The Day the Earth Stood Still **
Directed by Scot Derrickson
Written by David Scarpa, based on the 1951 screenplay by Edmund H. North
Keanu Reeves as Klaatu
Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson
Kathy Bates as Regina Jackson
Jaden Smith as Jacob Benson
John Cleese as Professor Barnhardt
John Hamm as Michael Granier
Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence.
It wouldn't be a complete year without a stale and absolutely unnecessary remake of a 1950's era science fiction film. Last year there was the lame, yet tolerable, remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and now, in a similar fashion, we are give a remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Unlike its original counterpart, the film is not needed for the present time and becomes a heavy handed and obvious lecture on the state of the environment. But, much like last year's "Invasion," its tolerable while playing, but completely unforgettable the second the credits begin to role.
One initial problem with the movie, and the cause of the grimace I made when I read about how they were remaking this, is Keanu Reeves. The most stale and wooden actor of our time starts off as an explorer in the Arctic, who becomes engulfed in a giant orb after discovering an unidentified object in the snow. In the present time, we are introduced to Helen Benson, a scientist who is called by the FBI to a mysterious location in the middle of the night. A group of other scientists have been assembled to deal with an oncoming object that is about to crash into Manhattan, but instead of destroying the city it ends up landing in a park, and out comes an alien figure, and a massive giant with what looks like glasses on his face. The alien is brought to the government, where the skin around him dissolves and he becomes. . . Keanu Reeves, an alien who took on the form of the man they abducted years before. Proclaiming himself as Klaatu, and saying how he is here to protect the Earth, he escapes the cell. Bumping into Helen on his travels, she discovers his real reason for being on Earth. . . to save the planet Earth from the humans themselves, and she tries to convince him to abort his plan.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" takes the original story and applies such an obvious message to it that its becomes almost unbearable to watch. With the constant comments on how we should treat the environment-between Al Gore's speeches, and even kid films like "The Last Mimzy" or even most apocalyptic stories-it becomes irritating for that to be the ultimate climax to the story. And hearing it come from the wooden delivery of Keanu Reeves just made matters worse. In addition to this politically correct message, there is also the question of Helen and her stepson, which opens up the white/black racial divide as it is her stepson, both of them mourning the loss of the husband/father figure. The struggle between them-and how the young boy cannot trust his step mother-feels forced and unneeded, and the racial difference between them seems like a quest to reach more audiences and not something that came out of the characters. For example, the racial differences in "Rachel Getting Married" are not needed to be mentioned in a review, because the love that the two families have for one another actually seemed genuine. Here, it's forced and obvious.
Aside from its obvious strive for politically correctness, the whole film is simply unneeded for the present time. Why should there be a remake of a film that was fine to begin with? If the update managed to do something different with the story, and explore the themes instead of being a stale retread, than its fine. But complete with its sub-par script, coasted through acting, and special effects that probably cost more than it would appear, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is completely dead on arrival. The two saving graces-a performance from Jennifer Connelly which is centered and not filled with her wonderment about why she is in the movie, and a brief (almost a cameo) appearance from John Cleese which delivers the films message in such a way that it actually seemed plausible and interesting. But I would expect nothing less from such a master actor.
At the end of the day, there are worse films that you could see other than "The Day the Earth Stood Still," but there are also much much better ones, and in a month where there are ranging from very good to great films (several a week in some cases) there is not a single reason that I can think of for one to see it. It's tolerable during, but when its over it will escape your mind. And in six months you will forget that you even saw it to begin with. And this time next year, it will disappear completely. And it makes me yearn for the 50's version.