. Obviously, it's some sort of "abort" order, but the subtleties are wrapped in mystery, and the simple three words, one of which we understand, leaves us deliciously guessing at what we don't know. Great stuff. This is geek poetry.

So I say it's a waste to make so little of this classic line. The utterance in the remake is hardly audible, let alone relevant, as it is presented. Heck, if Army of Darkness can make a plot point out of the line in loving homage, then why can't the remake? Without it, Stood Still is just another "alien warning" story. "Klaatu barada nikto" is the abracadabra that makes this particular cautionary tale so memorable. Whatever "barada nikto" means, we know that we have to be worthy of its being said, otherwise we're not fit to inhabit this planet. It is mumbo jumbo of the most profound significance. I mourn the wasted opportunity, on what is a decent movie otherwise (no small feat, given the high expectations associated with remaking such a classic).

I think my friend E summed up the flick best: there's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it's not memorable. Perhaps if they had, I dunno, come up with a mysterious catch phrase. Yeah. The movie is handled with some subtlety, and there's some neat stuff in it, for sure. I think, however, that the fable's metaphor is a little muddled. Made in the thick of the Cold War, the original film is plainly an anti-war film. Earth can't stop its violent ways, and so peaceful aliens decide to nip us humans in the bud before we can threaten the solar system. The remake is plainly a green film. Humans are laying waste to Earth, one of the only planets capable of sustaining complex life, and so the tree-hugging aliens decide to kill us to save the planet. But that logically leads to the notion that these aliens have some designs on the planet for the future. They wouldn't need to save the planet if they had no intention of living there, or at least using its resources, would they? Do they really want to become exterminators just for the sake of saving an ecosystem? I don't buy the logic. Something is missing. Klaatu supposedly represents benign entities, but in this version, his plans for Earth hint at something unspoken, and perhaps sinister. He seems to lay claim to the planet on behalf of others. That sounds like white Europeans sticking a flag in the New World and driving natives into oblivion.

And yes, I know that Klaatu must learn the beauty of the human race, but does it have to be while solving complex equations, listening to Bach, and discussing sociological philosophy with a posh English-accented John Cleese? Isn't that a bit obvious? Couldn't Klaatu find the Ramones just as beautiful? Or ride the Cyclone at Coney Island and say, "Neat?" It's as though he's ready to kill us all, but once he sips tea, tours the Louvre, and takes a class on poetry at Oxford, he thinks twice. Talk about white people.

I digress. I miss "Klaatu barada nikto." At least GORT was gigantic and had a sweet laser visor-eye.

Friday, December 12, 2008

R.I.P. Bettie

Bettie Page
April 22, 1923 – December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dr. Potomac & Mr. Strange Case

With deep love for its namesake and some remorse, this blogger is dropping the handle of Potomac. I had based that name on my time as a clerk at the greatest video store on the eastern seaboard. But as the number of my online accounts grows, I'm trying to consolidate the number of things I have to memorize, and I find that "Potomac" is taken by a lot of people. And I'm nothing if not a cyber-screenname iconoclast, right gang? Right? Anyway, Strange Case is the name of my recently formed production company, part of the working title of my upcoming film, and is utterly perplexing when read out of context. Perfect recipe. So yeah, I'm Strange Case. Nice to meet you.