Monday, December 15, 2008

429 - The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) review

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is a sci-fi disaster epic with a huge budget, lavish special effects, a top rate cast, and one quarter of a script. Whenever I see a film like this I’m perplexed at how an incoherent, mind-numbingly stupid script can get greenlit and have eight or nine figures pumped into it. Thousands of people participate in the production of such movies, all toiling tirelessly for something free of cinematic or cultural merit.

This is a pseudo remake of the 1951 film of the same name, a much lauded Cold War sci-fi flick. I never got the “much lauded” part; to me, it just seemed like a bunch of anti-war claptrap made by the sort of people who would just as soon still have the Soviet Union still stomping over half the earth. In it, aliens came to earth and demanded that we stop fighting, or else. “Mind your own ******g business,” is what I’d say to that, but aliens never listen to me.

In this version, the alien is played by Keanu Reeves, suitably inhuman enough for the role. His name is Klaatu, which sort of sounds like Keanu, so it works. He arrives in Manhattan, walking out of a giant energy orb to deliver his cryptic message: become environmentalists or die. Basically he’s like Al Gore, only he doesn’t seem to place all of the blame for the earth’s troubles directly on America.

Klaatu gets mixed up with Helen (Jennifer Connelly), a Beautiful Scientist with an Adorable Stepson (Jaden Smith). I had to capitalize those titles to ensure that you could plug your ears through their dialogue and still guess what they’re saying with 90% accuracy. Klaatu heralds the end of the earth, lamenting humans lack of ability to change. “We can change!” Helen insists, though what exactly that change entails is never specified. Fight fewer wars, switch to fluorescent bulbs? Perhaps had Klaatu seen the latest presidential election, he’d be convinced that change was on the way, and that all of our problems were on the cusp of being permanently solved.

The world panics as alien orbs start popping up all over the globe, swallowing up wildlife in anticipation for the destruction of humanity. Military machines spit shells and missiles at the orbs and the giant killer robot that accompanied Klaatu to earth, mostly resulting in the waste of both taxpayer dollars and the film’s effects budget.

The country is run by the Secretary of Defense, played with gusto by Kathy Bates, one of those performances where you know the actor took to finance a remodeling of their kitchen. The president and vice-president are hiding away in bunkers, or something to that effect, though why this relinquishes control of the nation to a cabinet member several steps down the line, I don’t know.

Director Scott Derrickson passes up the opportunity examine worldwide reactions in favor of the experiences of inexplicably dimwitted and her relentlessly annoying child charge. Klaatu takes a liking to the pair, and debates whether or not he wants to pull the trigger on the human race. This proves pretty women can get men to do anything, even when the men aren’t actually men at all. Envision: “Buy me dinner, move my couch, meet my parents, don’t exterminate humanity. And change your shirt.”

2 out of 5


Steve C. said...

But doesn't your last paragraph assume that Jennifer Connelly is still the ravishing sex goddess she was at the turn of the century, not the terrifyingly emaciated thing she's become?

Toto said...

Emaciated ... and all dour, all the time. Lighten up, Jennifer!

Great review, as always.

James said...

Steve: Jennifer Connelly at 20% potential hotness is still ten times hotter than your average babe. But yeah, if she were still my age I think I'd blow up a bus full of extended family for a live look at her breasts (I'm talking ten seconds or more).

Christian: Thanks! Wouldn't it be awesome to see her do return to kickass material like "Reqiuem for a Dream" or "Dark City?"

Blake Badker said...

these massive projects for crap are thanks to star wars. whereas star wars was "holy shit buddhism for americans!"

these movies are:
lazy hollywood execs pray on american utterance of word, "AWESOMMMMMME UH."

i'm finding it how completely numb i to movies like this coming out. like totally numb. like the island. and voice over and the mcdonald's tie-ins care soo much. but there i am, numb.

and everyone ends the day colder and number. fuck this movie.

Blake Badker said...

and because it's retro it should sell and have culture-merit. but it takes away from everything, including the original. fuck you current hollywood.

Blake Badker said...

Paul Blart: Mall Cop seems like an umpteenth grandma's boy/napoleon dynamite thread, but for some reason the hype they make for day the earth stood still i dedicate to paul blart mall cop. i'm deciding to like it to entertain my jaded self. it will be on FX or TNT in one calendar year for free.

i'm pretending to be as excited for paul blart as star wars. i'm a gen y has been descending towards an exciting new middle aged jaded depravity.