Keanu Reeves, Kathy Bates, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith
David Scarpa (based upon Edmund North's 1951 screenplay)
20th Century Fox
The Day the Earth Stood Still" is an odd film that proves, once and for all, technological advancements alone do not justify a cinematic remake.
THIS version, which follows a similar yet slightly modernized storyline from its 1951 predecessor, LOOKS better then the original.
THIS version has all the bells and whistles the original lacked, though director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose") seems to have taken great pains to at least carry forth the aura of the original film.
This version should, if Hollywood studio bigwigs were even remotely capable of cinematic follow-through, bring the heart and soul of the 1951 classic even more vividly to life.
The 1951 "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a movie classic.
THIS version, led by Keanu Reeves' vacant interpretation of the alien Klaatu, is a soulless, bland and jarringly uninteresting remake that gets by solely on the soulful pluckiness of Jennifer Connelly, as a Harvard scientist called upon by the U.S. government to investigate a mysterious glowing in New York City's Central Park, and the always dependable Kathy Bates doing what Bates does best as a take charge, no nonsense Defense Secretary.
Rather than reminding me of the original film, this update reminds me of "Bratz: The Movie."
I know. I know. You think I'm off my rocker, but hear me out.
"Bratz: The Movie," which I absolutely abhorred, pretended to be speaking out against materialism and cliques and shallow views of beauty. The problem was that in virtually every scene, "Bratz: The Movie" reinforced virtually every one of those things.
This modern retelling of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" does the very same thing with its shallow, uneducated way of telling this story of why Klaatu has come to Earth to tell us that the aliens must kill us because our social irresponsibility is killing the Earth and everything on it.
Unfortunately, while we're being told this story virtually every scene and lecture is shared in ways both ironic and laughable. These scenes are filled with psychosocial babble, product placement, violence, stereotypes and, yes, virtually everything the aliens purport to be against.
In other words, if you look past the fairly cool special effects you're going to see a film at war with itself.
Despite these rather large weaknesses, there are moments in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" that are jaw-droppingly awesome to behold and involving enough to make you think the film may end up better than it actually does.
While their relationship is wholly unnecessary, Connelly and her step-son (Jaden Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness") have a nice chemistry and their scenes together give the film a nice core of humanity.
In the end, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a "Why?" film along the lines of Tom Cruise's pathetic attempt to recreate "War of the Worlds."
Why did this film need to be made?
Probably. I'm fairly certain that, despite what any film critic says, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" will open with massive box-office no matter how bad the economy is right now.
There's nothing like a film about how greed and hunger for power is killing us to help us escape from the realities of life and how greed and hunger for power are killing us and our economy.
But, I digress.
Part of me wants to trash "The Day the Earth Stood Still," but I simply can't get myself to do it.
Scott Derrickson does, far better than one might expect, balance faithfulness to the original with a contemporary upgrade.
As previously noted, both Connelly and Bates do as much as they can with fairly thin characters.
Jaden Smith is cute. Nothing else...but he is cute.
Keanu Reeves? Well, um. He's Keanu Reeves.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a completely unnecessary, utterly inferior remake of a Hollywood classic that, despite being over 50 years old, is far more interesting to watch.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic