How much you will enjoy “The Day the Earth Stood Still” will depend on how familiar you are with the original 1951 film.
If you consider the original a classic, then the new version will feel more like “The One Hour and Forty-Three Minutes the Earth Stood Still.” If you’ve never seen the first movie, then the bar for the updated version is not so high.
The new “Day” features a wooden Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, a representative for a group of alien civilizations. He has not come in peace. These cosmic buttinskies are upset that we are ruining the planet. The solution is to get rid of any trace of humans.
Hope for salvation comes through Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). She’s a scientist. She’s a mom. She’s the last chance to prove humankind is worth a second chance.
The reasons the new “Day” is but a pale copy of the original are too numerous to mention. Here’s just a few:
The original film was more than aliens vs. humans. It was released during the era of the Cold War. Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were so thick, the end of the world looked near. The movie had a serious message about the end of civilization. The new version is just about nosey intergalactic neighbors taking matters into their own hands.
Michael Rennie’s portrayal of Klaatu had an elegance about it. He came across as someone who would listen to reason. That’s why the scenes where he sees the beauty of the human race resonate with hope. Reeves, on the other hand, is stiff, emotionless and cold. It never seems like he is open enough to change his mind about his mission.
Director Scott Derrickson opts to go for big special effects in his updated effort rather than use them as a background for the more personal story that drove the original.
Derrickson might have gotten away with this ploy if the effects weren’t so mediocre.
Klaatu’s way of making his point about the power of the aliens in the first film — that whole Earth-standing-still trick — works because it is so passive-aggressive.
Derrickson’s decision to use the Earth standing still as a weapon rather than a warning changes the movie from being a cautionary tale to a standard action movie.
But forget about the original movie. Based solely on its own merits, the new version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” lacks tension, conflict and a smart script. It ends up being predictable, lackluster sci-fi fare.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still”
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Jaden Smith.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Time: 103 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (science fiction violence)