Sunday, December 21, 2008
Movie Review: The Day The Earth Stood Still
Headed to the theatre this weekend to watch the Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. A remake of the much beloved sci-fi classic from 1951. Similar to the original, it stars Reeves as an alien name Klaatu who arrives on Earth with a fleet of ships. Klaatu takes human form, arriving to establish if humanity can be allowed to live, or if we are detrimental to the survival of Earth.
Upon landing he is captured by a team of scientists, lead by Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame, and Connolly. As they evaluate Reeves, the Secretary of Defense, played by Kathy Bates, tries to determine of Klaatu is a harbinger of war. Connolly tries to save Reeve's character after learning of Bates plan to "interrogate" the alien and proceeds to help Reeves in his quest to ascertain if we can survive as a species.
Overall, the themes of this movie follow to original version very closely. The threat of man's inhumanity to man and the scope that mankind is not the only living species on the planet. While the threats of the Cold War and nuclear holocaust are not the same as they were in the 1950's, the threat of pollution and conflict IS just as prevalent.
To be honest, I was not a huge fan of this film. Reeves is pretty much what you want in the form of an emotionless alien. A very static and dull lead hero figure in a film that is designed to be large in scope. Connolly, I think, is a fantastic actress who is under used in this film. An actress who can truly reveal a range of emotions, never really gets past the role of a scared mother. I just wanted something more.
The effects are not as good as expected. I did like that they stayed close to the Automaton look from the original film in terms of Reeves defense robot. It was a nice homage to anyone who remembered the first film. As a film that was marketed as a blockbuster though, I was a little underwhelmed by what we got. While everything was technically sound, there wasn't a moment where you went WOW, look at that. I just wanted more.
Overall the film failed to find me. I never got engaged to any of the characters or action. I never really felt like the characters where in danger or the outcome in question. Everything just came up that much short. If you're going to make a film where the fate of the world is in jeopardy, epic is the scale and the scope. This film just doesn't engage you on that level.
My recommendation is to wait for it on DVD. Despite stirring the juices to go back and watch the 1951 version again, I was not impressed with the overall product. It has been so long since I first watched the 1951 incarnation that I don't think I can really make valid comparison between the films. What I do remember from that version was how impressed I was that a science fiction film (a genre generally derided as low brow fare during the 50's and 60's) was tackling such a serious bit of subject matter. It was handling potent political and social topics of the day in such a way as to be entertaining while being thought provoking. This version never really gets into the whys and wherefores of how mankind is hurting the Earth, it just assumes the audience knows. I admit it is a fine line to cover that as a topic while not becoming preachy (the Shamalyan did in this summers The Happening) I still think some measure of effort must be pursued. This version is more interested in finding out IF man can change, not what we should change and in that I think is the important answer.
Now my room mate found the film to be good, not great so take that as you will. I may have just to high of an expectation in it, but I often find it is hard to outshine an original, even if its been a while since viewing it. I think that there will be better fare to choose from this holiday weekend, but The Day the Earth Stood Still would not be my first choice. Thanks for reading!
End of Line.