In This Sci-Fi Classic, the Alien Was Jesus All Along


The big picture

  • The day the earth stood still
    has biblical allusions, portraying the alien Klaatu as an allusion to Jesus Christ.
  • The film features a resurrection story that mirrors that of Jesus Christ, resulting in a powerful message about peace and understanding.
  • The MPAA objected to religious references in the film, prompting changes to the dialogue to avoid offense.

While it's impressive when science fiction films can anticipate future events, the genre's most defining works are not only relevant for their predictive abilities. The science fiction genre allows inventive storytellers to hold a mirror to current social issues by developing a unique mythology. Released during a decade when the genre was much more popular, The day the earth stood still It has subsequently been hailed as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Allusions to real-world anxieties are certainly present The day the earth stood stillbut its themes go beyond the parallelism of the conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union. The day the earth stood still it addresses existential themes about saviors and contains direct allusions to Christian mythology.

The day the earth stood still

In the 2008 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien named Klaatu, played by Keanu Reeves, arrives on Earth with a giant robot, Gort, to warn humanity about his destructive behavior. Klaatu's mission is to assess whether humans can change and live in peace or whether they must be eradicated to save the planet. Dr. Helen Benson, a scientist, played by Jennifer Connelly, helps Klaatu understand the potential of human redemption. The film explores themes of environmentalism and humanity's ability to change under the threat of annihilation.

Publication date
December 10, 2008

Scott Derrickson

Execution time

Main genre

David Scarpa, Edmund H. North

“The day the Earth stood still” has biblical allusions

Loosely based on the 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates, The day the earth stood still explores humanity's reaction to a powerful alien being. After a flying saucer lands in Washington, DC, the alien creature Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges next to a massive robot known as “Gort” (Block Martin). The US military rushes to surround the alien ship, firing at Klaatu as he tries to deliver a small device to the President of the United States. Klaatu is confused by the extreme reaction, as he states that his intention is to spread goodwill and peace on planet Earth. The device that the military had assumed was a weapon was in fact a piece of advanced technology that would have allowed Earth to study life on other planets; unfortunately, humanity seems to misinterpret anything it doesn't understand as a potential threat.

Based on its avowed goal of spreading peace and prosperity, Klaatu represents the role that Jesus Christ plays in the Bible stories. Similar to Christ, Klaatu has extraordinary abilities that defy scientific knowledge. Like Christ, this enigmatic creature can heal harmful injuries, understand the complexities of nature, and see the future. The film draws a parallel with biblical myths by showing how easily messianic figures can be assumed to be threats by those who fear their power. Despite his imposing height, Klaatu never makes any threatening statements and only seeks to understand why humanity has formed such a divisive militarized society. The film suggests that Klaatu's kindness is a strength, and not a vulnerability; In the case of both Klaatu and Christ, the proposal to change the established order leads to a period of chaos where the powerful are unwilling to relinquish control. The ethereal light that the filmmaker Robert Wise it makes Klaatu even have a slightly spiritual undertone.



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During his time on earth, Klaatu befriends a group of human scientists and citizens who can be compared to the apostles of the Bible. The young widow Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and their young son Bobby (Billy Gray) discovers Klaatu, offering him shelter while the army searches for him. The notion of an all-powerful being living among mortals is present in many traditional Christian films which emphasize how Christ could be both mortal and deity. It suggests that by appearing as a docile creature, Klaatu has become empathetic to the plight of humans; notably, his allies are those who come from humble origins. This metaphor is evident when a background character exclaims “Merry Christmas!” upon seeing Klaatu for the first time; suggests that the characters in the story can only understand Klaatu's experience through a religious background.

Klaatu is an allusion to Jesus Christ in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

In addition to reflecting the themes of fellowship and compassion that are essential in the biblical texts, The day the earth stood still implies a resurrection story that reflects Christ. Fearful of Klaatu's powers, the US military follows the alien to the home of his ally, Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), and shoots him. Although Klaatu appears to be dead, his body is transferred back to his saucer by Gort, who manages to bring him back to life. Paralleling the biblical stories, Klaatu's resurrection leads him to decide to leave humanity behind, knowing that they will only be able to appreciate his message if he is gone. After telling the scientists about a secret army of powerful robots, Klaatu decides to leave Earth on his plate with Gort.

When writing The day the earth stood stillscreenwriter Edmund Northdeveloped a unique alien language for Gort and Klaatu to distinguish them from any previous science fiction characters. Although details about the aliens' homeworld remain rather ambiguous, The day the earth stood still includes some direct references to elements of biblical scripture. When disguising himself as a human, Klatuu uses the pseudonym “John Carpenter”, which includes the initials “JC” or “Jesus Christ”. Additionally, the surname “Carpenter” serves as an allusion to Christ's carpentry profession, which is cemented when Klaatu uses the disguise of an elder when he escapes from the hospital. Even ignoring the specific references to carpentry, the notion of an all-powerful being who must live among the human race is a fairly overt allusion in the Bible.

A relevant theme within all adaptations of the biblical story of Christ is the notion of a self-imposed exile. The day the earth stood still it mirrors the end of the New Testament showing Klaatu's departure from humanity. After a planet-wide power outage causes the military to pursue Klaatu, he is forced to leave with his saucer, realizing that humanity is not yet ready to take his lessons to heart. It is a tragic ending in which Klaatu sadly reflects that he will not be able to enjoy the qualities of humanity, paralleling the last temptation of Christ. If the comparisons weren't strong enough, Klaatu even spends part of his earthly visit in the desert, evoking more Christian imagery.

MPAA Objected to Religious References in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'

Edmund referred to the connection as “a little private joke” in a retrospective of the non-fiction novel Hostile Aliens, Hollywood and Today's News: 1950s Sci-Fi Movies and 9/11, stating that she never officially discussed her intentions with director Robert Wise. Despite this, The day the earth stood still he faced censorship concerns about his religious references. According to the Making of “The Earth Stood Still” documentary, the Motion Pictures Association of America objected to the idea that Klaatu had power over life and death, which was considered potentially offensive to religious audiences. In order to establish that there was a distinction between the alien and Christ, North was forced to include Klaatu's line, “that power is reserved to the Almighty Spirit,” when Helen questions him about his resurrection . This suggests that Klaatu's rebirth was temporary and that he is not in fact immortal.

However small the reference may have been, The day the earth stood still he saved himself from the possible controversy of provoking religious extremists. Many films that deal directly with Christian mythology have been the subject of severe backlash, how Martin Scorsese he even needed FBI protection due to disputes over his biblical epic The last temptation of Christ. It's unclear whether alluding to Klaatu with the power of resurrection would have invoked similar reactions, but any reference to a fictional creature that inherently possesses supernatural abilities may raise some eyebrows. While The day the earth stood still can be analyzed for its thematic subtext, the parallels are never overt enough to be considered heresy.

The themes of empathy and integrity can be related to Bible studies, however The day the earth stood still had a great influence on the development of more philosophical science fiction stories. It wasn't the first sci-fi movie about extraterrestrial creatures, but the notion of a friendly alien who doesn't intend to threaten humanity broke the mold created by more horrifyingly themed space movies like war of the worlds i It came from outer space which were popular at the same time. Despite the harsh conclusion, The day the earth stood still has a hopeful message about life beyond the solar system; his only concern is whether humanity is ready to work to build a better future.

The day the earth stood still is available to rent on Prime Video in the US

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