Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still
Plot: Alien visitor Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) has been sent to determine whether or not humanity poses a threat to the continued existence of planet Earth.
Review: I made a big mistake last week. I re-watched the original 1951 version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. This was a huge error on my part, as that film is so damn good, that theres no way any remake could ever possibly hold a candle to it.
Sure enough, this new re-imagining does not do the original film justice. I think it certainly would have been possible to do a decent remake, as the theme of the original film is still very relevant. Yet, for some reason, the filmmakers behind this film pointlessly decided to change the reason Klaatus civilization wanted to annihilate mankind. In the original film, it was due to their experimenting with nuclear rockets, which they feared would threaten life outside earth, while in this updating; we get a more P.C, touchy feely, Hollywood motivation. Now, the aliens want to destroy us because of global warming.
Now dont get me wrong, global warming is a major problem, but I think the anti-war message of the original has much more resonance. I found it easier to buy the fact that another civilization would want to destroy us due to the fact that we are a viable threat to them, rather than just due to the fact that we dont take care of our planet.
Another big change is that Klaatu is no longer a humanoid alien, but rather assumes human form. This is a bit disappointing, as the fact that Klaatu was essentially not all that different physically from us really drove home the fact that if we put aside our petty squabbles, we could be as content, healthy, and wise as he is.
Klaatus also a lot more ambiguous in this film, as the character, as played by Michael Rennie in the Robert Wise film, was an almost Christ-like character, right down to the resurrection near the end. I cant really complain about Keanu Reeves being stiff and awkward in this, as hes supposed to be that way, so I guess you could say he really pulls off the role. Ive always been so-so on Reeves. At his best, he can carry a film like a champ (the first MATRIX, SPEED, POINT BREAK, both BILL & TEDs), but he can also come off extremely wooden in certain films (BRAM STOKERS DRACULA being the most obvious example). Hes pretty good in this, but given the lack of emotion required for the role, I imagine he didnt have to push himself too hard.
The ever radiant Jennifer Connelly, as the one human who gives Klaatu hope in mankind, is fine, but I was not happy about the fact that Klaatu learns humanity from scientists and intellectuals. The nice thing about the original was that Klaatus faith in humanity was due to the kindly, regular folks he meets while living among us. Here Klaatu only ever deals with two kinds of people: kindly scientists, and two-dimensionally villainous politicians.
The one exception to that rule is Jaden Smiths character, whos supposed to be Connellys step son. Jaden did a great job a couple of years ago in THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (opposite his father), but here he has a very poorly written role. Its a testament to his natural skill as an actor that the character is a lot less annoying than he could have been if a more annoyingly precocious child had been cast (although I still think hes a bit young to tackle THE KARATE KID).
Of all the actors in the film, probably the two most memorable performances were by John Cleese, and James Hong. Cleese has one scene, where he plays a Nobel Prize winning scientist that tries to reason with Klattu, and hes good enough that I wish he had a more substantial role. Its worth noting that Cleese plays the role straight, and doesnt crack any jokes or take a pratfall. Veteran character actor Hong (Lo Pan!!!) also has a tiny role as an elderly man with a special connection to Klaatus alien race, and he really makes an impression.
I should also mention that Don Draper, errrrrr, Jon Hamm, turns up as one of Connellys associates, but its a really thin role, where his only purpose is to deliver exposition, and then disappear, only to pop up for the rather clumsy ending.
Its worth noting that I saw this film on IMAX, but really, I have no idea why Fox decided to release it in this format, as it really does not make a huge difference. The special effects are decent, but they dont demand an IMAX screen to do them justice. Still, if you live near an IMAX, you might as well see it that way, as it still looks great, although it seems like a bit of a waste.
Overall, I did not enjoy this pointless updating of a film that holds up perfectly well nearly sixty years after the fact. If they insisted on remaking the film, they could have at least made it interesting enough to justify the new version, but this cookie cutter wannabe blockbuster does not do the job.
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