Not sure about it being The Day The Earth Stood Still. It may have been still but it was more due to the fact it was put to sleep.
While it was getting late in the evening, I found myself dozing off towards the end of watching this extremely lacklustre remake of the 1951 classic sci-fi film about an extra-terrestrial messenger named Klaatu and his big, bad, bustling robot called Gort.
Starring Keanu Reeves (Speed, The Matrix) and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk) and directed by the inexperienced Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), TDTEST Mark 2 promised a lot of wow factor – something along the lines of Independence Day (1996) or The War of the Worlds (2005), which are by no means great films themselves, but at least did enough to keep you awake. All we got with ‘The Day’ was a lot of yawn factor.
I’ve seen the original a couple of times. It is without doubt one of the greatest, most intelligent science-fiction films ever made. Released almost 60 years ago it’s not without it’s drawbacks. In fact, the military response to Klaatu’s arrival can be quite laughable.
But, its serious presentation of an alien landing and serious nature of its anti-war message post WWII stood out like a beacon in a decade when cinema was being filled with absurd spectacles like a Devil Girl from Mars or a Plan 9 From Outer Space.
A remake probably wasn’t necessary, but done in the right way, could certainly serve a purpose in this day and age, whether it carries on the ‘make love, not war’ theme or picked up the environmental torch, as it has done.
Either way, you would expect, six decades on from that Robert Wise-directed hit, film-makers could’ve upped the ante by a considerable amount – in every aspect, maybe not originality – it is after all a remake – but in quality of script, visuals etc.
Sure it may now be in color, but what they have done instead is created a pitiful, plot-hole ridden pile of alien puke. It has substance, but nothing you would dream of swallowing. It’s bad enough just looking at it.
‘The Day’ starts off well enough. It could almost be described as gripping. A bearded explorer (played by Reeves) comes across a glowing greeny-blue sphere high up in the ice-laden mountains of India in 1928. After touching the object and blacking out, he unwittingly lends his DNA to an intelligence that is out of this world.
Jump to the present day, and it’s not long after we are introduced to Connelly’s renowned astrobiologist Dr Helen Benson, she is being plucked from her suburban abode by Government agents and whisked away in a convoy of flashing lights. Taken why, and to where, they won’t say. They can’t say. It’s all very intense.
Once they reach their destination, she is clustered with a group of scientists from varying fields and then briefed about why they have been summoned. An object of unknown origin (possibly Keanu Reeves’ brain) is hurtling towards Earth at a ridiculously fast speed. The worst is feared. It’s impact could spell the end.
There’s a touch of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Close Encounters of the Third Kind about this impressive introduction, but before we taint the good names of those particular movies, we will end the comparisons now.
Once this object decelerates and ultimately lands in Central Park, New York, it proves to be another sphere – only this time massive in size. And this one is carrying something. Out steps a shadowy figure.
Unlike the original ‘Day’ in which our visiting ET, Klaatu, already has human form, this Klaatu arrives with a true alien appearance. Though he is seen so briefly, he’s pretty much indescribable. However, like the original he is welcomed with a bullet when he presents a simple alien hand to be shaken.
Bloody humans. Jumping the gun. Some things never change.
At this point, I’m still along for the ride. The build-up has been quite well done. There is wonder and awe. But, the only wonder from then on is the wonder of who the hell is writing this crap.
After the being is taken to a nearby emergency operating room, Dr Benson is on hand to try and comfort it – by saying “You have nothing to fear from us”. This just moments after an attempt on its life, its blood still splattered across her chest.
The mortally-wounded creature then has an ‘out of body’ experience when it loses its a slimy cocoon-type exterior to take the form of a human. Enter Reeves. Enter dead-pan live-action.
What the alien really looks like is any one’s guess. Certainly the scriptwriters had no idea. After bitching and moaning about getting used to this new body, Klaatu is asked by Dr Benson what he was before he was human, Klaatu simply replies, “Different”. Different? Different how? He can’t say, “It would only frighten you”.
It’s a comment that sums up the entire film. Lazy scriptwriting that goes nowhere. A cop out. Lacking in creativity.
It just seems odd that this alien visitor would be so worried about scaring us when a few hours earlier he was on-board a massive ‘Unidentified Flying Orb’ that was on a collision course with the Earth and had the US Government for one absolutely shitting bricks.
And when this UFO, looking like a giant ball of energy that is about to explode, does land it is in one of the most densely-populated cities on the planet. A city that has only recently experienced one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in history.
No, this Klaatu isn’t concerned with ‘frightening’ us. He’s more concerned with exterminating us.
While he shows he doesn’t mind getting his own hands dirty by wasting the odd military personnel, as is revealed later he has been sent here by a group of civilizations to set in motion the destruction of the entire human race due to its mistreatment of the planet.
“This planet is dying,” he tells Dr Benson. ”The human race is killing it. We can’t risk the survival of this planet for the sake of one species … If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life… this one can’t be allowed to perish.
“We’ve watched, we’ve waited and hoped that you would change. It’s reached the tipping point. We have to act. We’ll undo the damage you’ve done and give the Earth a chance to begin again. The decision is made. The process has begun.”
It seemed odd then that Klaatu would seek to explain his Judgment Day-type action to a ‘gathering of world leaders’.
The original Klaatu (played brilliantly by Brit Michael Rennie) wanted a similar audience, but to simply warn them against becoming a threat to their galactic neighbors with their increasing nuclear capabilities – not ‘You’ve stuffed it up, now you’re all going to die, goodbye’ like the new Klaatu.
Suffice to say, like the old, Klaatu is thwarted by a high ranking US Government official – this time the Secretary of Defense, Regina Jackson (played by Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates) – and goes on the run with the help of Dr Benson.
How he escapes his captors though is another slap in the face of the audience. It comes after he is being interrogated – by one dorky-looking man, in a huge room, with no surveillance cameras or even two-way mirrors anywhere. Sure, Klaatu is supposed to be drugged but, c’mon, he’s a damn alien, wouldn’t all the high brass be looking on – somewhere.
Of course, the emotionless Klaatu (perfect for the emotionless Reeves) has a change of heart towards the end. “There’s another side to you,” he says. “I feel it now.” He sees a more caring side. Warmer. Probably from the military men he left in flames after destroying a helicopter.
I don’t know how he could come to that conclusion. Sure, he listens to a little Bach, but after escaping the clutches of the US Government, is forced to endure a few hours roaming the countryside with Dr Benson’s unbelievably annoying brat of a step-son, Jacob (played by Will Smith’s son Jaden).
Replacing the wide-eyed ‘Gee-Wiz’-kind-of-kid Bobby from the original, Jacob is a young boy understandably still suffering from the death of his father a year earlier. But, still, the kid embodies that whole disrespectful, smart-ass nature of today’s youth. He should have had Klaatu thinking ‘if this kid is the future of the human race, it must be expelled’. Now!
But, no. During the ‘grand finale’, which is anything but, hundreds of spheres acting like arks rise up from the Earth, with various animals inside, while Gort’s body transforms into a huge swarm of locust-type nanobots that seek and destroy anything in its path.
Judging by the final moments, the movie’s script was one of the things eaten. But, the man-made bridge Klaatu, Dr Benson and Jacob are hiding under in Central Park wasn’t.
In what is supposed to be a thrilling climax, Klaatu braves the nano-storm – and simply touches the Central Park sphere. Then disappears. Without as much as a ‘Hey! I’m going to sacrifice myself for you, but you must promise to start treating the Earth a little better, okay?’.
Klaatu barada nik-off