The Day the Earth Stood Still

Theatrical Release Date: 12/12/2008
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Keanu Reeves, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, James Hong, Robert Knepper

“Klaatu, Barada, Nikto”. Sam Raimi fans know the phrase well from “Army of Darkness” as Ash must retrieve the Necronomicon. Some also know that those are the commands used in the 1951 film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to control the unstoppable robot killing machine, Gort.

In the 2008 remake (stop it Hollywood, just stop it … I know there are writers out there with original scripts … buy one), Keanu “whoa” “neo” “the one” “point break” Reeves is tapped to play Klaatu – an alien sent to Earth with the ability to decide if the human race needs to be exterminated. Go ahead and get the jokes out of your system, I’ll wait.

Still waiting …

Still waiting …

Okay, I’m done waiting. Oddly enough it makes sense to cast Reeves as the reserved and quasi-emotionless alien. The role is basically a mash-up of “The Matrix” and “Johnny Mnemonic” and since the only good acting I’ve seen of his comes from playing surf cops, stoned high school students or abusive boyfriends (“The Gift” – this one is less obvious), it’s good director Scott Derrickson didn’t ask for more.

On the other hand, casting Jennifer Connelly was a very smart choice, as she seems to be able to create substantial characters within big, green screen spectacles (“Hulk”) better than most (*cough* Jessica Alba). Playing a scientist (Wait, didn’t she do that in “Hulk”?), she finds a way to care for the inhuman Klaatu to some degree during the course of her attempts to stop him from killing all us homo sapiens (Now hold on! This is “Hulk”!).

I’m mostly kidding actually. The film is far more “The Matrix” than “Hulk” and the cynic in me made sure to note that the end of the world will apparently and blatantly be brought to us by LG, Citizen watches and McDonald’s. I know that advertising money pays the bills but there were moments were I wished for Wayne and Garth to pop up with a bag of Doritos and a six-pack of Pepsi.

The supporting cast is okay, though all of their characters fall into the sci-fi cliché realm. However, one big bone of contention for me is Jaden Smith. I know he’s the son of Hollywood royalty and I like The Fresh Prince as much as the next guy. Still, I’d like to see casting directors worry more about casting the right kid than keeping the biggest moneymaker in town happy.

Jaden had two modes in the film: wooden and annoying. If he wasn’t awkwardly expressing sadness about his dead father, he was attempting to become a bigger on-screen annoyance than Pauly Shore. Before people get all angry about me criticizing a kid, know that I do blame the script for much of this but there are so many good child actors out there, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a better fit. Hell, just get the leftovers from “House” or “Law & Order” … any of them would have probably been less of a distraction.

One point I do want to make is that I never saw the original film – so how far this remake differs is beyond me. I can say that for all of my trepidation and tom foolery, I have to admit I was entertained. The careful buildup of Klaatu’s plan for the human race is done well and the effects overall were quite good. Mind you, my expectations were about as high as that gum wrapper you threw under the seat but nonetheless, turning my mind off for a little over an hour and a half was a welcome break from all the awards contenders being shoved down my throat this time of year.

I did happen to catch this in the IMAX format which did present a nice, big picture. However, none of the shots really take advantage of this and because none of the scenes were filmed in IMAX, don’t feel that spending the extra $10 bucks is worth it. If you plan on checking this out, just plunk down the money for a decent theater with comfortable seats and make sure to leave your brain in standby mode.

Nothing in the film will tax your synapses but sometimes, that’s just what we need. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” won’t find a place in the sci-fi film pantheon but it did what it needed to and I’ll go ahead and pass on a 3 out of 5. I did have issues with the ending and continue to want Will Smith to keep Jaden at home rather than on a film set, but at least I wasn’t writing obscenities in my note pad or silently wishing for death … yes, I’m looking at you “Transporter 3“.