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23.5 DEGREES- The Day the Earth Moved

A Christmas Carol for Today

By Professor W     December 20, 2008

© 20th Century Fox


Keanu Reaves returns in magnificent form to our screens with perfect timing for the Christmas holidays as the destroyer/savior of mankind in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a miraculous update for today of the Christian Messiah story. He plays a Christ-like figure, Klaatu, sent by a “group of civilizations” to destroy mankind, so that the Earth can survive for a less destructive species to occupy it after mankind’s destruction. 
Lovely as ever, Jennifer Connelly, plays a Mary Magdalene figure, called Helen Benson, an astrobiologist, who ultimately persuades Klaatu to give mankind a second chance. In a clear reference to the Magdalene anointing Christ with her oil, she gives to Klaatu the magical potion (in fact, a sample of Klaatu’s own blood), which allows him to heal his wounds (after he has been shot by US troops) and those of the unfortunate police cop, whose legs Klaatu breaks between two cars in order to avoid capture.
All attempts by the wicked US Secretary of State (a clear homage to Madeline Albright--the evil Magdalene?) to destroy Klaatu and his accompanying robot-like figure, Gort, a sort of Old Testament destroyer-god, are thwarted. The Biblical Gort is all-powerful. He is pure destructive force: an iron-clad Yahweh.
As part of Klaatu and Gort’s plans to destroy the earth, they have planted living energy balls throughout famous sites in the world, the largest of which is in Central Park. As we learn, these spheres form an Ark, in which Klaatu/Gort take samples of animal life to use to repopulate the earth after its destruction. The Biblical flood will follow…
To try to persuade Klaatu that man is essentially good, Helen takes Klaatu to meet the wisest man on earth, a Nobel-prize winning professor of “biological altruism”, stunningly played by John Cleese (who, for many of us, is himself a god). Cleese plays the role as an Old Testament prophet. Initially, he and Klaatu communicate through the language of mathematics, while JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations play in the background--surely the greatest proof of the existence of God. Even while playing in a script that many have called a dead parrot, Cleese plays the professor entirely without silly walks and resists the temptation to hit Klaatu--Manuel-style--over the head with a frying-pan. Klaatu does not come from Barcelona!
Until the meeting with the venerable Python, Klaatu saw no reason not to destroy the earth, but Cleese tells Helen/Mary Magdalene that she must change Klaatu’s plans, “not with reason, but with yourself.” 
By spending time with Helen and her meaningfully named step-son, Jacob, Klaatu understands the goodness in humankind. At the very brink, man can change his ways.
As an actor, Keanu Reaves has a phenomenal talent to express no emotion--no matter what happens around him or to him. Only Christian Bale can aspire to such emotionless emotive heights. It is a gift that Reaves has used to great effect in all his movies and is particularly suitable for the role of Klaatu, a role which he was born to play. His delivery, on occasion, makes even Gort, his gigantic robotic iron buddy, seem extravert and giddy.
Replete with symbolism, the movie is clearly a parable for the modern era. Klaatu, like his predecessor, can walk on water in a forest with a plague of bees. He has come to destroy mankind (maybe there is a religious message there too?), but as he comes to know a good woman and a good mother, he decides to save mankind. Mary Magdalene is the true heroine of the film, the true redeemer. Her wisdom can pass through to future generations through her step-son, Jacob.
At the end of the film, what have we learned? That man is destroying the world, not because of technology, but because of his in-built need to destroy. Only the sacred feminine, the earth-mother, can stop this destruction. Jacob corrects his step-mother just before the credits as the sphere is departing from Central Park, when she says “It is leaving”. “No, he is leaving,” Jacob says. The feminine can now prevail.
Don’t be put off by some of the negative comments made about the movie. It would be cruel to characterize the movie as no more than a repackaged load of balls, two robotic male leads, and beautiful female eye-candy.
A more sympathetic reading would be that it is a warning to mankind to save itself. Follow the signs; remember the meaningful watchword of the original film: Klaatu barada nikto (presumably meaning “Klaatu says: don’t destroy them”?). Or as our Latin forebears would have intoned using their language, Canis meus nasum non habet. The sacerdotal answer can only be provided after deep thought and meditation: Quomodo quicquam olfacere potest? There is wisdom here, if we allow our hearts to be open. The “terrible” answer will come.
No-one can fault the CGI in the movie. The chases are good, the destruction of cities as impressive as ever. The plot is straightforward and clear. 
In the end, the bad Magdalene (played or almost impersonated by Kathy Bates) is defeated by the good Magdalene and mankind (not just womankind!) is saved. Klaatu has been sacrificed for the sake of a better humankind, perhaps a womankind?
Klaatu came to destroy us, learned what makes us good and allowed us to survive. We get our second chance to make things right.
Technology can benefit mankind, if only we harness our desire to destroy. Man can change, but he needs the sacred feminine to change--to make him love the planet (and maybe himself?) more.
Of course, like all great secrets, there is much that is unrevealed in the movie. We have many familiar hints, but the true wisdom of the film will probably only enter our sub-conscious with time. The original 1951 movie was a blatant anti-communist yarn. This latest version has far greater depth and insights. Man’s greatest enemy is himself. Let’s hope that this awesome (and in so many ways awful) Christmas epic will spread that message…


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DaForce1 12/20/2008 7:19:22 PM

Seriously, is the only reason this lame-ass excuse for an article still around just to fill space? Because if it is, give me the money you're paying 'Professor Whothis', and I'll give you an interesting weekly article that isn't written just so it can spell out "klatu Barata nicto".

Because this thing has gotten really fucking lame now.

Leavis 12/21/2008 3:09:30 AM
<!--StartFragment--> <p class="MsoNormal">Mr Daforce&rsquo;s comment somehow reminded me of an anecdote the friends of the great American writer, Truman Capote, used to tell.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>One night Capote was sitting in a Key West bar, drinking with friends.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>At a nearby table there was a mildly drunk woman with her very drunk redneck husband.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Recognising Capote, the mildly drunk woman approached the writer and asked him to autograph her right breast, which Capote promptly did.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>This greatly angered the woman&rsquo;s husband, who staggered across to Capote&rsquo;s table, unzipped his trousers, hauled out his wedding tackle and said, &ldquo;Since you&rsquo;re autographing things, why don&rsquo;t you autograph this?&rdquo;<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>The bar fell silent as Capote replied, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if I can <i>autograph</i><span style="font-style: normal"> it, but perhaps I can </span><i>initial</i><span style="font-style: normal"> it.&rdquo;<o:p></o:p></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Times;mso-ansi-language:EN-GB">I have no doubt that Mr Daforce, whose image, I assume, depicts his best friend, would be able to write a truly scintillating piece if his best friend could be distracted from its main activity to join with his left hand to write one.</span><!--EndFragment-->&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p>
DaForce1 12/21/2008 4:42:09 AM

Leavis, someone once wrote 'Brevity is the soul of wit.'

Both of which you are severely lacking.

Rosenbaum 12/21/2008 4:43:05 AM

      One of the reasons I have always enjoyed reading 23.5 Degrees is that it offers a forum for like-minded people to meet.  It's not everyone's cup of tea, but nor is it meant to be.  Just as when you buy a newspaper, many people turn to their favorite section.  Some people are able to follow the news, others turn straight to the funnies or photographs of silicon.  If daforce can't follow what 23.5 Degrees is about, there's no shortage of other great stuff in Mania to stimulate his mind and anything else.

     I'm sure none of us want to be elitist, but if 23.5 Degrees stuff goes over your head, it may not be the place for you.  Perhaps there is a remedial reading forum for daforce which would allow him to find an outlet for his desire to appear in print. A familiarity with basic English grammar might be a good starting place.  His written style, while succinct, is a little too neanderthal for my taste.  However, although it's never been said, the magic number of 23.5 is not the target IQ of its readers.  I'm quite convinced that none of the 23.5 Degree crowd would be too sad, if daforce didn't read something that isn't written for him and didn't feel obliged to share his shrivelled comments on this forum.

     Happy Christmas!


auvischizo 12/21/2008 4:43:30 AM

Nice One, Leavis!  The only thing I initially didn't like about the film was...




Keannu's lack of emotion in the film.  A friend later suggested that because Klaatu was a race of energy beings, with no physical forms of their own, they lacked the concept of emotion and therefore could not experience it.  Ok, I'll go with that, however I would still have rather him be in a state of shock during some of the new feelings trying to manifest.  He didn't even flinch when he got stuck with the damn needle.  If his "body does" feel pain and he is in his "body", then why didn't he feel it and react?  He reacted when he passed out from the chest wound. 

I'm not sold on Keannu's excellent performance in this one, although he did well enough not to ruin what actually was a good movie with a good message.

Leavis 12/21/2008 4:50:04 AM

 Mr Daforce, thank you for this further insight.  I think we all know why you are advocating brevity, which my dictionary defines as "shortness rather than length"!

DaForce1 12/21/2008 4:52:23 AM

Rosenbaum, your derogatory comments aside, this kind of drivel was boring in the 8th grade. If you find this to be intellectually stimulating, I suggest you try attending a college English literature course or two.

Maybe a beginner's course to start you off. We wouldn't want you to get overwhelmed now, would we?

DaForce1 12/21/2008 4:55:12 AM

Dick jokes, Leavis (or should I say 'Professor W'?)?

Really? And here I thought you were going to stun me with your 'superior intellect'.

Leavis 12/21/2008 5:18:58 AM

 Perhaps Mr Daforce is familiar with the terms "pearls before the swine."  While I would love to further engage with you, I have something far better to do.  I'm sad that you don't.  Have you considered friends or maybe even a life?  Thereafter you might even move on to women...

StellaMaris 12/21/2008 6:06:19 AM
<div>Okay, enough is enough.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>As soon as I saw the positive comments posted under Prof W's last two articles, I suspected that a retaliation campaign would be launched - in fact, I even warned W to expect it.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Here's the bottom line. Someone asked on another thread whatever happened to that great site, Phenomena... well, the original plan was to fold it into Mania here on 23.5 Degrees, but as soon as the contributors saw this kindergarden playground bully mentality perpetuated by people who can't even spel propperly, they kept away. To date, this little campaign has driven away one person from Columbia Pictures and two consultants from the National Treasure movie - one of whom very kindly contributed an article on NT2 here FOR FREE exactly a year ago on the Winter Solstice. Nice one, guys.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>So, as long as this idiocy continues, you're stuck with me and Prof W indefinitely. And, as Chip said last time we went through this crap - if you don't like it then just don't read it.&nbsp;</div>
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