Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gort: A Phenomenology

Why do some childhood events stay with you? Like "Gort" has stayed with me. I'm 59 years old and met Gort 50 years ago. He's resurfaced, awakened by the soon-to-open remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Could the original be my favorite all-time science fiction movie? Probably yes.

The story as I remember it brings the alien Klaatu (beautifully rendered by Michael Rennie) to earth, in love and in power. We fearful, threatened earthlings misunderstand and kill Klaatu. Klaatu's powerful robot, Gort, gets angry. Love has been rejected. Power gets exerted. Earthlings are about to get hurt.

The power of Gort is power restrained by the love and wisdom and curiosity of Klaatu. If Klaatu is the Gospels, Gort is the Apocalypse. If Klaatu is the Son, Gort is the Four Horsemen. Or, Gort is God. Instead of applying a final solution after Klaatu dies, Gort raises Klaatu from the dead.

In "Day" you had to wait to see Gort. This made the film better. "Day" takes the road less traveled, which is: delay gratification. Then, unlike "Waiting for Godot," Gort shows up. When he does, the earth and every kid watching the movie stood still. It was a holy moment pierced by arguably the most famous words any extraterrestrial ever said - "Gort, Klaatu barada nikto." Klaatu barada nikto. I wonder how many others never forgot those words? "Say them to Gort," Klaatu tells the earthling Helen, "should I die." "Gort - stop - don't kill anybody!"

As a kid I felt less interested in love and wanted to see power break forth. It's not fair to crucify pure innocence. When this happens there's the desire for revenge. But my inability to let love rule and win places me among the fearful, non-trusting earthlings who cry out "crucify him!" I wanted Gort to wipe us all out because we deserve it. Instead, because "Klaatu barada nikto," apocalpyse got delayed, and there's a resurrection instead. It's a great story, isn't it? A story that has stayed with me through the years.

Next Friday the remake opens, and I'm hoping it gets the story right.