All the pieces are there. The Day the Earth Stood Still could have soared into becoming a highly iconic remake of a highly iconic Sci-Fi film of the 50s. However it is a clear example of a big budget film that is afraid to step in the deep end of the pool. I am not saying it is a bad movie, in the contrary it is a highly enjoyable film, which I highly recommend if you are looking for good old fun. As a remake of a classic it is what War of the Worlds should have been and it does not even carry the name of Steven Spielberg in its credits; yet it underachieves enormously and thus it is reduced to merely an entertaining film with some social discourse rather than a film about social problems that also happens to be fun.
The plot is simple to follow and avoids complications. Aliens land on Earth. Klaatu, (Keanu Reaves) one of the aliens informs US Secretary of War (Kathy Bates) “It is not your planet”; referring to the fact that it belongs to all living things within it. Thus he plans to kill every human by using a giant automaton called GORT. That way humans wont pollute the oceans, tear down the forest or clog up the atmosphere in CO2. A military biologist, (Jennifer Connelly) must convince Klaatu that humans can change in order to save the race, and more importantly her late husband’s ex-wife’s child. (I almost expected her to break into Sadam Hussein’s song “[We] Can Change” from South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, while attempting to do so). She is such a progressive woman that she even cares for a child that is totally not related to her in any way that’s understandable to the average nuclear family.
As far as the directing goes, well there is not much to it. It is your average Sci-Fi end of the world thriller and it offers nothing new. The same goes for the acting. We have seen Keanu in other completely non-expressive roles and I can say that here we see him at his best, which is not much. Jenifer Connelly plays the same progressive woman we saw in Blood Diamond with a hint of her lost love trauma we saw in Ang Lee’s Hulk where she also plays a military biologist. The photography offers some nice backlighting and ominous shadows where it is required to do so and the music creates suspense right where it has to. Thus it offers little that we had not seen before in countless other movies. Where does it achieve? Well surprisingly for a big high concept film like this one, its charm is in the writing and its intention.
The Day The Earth Stood Still adapts the 50s classic perfectly onto modern times. The 50s version was about not blowing up each other into smithereens with nukes. This one is about not consuming our planet out of recourses with our low mileage SUVs. Like the 50s version it maintains a naïve perspective on its dissertation of current affairs and intents mostly to entertain the masses and maybe touch a few in the audience. In this way it is a perfect adaptation of a classic. It even keeps the automaton’s ridiculous look and preposterous name for a killing machine.
So if you were too lazy to sit through Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, or you want simple harmless entertainment for one afternoon then this is the perfect movie for you. I highly recommend it though I wish Hollywood tried harder next time.