Space! Stars! The opening shot of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a not-too-subtle reminder that this movie, at least parts of it, will be out of this world. A remake of the 1951 science fiction classic, Day tells the story of an alien named Klaatu and his robot-protector Gort who have come to earth to deliver a warning to humanity. In the original, their alert is about the consequences of nuclear war; here it's all about how badly humans are treating Mother Earth. The facially challenged Keanu Reeves lucked out -- he plays Klaatu, an alien devoid of emotion. Jennifer Connelly costars a single mother who also happens to be a microbiology professor.
Day has a promising start as a disaster/action movie. Connelly is taken from her home by government agents and corralled with other scientists. Their task? Deal with a flying object about to crash land in an hour's time. At the crash site, in New York's Central Park, Connelly is the first to go towards the alien's round, planet-like space craft. She's there when Reeves and the giant computer-animated Gort exit -- and when Reeves is shot. Connelly decides to save him from a government that seems set to destroy him and then helps him by setting out on a road trip to finish up Reeves' earth errands. They are, not surprisingly, pursued by all conceivable law enforcement agencies. Along the way, their stops offer the opportunity for movie's many product placements -- McDonalds, Connelly's LG phone and Citizen watch. Paying the bills; I'm loving it!
It's a little ironic that Connelly needs to drive Reeves around in a movie that's about the harm humanity is doing to the environment -- and not even in a hybrid. With little specifics over what harm has been done to the planet, Connelly has to convince Reeves that humanity can change. Reeves is unmoved until they arrive at the grave of Connelly's dead husband, where she and her stepson (Jaden Smith) share a tiny moment of emotion that somehow convinces Reeves that humanity can change after all. Perhaps because they can feel and Klaatu can't? Did he just need to know that humans can feel?!
No matter. It seems like director Scott Derrickson's only concern are the special effects. And unfortunately they don't do as much for the movie as he would like. Gort, for example, looked more believable in the original Day -- he's "improved" in the remake by sprouting up 20 feet and gaining a single roving eye, not unlike a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica with a thyroid problem. Gort should come across as a menacing force, yet the scenes where he uses his power over technology come up dry. Even the apocalyptic destruction scenes -- all spoiled in the trailer -- lack tension. When the earth and all its inhabitants are being destroyed, it should be shocking, right?
The script deserves some blame here. How can there be a payoff when there is no real drama? Reeves manages to eke out a few chills in his early exchanges with the government, but after that, the character scenes are brief and unsubstantial -- which would be fine if there was action in its place. But there isn't.
There was a time when The Day the Earth Stood Still meant something. That time was 1951. The remake is neither an action flick nor a successful parable that will make audiences stand still long enough to contemplate the movie's half-hearted message.ReelzChannel Rating: