Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still


Somewhere inside this bloated, unpleasant movie is a genuinely interesting science fiction tale struggling to get free - it fails. To watch it is to watch potential die under pressure from mandate: A nifty-sounding idea (an extraterrestrial Noah's Ark retelling in which humanity tries to talk an alien god-figure out of his doom-flood decision) dies painfully from contorting itself into a LOUSY idea (an ID4-ized rehash of the same-named 1950s scifi classic.)

In case it's been awhile (or never) on your end, the original film details the arrival of alien ambassador Klaatu and his robot bodyguard Gort, come to inform humanity that we've got another thing coming if we think the rest of the galaxy will ALLOW us to develop space travel before we get our pesky Cold Warrin' ways under control.

This time around, environmental destruction has, of course, supplanted the Cold War and Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) isn't at all in a diplomatic mood. As it turns out, The Aliens have decided that our planet-destroying ways pose too much danger to all the OTHER species on Earth, so we're too be wiped out while he spares samples of the others. This is where the new Gort comes in - he starts out looking like the original, then winds up as something completely different.

Oddly enough, it's the callbacks to the original film that drag it down - the "new" elements are almost uniformly interesting and provocative. The new Gort looks cool, but the effects used to realize him are awful and it makes no sense for him to spend two acts of his existance looking like a forty-foot version of the original. The film takes a long detour wherein an elderly scientist (John Cleese) tells Klaatu's human pals stuff we've already figured out just so they can do the "blackboard bit" from the first one.

The director is Scott Derrickson, who made the similarly-squandered "Exorcism of Emily Rose" a few years back. Interestingly, this now means he's been responsible for making preachy, poorly-made genre films for both the Right AND the Left - way to branch out.

Skip this.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I just saw this a few nights ago on cable. It's not exactly camp enough to be worth a watch for the casually interested viewer. But, if you like to nit-pick and enjoy absurdist humor this movie is a real riot.

If you pay close attention you quickly realize that there is no reason whatsoever for a young Jaden Smith to be in the movie. An attentive viewer will deeply suspect that among the various deals the production made to move forward somehow Will Smith cramming his son into the film became the first of many compromises.

The other major compromise was that, instead of Alien-Keanu delivering his ultimatum to the leaders of the world and allowing a much more interesting movie to unfold: the fate of the world is instead decided between AlienKeanu and Alien James Hong in an extended McDonald's commercial. Seriously: there's egregious product placement & then there's "Hey - we're paying for the movie so you can do the shot all the labels facing the camera & no less than 20 unbroken seconds of logo getting camera time or we'll bury this thing and you because it's in the contract." The Day the Earth Stood Still - opts for the later.

I bet someone probably had a clever and fun Sci-Fi script at one point and by the time it got made it had become prostrated into said garbage.

PS: Kathy Bates is probably the worst choice ever made to play the Secretary of Defense.. or state.. or whatever she was.. or any high ranking cabinet member in the executive branch.