BASED ON THE 1951 FILM WRITTEN BY
PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)
Remake of a beloved 1951 sci-fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still may look impressive, but is a rather uneventful affair, save for a few key SFX shots.
This is a shame, as the film sets itself up rather well, with Jennifer Connelly’s college professor Helen Benson forcefully requested by National Security, after a supposed asteroid is spotted heading towards Earth at an accelerated pace. Along with a large group of scientists, Helen witnesses the object slow down and land in New York’s Central Park.
Gone are the flying saucers from Robert Wise’s original, which are replaced by a wholly original large sphere object. To the shock of all, out from the object comes forth a figure, which – of course – is shot by a trigger happy military man.
After being taken to hospital and operated on, the extra terrestrial takes on the human form of Keanu Reeves, complete with spaced out look and monotone diction. Call it perfect casting; just do not call it a memorable performance, as Reeves delivers a subtle turn, which is exactly the type of acting he should not invest in, considering his criticism for being a wooden actor.
Reeves plays Klatuu, a representative from an assembly of planets, who has come to warn the human race that their inability to take care Earth, thanks to the ravages of war and pollution, has made them a marked species poised for extermination. As Klatuu says: “If the Earth dies, you die. If the human race dies, the Earth survives.”
After a request to talk to the United Nations is knocked back by the Secretary of Defence (Kathy Bates), Klatuu – with the help of Helen – goes on the lamb. Accompanied by Helen and her annoying step son Jacob (Jaden Smith), they must convince Klatuu that the human race deserves a chance to redeem itself.
From then on The Day the Earth Stood Still turns into a dull chase movie, with the authorities on Klatuu’s back as he weaves his way through New York and New Jersey, making the occasional pit stop along the way. There is a meeting with an alien who has infiltrated the human population over the last 70 odd years (James Hong) at a roadside McDonalds. This will be the first of a few product placements in the film: LG and Apple computers also make an appearance.
Another meeting is had with a world renowned scientist (John Cleese), in a scene barely worth the time invested in it. This comes to the films main weakness: it fails to take a stand philosophically, theologically, or politically on the state of our existence, instead resting its laurels on a haze of incomplete observations about what we have become and who we should be.
If a remake of a classic has to be made, at least be controversial with it. That way at least it will be respected, rather than forgotten by the time the earth starts spinning again.