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One of the classic 1950s science fiction movies is The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was different from other alien invasion movies of the day because the elegant and dignified alien visitor, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), was not a creepy tentacled blob or some body snatcher. He had a simple and firm message to earthlings: clean up you nuclear proliferation act and violent ways or we, the rest of the galaxy, will do it for you. The movie has been remade by 20th Century Fox and stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu. Reeves talked about the movie to a crowd of thousands at Comic-Con and the clips shown emphasized a new take of the story, “updated” and supposedly more relevant. The Klaatu in this version uses force and violence to get what he wants, an act unthinkable in the original.

The first Klaatu was like an anthropologist and he wanted to go out among the people to learn what humans were like. When he was told that this was not possible, he quietly slips out of his confines and walks into a boarding house where he meets a variety of humans who provide him with the insights he is seeking. The new Klaatu, as portrayed by Keanu Reeves, expresses his discomfort at being in an alien (that is, human) body. Rrather than quiet observation and powerful yet peaceful demonstrations of the force behind his words, the new, improved Klaatu blasts things to make his point.

T-shirts distributed to attendees read, “Klaatu Barada Nikto,” the words Helen Benson has to say to the robot Gort in order to keep him from destroying the earth. None of the people around me knew what it meant and were impressed that I did. In the exhibits area, someone had incorrectly written on a message board, “Klatu Verata Niktow”  and someone else wrote the comment, “Idiot!!!” Maybe some stories are best left alone.

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