Movie Review – The Day The Earth Stood Still
I have never watched the original, but I’m not one of those pricks who is prejudiced against “old” movies, in fact I like kicking those people in the face as a sport. But I’m quite young and haven’t yet watched as many films as I’d like. Hell, I watched “Citizen Kane” less than a year ago, and only after some friends gave me a hard time about not having done so already. There is an arm-long list of classics I have yet to watch. “The Day The Earth Stood Still” is not high on it. Not when movies like “Ben Hur” have not yet visited my DVD drive.
I stumbled across this remake and I have to admit I have a strange soft spot for Keanu Reeves. Perhaps because I think he’s a decent actor who gets so much hate for not being capable of many facial expressions. I agree he’s limited, but I’ve never seen him bring down a good film. You can see an actor is hated simply because it’s “cool” to hate him when he actually does a good job and critics go “but he was perfect for the role anyway”. It happens to Reeves all the time. Let me put it this way: he played one of the most iconic sci-fi characters of the last decade in “The Matrix” and avoided being typecast for the rest of his career. Also, he played an American John Constantine and somehow prevented the sheer thought of that from being laughable. He is miles above hacks like Hayden Christensen and Orlando Bloom, even if he is flawed.
So I watched this remake and, indeed, Reeves was the only reason I made it to the end. I mean, I could almost pretend this film happened in an alternate reality where the average human being has the intelligence of a dead chicken. As misanthropic as I am, not even I rate humanity that low. Just so you have an idea of how utterly stupid the characters in this film are: after seeing a huge alien robot called GORT neutralize an entire human army with nothing but a high-pitched sound, the president of the USA thinks bombing one of the alien ships with two measly fighter jets is the next logical step. Not even George W. Bush would have been this retarded — and bear in mind I think he’s a moron.
The story: NASA detects an object in extremely high velocity on its way to Earth. It is so fast it is only detected an hour before its ETA. Any attempts to destroy it with missiles fail, and at its speed the object will destroy the planet. But when it arrives, it slows down and lands in Central Park, revealing itself to be some kind of alien ship. Other alien ships appear around the world at the same time, their intention not yet revealed. On Central Park, an alien appears from the ship and is, of course, immediately shot by the moronic humans even though it didn’t seem to pose the slightest threat.
Upon healing, the alien turns out to be in human form and calls himself Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). Cold and detached, he’s on Earth to make a decision: whether or not to destroy humanity, since they are ruining one of the few planets in the entire universe capable of supporting life.
The obvious problem with this premise is the way the script portrays humanity so stupidly I actually hoped Klaatu would call in the airstrikes. There isn’t a single human character in the film that is even remotely interesting, except maybe for John Cleese’s character (the scene he shares with Klaatu is the one scene in the movie that truly works). Even the talented (and beautiful) Jennifer Connelly fails to be likeable, and Jaden Smith is absolutely fucking unbearable. I kept hoping Klaatu would use his powers to make his head explode all over his condescending mother. And blame the script all you like, but Smith does everything he can to turn an already annoying kid into pro-abortion propaganda.
Klaatu is the highlight. While Keanu Reeves indeed isn’t very expressive facially, he’s a very precise physical actor who can convey a lot with his body (a good example is the way he hits his head on a closet in “A Scanner Darkly” — his painful reaction is absolutely perfect). Klaatu is serious and distant most of the time, but Reeves manages to make clear when something gets to him — and his performance has some nice touches, like his difficulty in getting used to a human body or the change of tone in his voice when a character says Earth is the humans’ planet and he says “No, it is not.”. He is, however, brought down by the horrendous script, which makes Klaatu’s “change of mind” in the end sound completely forced.
Director Scott Derrickson lets the special effects do his job for him. When there isn’t CGI on the screen, he limits himself to choosing acceptable angles. It feels very much like automatic pilot, except on the moments that involve special effects — you can almost hear Derrickson reaching orgasm as he shows entire structures being destroyed by the GORT. The film is emotionally null. The one moment that manages to cause some response is when a woman begs another to use her cellphone, and that’s it. And while the CGI is well-rendered, the alien ships are no more than simplistic glowing spheres.
With a dumb ecological message and painfully stupid characters, I had trouble rooting for the humans in “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. And really, when a film manages to make you wish your own planet is destroyed when the goal was precisely the opposite, you really have to stand in awe at the ineptitude of the filmmakers.