Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still Review

Hollywood, completely void of original ideas, hops back on the remake train, this time all the way back to 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still. Aside from the title and the fact that both films are about an alien named Klaatu, though, there's very little in the way of similarity.

In the 1951 film, Klaatu arrives on Earth with a message that he insists upon sharing only when all the world's leaders come together to hear it. When the President's secretary informs him that he's asking for the impossible, that the leaders cannot agree on neutral meeting space, Klaatu escapes military custody, assumes the alias "Mr Carpenter," then sets about observing humans and looking for another way to get his message across. Long story short, he eventually gets together a gathering of the world's top scientists, and his message is basically that many advanced alien civilizations gave up war and violence, and established a force of robots with the authority to (ironically) destroy anyone who breaks the no-violence rule. Now that humanity had invented nuclear weapons, they would have to tread cautiously, or those robots might come and destroy the Earth.

After spending way too much time establishing some characters, the 2008 remake also eventually gets to a point where Klaatu comes to Earth. And, like the 1951 film, Klaatu escapes military custody. Unlike the 1951 film, though, it turns out that Klaatu is not the first of his kind on Earth, and indeed many spheres like the one he came in land all over the Earth. After meeting with another of his kind to hear his report, Klaatu decides to put his plan into effect... that is, to round up animals from all over, then destroy mankind. Why? Because apparently life-sustaining planets are rare, and humanity is trashing Earth. Get rid of humans, put the animals back, and everything will be just dandy as far as Klaatu is concerned.

I'd keep going, but I'd be spoiling the ending. Of course, that assumes you even still care, which I don't mind telling you you shouldn't. For a movie that's promoted with lots of images of GORT like it's going to be some kind of Independence Day popcorn action flick, the movie is just a dull vehicle for yet another left-wing Hollywood rant about how we're ruining the environment. Now, you could point out that the original film was also a point against the nuclear boogyman of the day, but with Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in the people's minds and the beginning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, a nuclear war was a very real, very imminent threat. Despite Hollywood's constant complaining, environmental issues aren't. The left was warning of another Ice Age in the 70's, then switched to the Greenhouse Effect (which became "Global Warming) when data showed global temperatures were on the rise, then they swapped Global Warming for Global Climate Change and tried to explain how warming could lead to cooling when it turned out that global temperatures are starting to decline. Whether you believe in Global Climate Change or not (I do), or whether you believe it's man-made or a natural phenomenon (I'm leaning toward natural causes), Hollywood's urgency on the matter just doesn't fit with my perception of the situation. "Green" has become a religion for Hollywood, and rather than a tale of caution like the original, the remake comes across as preachy. And boring. Very boring. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, and the best acting comes from Will Smith's 10-year old son (who's actually quite talented).

If you go to see a movie, make The Day the Earth Stood Still your last choice. Seriously. If there's really nothing else at the theater you want to see, flush you movie money down the toilet. You'll be more entertained watching it spin around in the bowl than you will be by this movie.

Final Score: D-

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