Movie Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

This movie started off quite well after a rather dull and pointless opening scene that seemed cut from ‘The Mountains of Madness’.

Once our viewpoint character appeared, Doc Helen, played by Jennifer Connelly; I really enjoyed the tense build up of getting all of the research team together and investigating the alien sphere. The US military greets the alien with the traditional American greeting of a gunshot wound to the chest and then they rush the alien back for some pioneering medical research.

Amazingly, the alien turns out to be Keanu Reeves beneath its biological space suit, who pulls off a master course in wooden, stony and plasticy acting as Klaatu. Who would have thought Keanu had it in him? There’s a moral tug of war – Kathy Bates as the Secretary of State doesn’t want Klaatu to talk to the UN. Instead, she’s keen to whisk him away for more research, after he refuses to give her the time, date and star signs of the invading alien force.

Doc Helen volunteers to drug Klaatu, but doses him with a fake solution, so Klaatu can escape and easily overpower a government agent who, in a happy coicidence, has the exact same suit size. Meanwhile Klaatu calls up Doc Helen, and so begins our Roadtrip of Discovery. Doc Helen even brought her young stepson along, and they have some important Family Issues to resolve along the way. This is where the film sort of dives off for me. We learn that Klaatu is here to save the earth, and not the humans! But, Klaatu learns from a long term alien agent, that humans have an amazing capacity for love, despite their dangerous, warring nature. I wonder where I’ve heard that before? And it turns out that humanity is destroying the planet – gasp – so the aliens are here to destroy us to save the Earth!

In this last chunk, after some mathematical sparring with John Cleese’s character, Klaatu learns that humans change when pushed to the brink. Meanwhile, alien nanobots are eating all of humanity’s works (including humans), perhaps with the prospect of turning it back into a natural safari park. But! Klaatu changes his mind, after bonding with Doc Helen and Stepson. There is some running around, chase scenes and miraculous ressurections. And, at the end, humanity is spared, for reasons which are unclear to me. Doc Helen didn’t really demonstrate anything of the goodness in humanity, apart from moping after her stepson a lot. I’ve been programmed by copious episodes of Doctor Who that humans must visibly demonstrate their uber kindness and compassion with dramatic acts and fits of melodrama. This sort of just peters out. And even if a couple of humans are nice, why not just kidnap them for the alien animal collection? And is all of technology destroyed at the end forever or just for a day? And if the aliens are concerned about how we treat the planet, why not give us a stern message about it? The importance of clearly detailed technical instructions are missed by the race of Klaatus. By contrast, the aliens in 2010 were quite helpful: “All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landings there.” See? That wasn’t hard, was it aliens? Why couldn’t Klaatu say on all frequencies and channels or even carve into the moon the words: “Be Environmentally Friendly, or We Will Kill You”?

Two GORTs from me.

One thought on “Movie Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still”

  1. Yeah, that’s a pretty fair review. A good fraction of my entertainment value while watching this was comparing it to the 1951 original and figuring out the motivations for the various differences. Omnipotent aliens wouldn’t realistically indulge in action scenes, but evidently the directors don’t think the same is true of modern audiences, so they managed to contrive car chases and a physical challenge for the climax. I was a bit surprised that Klaatu’s speech from the original didn’t figure in the remake. It’s not quite as iconic as the phrase Klaatu barada nikto, but it’s one of the other iconic bits. Maybe they reckon people have a lower tolerance for being preached at nowadays.

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