The next title up for my perusal in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book is The Day The Earth Stood Still, I’d previously reviewed the 1951 classic here, so now it was time to take on the remake. And sadly, the updated version would rather focus on visual effects rather than the characters or story or even the point of the fantastic original film. Sure the Christian allegory is no longer involved, but also gone is the warning about being watched by the members of the galactic community, with the warning of shape up, or be wiped out.
Instead, they watchers are quite happy for us to wipe ourselves out, but are more concerned with making sure the planet survives.
Keanu Reeves stars as the alien visitor, Klaatu, who is accompanied and aided by his giant robot, Gort (who gains his name as an acronym given to him by the government), which in itself is a disappointing update of the original character. And while the lovely Jennifer Connelly automatically elevates the film in my eyes, she’s not enough to save it. Connelly stars as Helen Benson, a scientist, a professor, and a stepmom to young Jacob (Jaden Smith), which brings in a potentially nice relationship with Helen, but it just doesn’t work.
That being said, the entire cast is top-drawer, there’s John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, Kathy Bates, and James Hong, to name but a few, but there was absolutely no reason for this remake, especially when it seems to have such a heard time honoring the themes and the ideas of the original film. The revelation in the first film that we are not alone was meant for the world, it’s a very pubic landing, and the warning is made to all people, but this time around, the arrival tried to be kept a secret, but knowledge spreads across the globe, as does the fear, brought on by the government’s tendency to shoot first.
Helen is brought into events by special request of Michael Granier (Hamm), and is on hand for the moment. She’s also the one that warns Klaatu that he needs to escape from the facility he is in, as the American government has no intention of letting him speak to the world, not until after they get any and all information out of him first. So Klaatu ends up on the run, and eventually Helen and Jacob help him, as he instigates the Ark program. Repeating often that he is here to save the Earth (he never mentions humanity surviving) and globes appear all over the world, taking flora and fauna from every environment of the planet.
Meanwhile Gort is captured and taken in to be studied, but neither the giant robot, nor the ship he and Klaatu arrive in look so great, because they are both, obviously computer generated images that lack any substance or reality in the world they are supposed to be working within.
There is no great speech, there is no cry for us to put away our weapons and bombs, to work peacefully together, and join a galactic community in due time, instead, there is the possibility that Klaatu thinks we deserve the chance, all because of a woman and a child. And while nice, it doesn’t have the same pull up your socks and think about what you’re doing to yourselves and the world you live in that the original does.
In the end, too much CG, and too little substance. Stick with the original.