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day earth stood still
Click for full sized poster

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese
Screenplay by David Scarpa
Based on a screenplay by Edmund H. North
Directed by Scott Derrickson

IN SHORT: Very dull and disappointing.
[Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence. 103 minutes]

There are a handful of films that righteously can be called "defining" in their respective genres. Gone With the Wind in epic mode. Casablanca as a romance even guys can get misty about. Play Misty For Me -- which we just thought about 'cuz of mentioning Casablanca -- as a suspenseflick. When Robert Wise made The Day the Earth Stood Still back in 1951, it connected as an allegory about the Cold War, went down in the books as one of the first science-fiction big screen efforts and added a new set of "three letter words" to the vocabulary of every boy who waded through science fiction magazines or compilation paperbacks. As we move farther into a new century, the tale has been Re-imagined with a non-political target. That's fine, but it's not what disappointed us.

For that you have to read all the way to the bottom because we don't compare to Source Material, which is in this case the screenplay for Wise's film of fifty years back.

In a prolog set decades in the past, a mountain climber looking suspiciously like Keanu Reeves finds a glowing white sphere in the middle of a monster snowstorm high up in Indian mountains. Dumb Keanu touches said sphere. Night night. On to the present day, with our story  centering on astrobiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and her step-son Jacob (Jaden Smith). Jacob is a troubled child, stuck in a home without biological parents (dad died and mom is never mentioned) he is a poster boy for the potentially dangerous "obsessed with violent computer games" child. In other words, a potential geek in training. Except that Jacob is neither geeky nor violent. Just troubled. Things don't get any better when a stranger comes a-poundin' on the Benson front door just as dinner is being laid out. Helen is hustled out to a waiting car. Jacob is left in the care of a neighbor and we're off to the races.

It seems that far out in the icy cold of space, some unknown object is hurtling towards Earth at near the speed of light (if I did the mathematics correctly). As computers crunch their numbers, it becomes apparent that said object will crash not in some outback, but dead on Manhattan -- as it turns out, a nice patch of green called the Great Lawn which cost a fortune to resod a couple of years ago and is about to be ruined . . . but I digress.

Said object is a gigantic sphere and it lands lightly as a feather. Surrounded by scientists and military a brilliant light emanates from the sphere and out comes a humanoid form of some kind. It approaches Doctor Benson and, wouldn't you know it, some dumb human does what all dumb humans do. Shoots. Out comes GORT -- not its real name -- a really big robot looking thing which moves to protect its master, so to speak. The humanoid being is taken by the military to some secure location while earth doctors attempt to extract the bullet and save its life. GORT, in turn, turns submissive and allows itself to be packed up and brought to the same base.

US Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) decides that the humanoid -- calling itself Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) is property of the US government. It is subjected to rigorous testing and, when it has had enough, all hell breaks loose. Finding a friend, so to speak, in Dr. Benson an escape is made, as are connections to sympathetic scientists on the outside [John Cleese as one Professor Barnhardt] and Klaatu's sympathies to the planet are revealed.

Said sympathies are not to us humans, meaning that Klaatu's mission is to remove the human infestation of the planet. So... can some really smart humans convince superior alien forms that we can change and thus should get a second chance?  Well, maybe. The CG which accompanies a transformation by GORT, and the destruction that follows, is very very cool. But cool doesn't work when everything else about the film and its story is plebian.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Day the Earth Stood Still, he would have paid . . .


Re-Imagining is a good thing as long as you don't forget those little things that stood the test of time. Like the words: Klaatu Barada Nikto. Non existant in this version. A Total and Complete bit of Idiocy.

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