Day the Earth Stood Still, The (2008)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2 1/2

Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connolly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, and Kathy Bates. Sci/Fi thriller. Written by David Scarpa, based on the screenplay by Edmund H. North. Directed by Scott Derrickson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: 20th Century Foxs contemporary reinvention of its 1951 classic has "Mr. Whoa" himself, Keanu Reeves, portraying Klaatu, an alien whose arrival on our planet triggers a global upheaval. As governments and scientists race to unravel the mystery behind the visitors appearance, a woman (Jennifer Connelly) and her young stepson (Will Smith's real life boy Jaden) get caught up in his mission and come to understand the ramifications of Klaatu calling himself a friend to the Earth. A friend of Earth, yes. People on it not so much.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Director Scott Derrickson, maker of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and also a devout brother in Christ, replaces the political agenda of the original with a pro-eco message; now the aliens are ticked off by our heedless treatment of the planet. Soon, these extra terrestrial police are generating dome-like arks out of galactic placenta in order to preserve animals and vegetation. People and their creations, however, are doomed. Klaatu has come to unleash a plague of metal-like insects that will demolish buildings and human flesh alike. (Man, do we need Jaden Smiths dad to welcome these guys to earth.) They are interstellar activists, kinda like PETA, only for plants.

There are some positive messages (the film reminds outer space visitors that we earthlings have another side to our destructive nature), but as with most remakes of classics, I suspect the green light was given in order to cash in on a proven product. Keep the title, add color and CGI magic, and bingo, another half-billion for the studio coffers. Ive got no problem with that. After all, it is show business. And lets face it, folks, half of todays moviegoers have never seen the original. And because that one was in black & white, not much chance that they ever will. But is this a worthwhile remake?

As with most of his work, Keanu Reeves is somewhat stilted, offering little in the way of charm or nuance (a debatable assessment if you ask the ladies). In the original, actor Michael Rennie became a Christ figure, his storyline geared as much toward biblical symbolism as it was preachy anti-nuclear presumption. In the update, Keanu Reeves is more robotic guru than messiah. His Klaatu is a kind of galactic Oral Roberts, healing minor characters hes just terminated, and when the storyline demands a sacrificial moment, hes the chosen one, having acquired compassion from us mere mortals. But the droll actor is never able to convince me that his Klaatu knows the way to the best beaches, let alone the trip back to planet Vegan. Or wherever.

Ms. Connelly, though lovely, has one expression and maintains that glossy stare throughout (in her defense, its a thankless role where she must react to effects that will be added later, a step-kid with attitude, and a space alien from the planet Blah). And director Derrickson seems mandated by corporate committee to stress style rather than substance.

There are messianic themes and even biblical teachings, but most of these elements are muted due to the era in which we live. Talking about God in movies is iffy business in a culture that is now led by those who demand that Happy Holidays replace Merry Christmas.

There is another take to my analysis. Its clean, devoid of obscenity or crude humor, the violence remains within the PG-13 jurisdiction, and the main characters better themselves by films end.

If that's the case, then why my surgical dissection? Because of what it might have been. Its a solid Saturday matinee, jazzed up from the original with more carnage and special effects wizardry, and Mr. Derrickson maintains a lively pacing. But he adds nothing exceptional to his remake. Great science fiction always has a prophetic parable at its core. By incorporating either satire or irony, science fiction can cause audiences to leave the theater not just exuberated by roller coaster thrills, but uplifted by thought-provoking concepts.

Now, before you think thats a bit heady, travel back with me to the old TV series The Twilight Zone. Eerie and scary, the surprise endings remain etched into our psyches. Those 23-minute weekly anthologies gave us goose bumps, but, like Mr. Shakespeares works, they also reminded us, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: : Violent imagery, sometimes jolting, as the aliens dispatch soldiers and military jets; a cop is struck by a moving car; a man is gunned down, blood splatters; an incision is made upon the wounded alien; some disturbing imagery may be unsettling to young children. Blood is splattered when a soldier is killed.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: A child shows disrespect toward his stepmother until the end of the film when he apologizes.

Running Time: 110 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Older

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