The Day the Earth Stood Still
20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 12, 2008
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates
By Sean Chavel
In any aliens-out-to-conquer-Earth flick, you know obviously that the invaders want to annihilate the human race in order to pillage the planet's resources. Occasionally you get a message-filled extermination extravaganza and the aliens can speak earth language only to tell us how we don't deserve the planet. "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a remake of a decent but overrated 1951 film, has a similar alien message-spokesman with an accompanying giant impenetrable robot. This time the aliens seem to be heavily concerned environmentalists (perhaps they've viewed “An Inconvenient Truth”), and while they may have not heard the term Green Energy, they feel that earthlings are incapable of making the correct changes to save the planet from environmental ruin.
The alien Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) is put under a number of probing tests by scientists, eventually getting fed up and demanding that he be taken to their leader. Defense Secretary Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates, doing her ballbuster bit) is convinced that Klaatu and his associates, hiding inside their glowing sphere spaceship that changes composition like the sphere of “Solaris,” are out to do harm and nothing but. Klaatu, with the assistance of sensitive bio-scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), escape military facilities and go on the run.
This remake has some cool special effects shots and particular scenes are beautifully flooded with blinding white lighting reminiscent of Spielberg extraterrestrial flicks, but the movie goes "blah" with a bunch of let's run from one spot to the next scenarios that don't build upon anything dramatically cathartic. Special effects shots aside, this is stillborn drama with Connelly making whimpering pleads to Reeves about how people can change. It doesn't help that Connelly has an annoying kid (Jaden Smith) who staunchly distrusts the aliens and at one point rings the authorities to Klaatu's location. Predictably Klaatu has to convince the kid that his alien race isn't all that bad. I mean, they only want to preserve the planet even if it requires human genocide.
The production uses a lot of sterile building settings in the early scenes when Klaatu is being examined and then a lot of forest exteriors once the movie hits the road. This had to have kept production costs down, or at least made budget costs room for a couple of whopper destruction scenes. The military often attacks the sphere spaceship to no avail, but the audience gets treated to CGI-candy. Eventually they get robot Gort in sealed containment in a spool of scenes that makes no sense. We never see the U.S. president, as the flick stays in the company of Defense Secretary Jackson most of the time. She gets on the phone with the Commander in Chief who lays down repeat orders to attack the sphere and terminate Klaatu once captured. The film doesn't say the name of which president is in office. Do you think it is George W. or Obama?
The clueless script evades any sense of our people making peaceful relations with the aliens – it's all very cynical from the get-go. A number of scenarios with bewildered people share protracted conversations that cannot be solved because the right thing to say is almost stubbornly not said within the script. That means slow humans. If we can't represent at least some smarter people on Earth then do we deserve the planet? I look forward to a smarter alien flick in the future penned by Peter Morgan, Stephen Gaghan, Frank Darabont, or hey, Diablo Cody where the characters are respectably intelligent.