So, in light of the just announced 2008 version (wiki) of The Day the Earth Stood Still , I thought I'd talk a bit about the clip I showed to the class the other day.
Here, Klaatu lays it out for Humans: do what you like here, but the second you move beyond your borders, you are subject to our laws. We won't tolerate any of your violent nonsense.
Remember that in 1951, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization had just been established. Remember that, in essence, NATO's message was the same: we, who have all the best technology the world has to offer, are determined to make peace with it one way or the other. If you come into the world with intent to harm any of our friends, we destroy you.
The way I've been talking to them about science fiction is a set of tools for a writer to act as social critic. The metaphors helps the reader come at a particular "problem" with fresh eyes.
We talked about this as a major theme in SF of the 1950's and early 60's: putting Earth in its place. Reminding Earthlings that we must function as part of a larger community...in this case (and the case of Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel ), by choice or by force.
So what does this same theme mean to us today? Why a 2008 film of the classic--itself an update of the story "Farewell to the Master" -- which really holds up well over time, needed? I think because we now face that same situation: to continue in our aggressive anti-community stance, or to work toward community in order to deal with the bigger issues at hand. Our threats aren't a giant robot that will destroy us if we don't shape up, but that metaphor for them works quite well, I think. I think maybe now is the best time for the new film--though, maybe before the election would be an even better time.
Plus, As with Neo, Klaatu's level of disconnection matches Keanu's level of distancing. I'm actually sort of excited about the film.