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Awesome: 2%
Worth A Look: 4%
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Pretty Crappy: 26%

4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Day The Earth Stood Still, The (2008)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"It's Not Nice To Bore The Hell Out Of Mother Nature."
1 stars

At the risk of losing my credibility as a film geek of the highest order, I have to admit that I have never been that enthralled with the 1951 science-fiction classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Don’t get me wrong--as one of the first serious stabs at the genre to come from a major studio, it fully deserves its place in the pantheon of screen history and elements like the giant robot Gort and the immortal phrase “Klaatu brarada nikto!” are enough to bring a smile to the face of most fan boys, especially if they saw it for the first time when they were young. However, the conceit of the film--an alien arrives with a vague plot to destroy the world because of mankind’s determination to destroy themselves (it was released just as the arms race and the Cold War were beginning to heat up), has a change of heart when he realizes that there is goodness in the world and leaves, though not before delivering a not-so-veiled message that if mankind doesn’t shape up, he will return to destroy our warmongering planet for the good of the galaxy--always struck me as a little too fascistic for my blood and director Robert Wise tried so hard to make the film into a respectable and thought-provoking parable that he essentially sucked all the potentially junky fun out of it.

Therefore, when it was announced that Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, was going to remake the film, it didn’t seem to be that awful an idea to my mind--perhaps a remake(or even a sequel in which the alien comes back and discovers that we haven’t improved ourselves in the ensuing decades) could find away to merge the premise with contemporary concerns in a manner that could be entertaining and thought-provoking without being too preachy. Alas, this new version not only completely fails to achieve that goal (which was perhaps asking for a little too much, now that I think of it) but it so completely fails to achieve even the most basic goals of providing viewers with a couple of hours of entertainment or demonstrating a reason for its existence that fans of the original are going to stalk out of their multiplexes fuming at the besmirchment of another classic and newcomers are going to find themselves avoiding the original on the mistaken assumption that it is just as off-the-charts crappy as this one.

As the film opens, top scientist type Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is preparing for another evening at home trying to restrain herself from strangling Jacob (Jaden Smith), the snotty stepchild she was left with when her husband died a year earlier, when she is rounded up by government forces and flown to Manhattan in regards to a national security issue. Once she arrives, she learns that said issue is an unknown object that is hurtling at Earth at tremendous speed and which, according to the calculations of colleague Michael Granier (Jon Hamm), is slated to destroy Manhattan (and possibly the rest of the world) in less than an hour. (And no, I don’t understand why they would be flown directly to the precise point of impact, now that you mention it.) Luckily, the object, a giant orb, comes to a gentle landing in Central Park and turns out to be a spaceship from which a mysterious silver creature emerges. Realizing that she is the second-billed star in a sci-fi movie, Helen takes it upon herself to step forward to greet the creature but just before they can perform an interstellar fist bump, a trigger-happy soldier shoots the alien and incurs the wrath of his companion, a ginormous robot who shuts down all the electricity before bringing his fallen comrade back from the dead so that the humans can whisk him to a military base in order to save him.

When the creature heals and sheds his silver skin, he turns out to be a humanoid by the name of Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and reveals that his mission requires him to address the nations of the world via the UN. Alas, the U.S. government, represented by Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates), would prefer to whisk him off to an undisclosed location and interrogate him. Realizing that a representative of an alien culture that chooses to look like Keanu Reeves is probably not a threat, Helen allows him to escape the facility with the police and military in hot pursuit. While they can’t seem to find Klaatu at all despite their vast resources, Helen, now with little Jacob in inexplicable tow, manages to hook up with him and discovers the real reason why he has arrived. It seems that only a few planets in the solar system are capable of sustaining advanced forms of life and we Earthlings are destroying the place with our refusal to change our ways in regards to placating Mother Earth. His job is to use his robot, known as Gort, to launch an attack that will eradicate mankind in order to save the planet--as he puts it “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.”

While additional spheres surround the planet to pick up animals for a giant interstellar ark and idiot military men futilely try to destroy Gort, Helen desperately tries to convince Klaatu that mankind is worth saving and to call off the destruction. Of course, her moves are undermined at every turn by her bratty stepson, who whines nonstop, constantly brags that his late military man dad would personally kill Klaatu in a heartbeat if he had one (despite being only an engineer) and calls the cops to turn him in to the authorities just to be a twerp. The best argument that can be mustered in defense of the Earth comes from a Nobel Prize-winning colleague of Helen’s (John Cleese, of all people) and it basically consists of saying that when things are at their darkest, that is the catalyst that mankind requires to make the necessary changes to help save the planet. Granted, it is the kind of point that might have inspired another John Cleese character to remark “It’s not much of an argument, is it?,” it seems to inspire Klaatu to think that maybe man is worth saving after all. Unfortunately, the idiot government types have pushed Gort to the breaking point and it unleashes the world destroying program (which involves reducing him into a zillion tiny metal locusts that destroy everything in sight, including Giants Stadium) and it may be too late for Klaatu to stop it from happening.

I can only presume that in choosing to remake “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the idea was to liberate the story from its fusty Fifties origins and make it exciting and accessible for contemporary audiences. And yet, if anything, the scenario cooked up by screenwriter David Scarpa and executed by director Scott Derrickson (whose previous film was the reasonably gripping “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) is such a wheeze that the film feels like one of those deadly dull Fifties programmers that never quite got around to developing a cult audience. It even goes so far as to utilize clichés that are so moldy that they would have seemed dated even back then--there is even one of those excruciating moments where an alien hears some Bach playing and begins to realize that perhaps these primitive beings are capable of creating things of true beauty after all. (Would it have killed them to use some other music--isn’t there just as much beauty in the opening guitar solo of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”?) The notion of utilizing mankind’s ecological abuses as the overriding threat is momentarily intriguing but it soon becomes clear that Scarpa has absolutely no idea of what he wants to say about it (outside of the crashingly obvious) or how to explore it in any meaningful way. After a reasonably gripping and straightforward opening (the sequence in which Klaatu escapes from custody is pretty neat), the storyline turns into a muddle of underdeveloped themes and meandering plotting in which it is nearly impossible to understand the characters and their motivations and the whole thing finally crashes and burns in an orgy of noisy and uninspired special effects that stands as a lunkheaded rebuke to the restraint displayed by the original film.

Although the idea of casting Keanu Reeves in the role made famous by Michael Rennie may strike some viewers as near-blasphemy, he is actually the best thing about the film--the offbeat speech cadences and deadpan demeanor that he has become (in)famous for over the years actually mesh reasonably well with his role as an alien who hasn’t quite mastered the human form that he has been forced to inhabit. The problem is that it seems as if virtually everyone else in the cast was directed to act in the exact same manner and as a result, we are stuck with an endless series of conversations with people who barely seem awake--Connelly looks lovely but her character is so devoid of personality that she comes across as positively Stepfordian. However, the worst performance in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”--arguably the single worst thing in the entire film, in fact--is the nails-on-chalkboard work turned in by Jaden Smith as the incorrigible stepson. Granted, he is hobbled by the worst-written part in a screenplay filled with badly written parts but he comes across as so cloying and obnoxious that he does a disservice to the good name of child actors everywhere. Every time he comes on the screen, whether it is to unconvincingly complain that Klaatu should be killed or to even-more-unconvincingly bond with him after he makes the silly mistake of saving the little brat’s life when he nearly gets himself killed, you may find yourself involuntarily flinching in revulsion at what fresh hell is in store. With brats like him allegedly representing the hope of the future, you can hardly blame any alien intruders for setting off their Gorts in order to save the galaxy from a fate worse than Jake Lloyd.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17290&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/12/08 00:32:13
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User Comments

4/27/18 morris campbell decent the original is alot better 2 stars
9/12/15 D. the R. Who's worse - Zombie Neo on downers or L'il Jaden off Ritalin? Who cares? 1 stars
9/12/12 Matthew Thompson Dalldorf The original comes with the DVD 'cause it's they only way the remake would sell 2 stars
5/13/10 millersxing the Gort report,,,sleepy-eyed Keanu made me wish Stephen Colbert was playing Klaatu. 3 stars
8/16/09 Stevo OH NO! Humans are evil and should all be killed or the planet WILL DIE! Utter bollocks. 1 stars
6/30/09 Bean This movie suuuuuuucked 2 stars
5/03/09 KingNeutron Gort was badass, but see the Original - they REALLY didnt need to Remake it! 1 stars
4/30/09 Elizabeth Disappointing. . .and the title doesn't even apply to this version. 2 stars
4/12/09 hawkeye the worst remake of a classic i have ever seen... toy 1 stars
1/08/09 Spanner Kealaatu hanging around with the Jaden kid SHOULD have destroyed all humans. 1 stars
1/05/09 gc The most boring alien invasion movie ever made 2 stars
12/21/08 Honolulu Bitchslap Don't care about being "preachy", but stiff acting & annoying kid routines, enough already 2 stars
12/17/08 Jack The only good thing thing I have to say about this POS is that Wise isn't around to see it. 1 stars
12/16/08 DJ Dan, you must be the governor of New York becuase you certainly didnt see the same movie I 1 stars
12/14/08 Phineas Keanu....verada....nikto....whooooooooa 1 stars
12/14/08 Man Out 6 Bucks Wished the fascist, whining stepkid was robot snack.Fugly dumb Prez. Conneley's gape is old 1 stars
12/14/08 Sir Spam-a-lot They essentially spent 110 minute remaking the fist 60 minutes of the original.... 2 stars
12/14/08 Doreen You have to see it 5 stars
12/14/08 Obi Wan Good effects, perfect role for Keeanu, not too bad. Jaden was annoyingly right on! 4 stars
12/14/08 CiaoBella Hear that whirring sound? Its Robert Wise rolling over in his grave. 1 stars
12/13/08 Gort Clean up your planet, bitches or I WILL KILL YOU ALL! 1 stars
12/13/08 HollywoodBlows QUIT FUCKING WITH MY FAVORITES MORONS 1 stars
12/13/08 Darkstar It wasn't awful 3 stars
12/13/08 Dan Good movie with solid acting and effects and clear and concise message and themes. 4 stars
12/12/08 mr.mike Pros : Reeves , Bates , Cons : Connelly , Smith. 3 stars
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  12-Dec-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009


  DVD: 07-Apr-2009

Directed by
  Scott Derrickson

Written by
  David Scarpa

  Keanu Reeves
  Jennifer Connelly
  Kathy Bates
  Jaden Smith
  Jon Hamm
  Kyle Chandler

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