Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Movie Review

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Movie Review

Rating 5/10
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese (an incredibly short cameo) and Kathy Bates
Director: Scott Derrickson
Klaatu barada nikto .
Three words which you will either know - or wonder what on earth I've been drinking this early on in the festive season.
To a horde of geeks (myself included) these were the words spoken by Michael Rennie's alien to his destructive robot Gort via Patricia Neal's character in the 1951 original version of this film.
The 1951 film is often used in sentences with the words "classic" "seminal" and "definitive" so it's with some trepidation that I approached a new version with Keanu Reeves as the main star.
In a nutshell, Keanu stars as mysterious alien visitor Klaatu who causes worldwide panic (including an economic crisis - sense any parallels here?) when his ship lands in downtown Manhattan.
In true American style, he's shot the minute he descends from the craft and is taken to a top secret military installation where he's questioned by Kathy Bates' Regina Jackson, who acts on behalf of the President of the United States, over why he's here.
Also among the scientists studying him is Jennifer Connelly's Helen Benson (who in this update/ remake) has a troublesome step child (aka Will Smith junior Jaden Smith).
Klaatu comes round and warns them that he needs to speak to the leaders of the world on an urgent matter which involves the future of the Earth itself... but he's scorned and a chain of events is set in place which don't spell good things for the planet's future.
Having seen the original seminal classic and definitive film (see what I said above?) this latest version was always going to be a disappointment.
Coming at a time when we know the Earth's under threat from global warming (be it manmade or otherwise - that's for another argument) it's easy to appreciate the reason for Klaatu's visit - and perhaps the reason for the remake.
Keanu has often been critiqued for his performances with some critics saying he has an other-worldly presence -and that's kind of obvious here; his stiffness as the alien visitor and awkward staccato acting seems to work - initially.
Although after a while it simply resorts to slow mo shots of him walking in a suit while others try to emote around him in the face of immense danger.
Connelly's astro-biologist is saddled with little to do after initiating first contact - she quickly becomes reduced to a taxi driver for Klaatu and is left with the troublesome kid to deal with.
And talking of the kid - Jaden Smith is the kind of uber moppet who clearly is going to have a big impact on the storyline of The Day The Earth Stood Still . With daddy and abandonment issues, it's obvious how his role has been included in the remake - although his involvement in the film's denouement could be seen from another galaxy.
John Cleese has an all too brief cameo as Professor Barnhardt - and the moment both he and Keanu stand in front of a blackboard discussing equations is quite the surreal moment.
The opening tension and suspense is handled well and it's clear a lot of the budget was thrown at the effects of this film - the new version of robot Gort is pretty true to the original (and seems to channel some of the new Battlestar Galactica baddies the Cylons at times); and scenes of destruction which show cities and people simply being whittled away are pretty effective (even if the attacks are akin to a biblical plague of locusts.)

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a disappointment - at times underwhelming but visually impressive for the most part - but unfortunately the message that we humans have to change our ways is lost a little among the explosions.

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