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Monday, December 15, 2008

Movie Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day That Should Never Have Come.


RATING: 0.5/5


As you may have learned from movie reviews elsewhere, commercial entertainment journalists might start to attempt to impress you with their all-too-facile knowledge of the entire film industry at this point of an article. As a result of this, I discovered that The Day the Earth Stood Still is actually a remake of a 1951 film of the same name. Unless you are a really fervent observer of the film industry or the lucky person who caught sight of the original on a VHS Tape at a garage sales, you probably wouldn’t have heard of the 1951 movie before. That being said, the trailers and posters are likely to be your only hope (sans spoilers) in your quest to conjecture what to expect in the film. Like you, I was misled into believing that this film’s all about balls-out massive alien invasion sci-fi action (ala 2005’s War of the Worlds), but it’s merely The Day I Sat Still at the cinema and realized that I should probably rush to the ticket counter and secure a refund after the movie ended.

Jennifer Connelly plays Dr. Helen Benson, an astrobiologist who is abruptly interrupted by government officials while preparing dinner for her stepson (Jaden Smith). Content to only divulge the fact that the US government requires her services, they proceed to transport her to a near-by military base. Upon arriving, she discovers that other scientists have been recruited as well. All too brusquely, it is revealed that an asteroid or otherwise would hit Manhattan in a little more than an hour’s time with unimaginably disastrous consequences.

Despite this, Helen and the posse of scientists are sent into the area where the impact would occur – so much for intelligence. The asteroid turns out to be a glowing green sphere of sorts and fortunately for them, it performes a rather smooth landing right in the center of Central Park. Soon after, an extraterrestrial being emerges from the sphere and is accidentally shot by a jumpy soldier. Wounded and taken into the custody of the US government, the extraterrestrial being soon adopts a human form, referring to himself as Klaatu (Keanu Reeves).

Helen sees a benevolent side in Klaatu and decides to aid him in his escape. It isn’t long before Klaatu makes his intentions clear: He has come to Earth not to destroy it – but to save it – from humans. Helen must now rush against time to change Klaatu’s mind before the aliens start to wipe humans off the surface of the Earth.

Unlike the 1951 original which focused on the Cold War paranoia, this remake shifts its emphasis to a more pressing problem of today: Destruction of the environment. The aliens are here to obliterate humanity so that the environmental destruction would cease, and the Earth, preserved. But for all its talk about environmental destruction, rarely has the film shown any connection between the aforementioned and the several scenes it consists of. Helen’s constant yells of “We can change. We can change. Just give us a chance” to Klaatu in an attempt to reverse the aliens’ decision to eliminate humanity do remind us of the film’s underlying political message from time to time, but it isn’t long before the lines get annoying.

It’s unbelievable, but true: Those lines are the only vestige of what this film is trying to tell us. On that count, it fails miserably, especially after having taken into consideration how another recently released political message-carrying film, Eagle Eye, managed to weave its ideas with its scenes with great panache such that the whole movie is a message by itself – its ideas not merely relegated to the responsibility of a particular dialogue.

Like a 70 year-old man assaying to lift a 50’ LCD TV set by himself, the film desperately struggles to draw attention away from the ideas it’s supposed to convey to how Helen can dissuade Klaatu and his fellow aliens from exterminating humanity. To accomplish this goal, the scriptwriters have been specifically instructed to allow Klaatu to follow Helen throughout the course of the movie. This is so that Klaatu can have more time to explore the relationship between Helen and her stepson, hence providing him with a reason to make his fellow aliens change their minds about destroying humanity. The problem is: The aliens came to Earth to take out all the humans and save the planet from environmental destruction, not negative human behaviour. In having scene after scene portray the relationship between Helen and her stepson, their courage and their confidence, the film has totally gone off the boil. And even that feels really rushed, with the film giving little or no explanation to why the characters experience a particular set of emotions in a certain scene.

By the hour mark, this film’s already in a mess: It has a political message to convey, but it doesn’t exactly understand how it can be put across to the audiences. The result is the haphazard use of the same irritating line over and over again to remind us that environmental protection is important – that if we don’t protect the environment, aliens will wipe us all out (wow!). It attempts to show how the humans’ deep emotions can alter the decisions of the aliens, but constantly fails to explain why the characters feel in a particular way. The result is a movie that consists of scenes that feel all too rushed and disconnected. And I thought that the action promised here could revive it from the ashes. I was wrong.

The aliens gave us the 8th Wonder of the World. Hooray!

It’s pathetic that the most interesting action involves a swarm of silver flies chewing up buildings by the hectares. Oh, that’s it? That’s how an alien invasion is like? Chances are that if you have seen the trailers before, you have seen all the action in this film. The glowing green sphere barely manages to qualify itself as something that would be associated with action – but rather, is something that would only intrigue children. By the time the silver flies start making their debut, the movie has already completely ignored the ideas it’s supposed to convey.

I walked out of the cinema feeling that the elements of the film were really disconnected and that the whole movie was just utterly meaningless. Instead of screening The Day the Earth Stood Still, cinema operators should have just displayed the words “Protect the Environment” on a nondescript black background – the portrayal of human emotions and alien technology and powers are just superfluous. That pretty much sums up the quality of this film.

Final Comments
Scroll up to the last fourth paragraph. That says it all. There’s a recession going on, people. Save your money. The film’s abrupt ending just tells us that the director wants to wrap up this embarrassing movie as soon as possible.


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