The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) DVD

Go Klaatu barada nikto yourself!

This movie could have been called The Day the Earth Still…Out of Boredom.

The 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic example of a “why bother?” remake. The 1951 original is widely regarded as one of the best science-fiction films ever made, so there was absolutely nowhere for a remake to go but down. And the remakers lived down to expectations.

In both versions, an alien spacecraft lands on Earth with a message for the natives. In the original, Klaatu (Michael Rennie) warned that the warlike human race needed to change its ways since learning to split the atom or risk annihilation by extraterrestrial enforcers worried about mankind’s rambunctiousness. In the 2008 version, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) was apparently intent on informing our world’s leaders that the human race is a pox upon the Earth, and since only a handful of planets in the cosmos are capable of supporting complex life, the interstellar community is unwilling to let mankind squander this one.

According to director Scott Derrickson, this film is supposed to carry an environmental message, but Klaatu himself points out that Earth has reached the tipping point and can no longer be saved, so even if everyone started driving hybrids, it would do no good. So apparently the message is, go green now, before the aliens get here. However, in the movie, the plot change renders Klaatu entirely moot. Surely his glowing globes could have been dispatched to collect and preserve samples of non-human life without cloning Keanu? Surely Gort could have been activated from orbit to eliminate all traces of humanity. Klaatu is a complete waste of time and effort. Klaatu came to protect the Earth from humanity, so why bother with trying to address mankind’s leaders? Is he some kind of interstellar sadist?

But not everything was terrible about this film. Jennifer Connolly is reasonably believable as a scorching-hot astrobiologist; well, she’s at least as believable as MAD MEN’s Jon Hamm as the NASA official who musters the scientific response to the alien arrival. Only in Hollywood are eggheads such hardbodies. I particularly enjoyed John Cleese as Nobel laureate Professor Karl Barnhardt. And Kathy Bates made a suitably prickly Regina Jackson, the secretary of defense, though her role amplified a rather silly plot hole. While it was understandable that the president of the United States might initially go into hiding, if there were any crisis that the president should face, it would be the threat of an alien invasion, right? So is Jackson deliberately keeping the president in the dark and in his bunker because she enjoys the absolute power? Or was she just there to paint the human race as provincial and xenophobic? Gort was nicely updated to incorporate nanotechnology while maintaining his humanoid appearance, with that menacing, iconic cyclopean eye…

Speaking of the original’s iconic status, I read that director Derrickson is an admirer of Robert Wise, who helmed the original, so why would Derrickson fashion such a horrible remake? Sure, it makes the original look even better, but Wise’s legacy was already secure. So, once again, everything about this remake is pointless. It can go “Klaatu barada nikto” itself…

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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