“The Day the Earth Stood Still” Review

by The Rev. Mark Buetow

Warning: This review contains movie plot spoilers!

movie posterThen God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)

“If the earth dies, humans die. If humans die, the earth will live.” --Klaatu, from “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

It's pretty irritating to go to a movie that you think is going to be a good sci-fi flick with lots of action, only to be hounded with a message of morality, especially one about something as ridiculous as global warming and the environment. I'll admit, I had a hint of that before I saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still (TDTESS)” but I went anyway because we live in a small town and movies are pretty inexpensive here.

If you ever saw the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” you know that the human race was going to be destroyed unless they stopped developing atomic weapons. Since the original was released in 1951, you can definitely see the “Cold War” concerns of people at the time. Well, it's 2008 so now “TDTESS” does the same thing, except instead of nuclear weapons the big concern is the environment.

Now, here is one way to review this movie. Aliens come to earth to punish us for destroying the earth. In the end, however, mankind promises to change and do better and the alien, Klaatu, is persuaded to call off the destruction of the earth. Of course, the consequence is a big change to our technological way of life. The problem with this way of thinking is that the creation becomes our god and instead of answering to our Creator, we must answer to some outside alien for what we've done. In this way of looking at it, “TDTESS” is really a bad movie theologically, because it confuses the Creator with the creation and makes “global warming” something more dire than it is at all.

That's one way to look at the movie. But there's a better way. How about this? An alien takes a human form, comes to earth to warn us and then judge us and in the end sacrifices himself to save us! Sounds a little bit like the Gospel, doesn't it? Of course, Jesus is God in the flesh, not an alien. And our real problem is not “the environment” but sin. Still, it just goes to show that even in a movie that is probably thought of as completely “secular” can't get away from a storyline that mimics the Gospel story of the Son of God coming in the flesh to save us from the very judgment He Himself brings!

So I left “TDTESS” a little bit annoyed that a sci-fi movie had to be “ruined” by a moralistic message about how we hurt our planet. But as I thought about it, I had to smile that even a movie like that can't get away from teaching or picturing the Greatest Story—our salvation—even if it's just in some similar ideas. Humanity's ability to change and do better seems to overcome our destruction in the movie. But in the end, even a silly plot line like that is overcome and overshadowed by the Gospel of our salvation in Jesus. And the giant robot in the movie does some cool stuff, too!

The Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, IL. He is also the Internet Services Executive, which means he gets to tell Stan what to do!

Created: December 16th, 2008