Monday, 18 May 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Lowdown: Aliens threaten to annihilate humans in order to save the earth.
Science fiction films can be problematic: On one hand they can be exciting while on the other hand they can step on so many scientific truths they become pathetic. Due to marketing related reasons it seems as if the latter form the majority, with studio accountants having seemingly determined dumb films sell better. Sadly, the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still belongs firmly into that category.
The film tells us of an alien spaceship landing in the middle of Central Park. But of course; where else would it land? Or are you suggesting there is actually more to this world than the USA? Anyway, out of the ship pops one dude, Keanu Reeves; he quickly gets shot by one of the many nervous soldiers waiting there, which triggers the release of a giant robot. This one is an invincible robot that seems capable of destroying anything on its way. Quickly enough we learn that what is at stake is the future of humanity: some interstellar collective has decided humans pose a risk to their planet and that the best course of action, in the name of all that is living, is to remove the problem.
Two things stand in Keanu’s way to green salvation: One Jennifer Connelly, an exobiology specialist wearing a white coat and other bits of equipment essential for making one appear smart; she sides with Keanu and tries to convince him to change his mind through positive feedback. On the other hand is one Kathy Bates playing a Hillary Clinton like role of Defence Minister; she tries to beat the aliens down using force. In both cases I got the feeling the actresses are way too overqualified to portray the flat roles they’ve been handed. I would go even further and suggest the two were willing to participate in the film due to its green agenda, not because of the film being a professional challenge they would like to tackle at the current stage of their careers. With a rather robotic Keanu at center stage, acting is a bit of a sad affair in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
As implied, though, the biggest problem at hand is the amount of things that do not make sense or just pure bullshit that’s being poured on the viewer. The Day the Earth Stood Still really asks a lot of its viewers in terms of shutting one’s brains and accepting the crap it proposes for a plot. True, others have done so before and got away with it, as per Independence Day. But unlike its partner in showing famous human artifacts being destroyed by faceless aliens The Day the Earth Stood Still maintains an aura of seriousness all along, whereas the genre’s better specimen just shrug things off with a laugh.
Worst scene: To point at one example where the film has been dumbed down in favor of the audience’s thicker members, the aliens are seen collecting animal specimen into pods. As the film literally says, these pods are meant to act as a Noah’s Ark, to be returned to earth once the humans are no longer there. But is that the way to save the planet? And if you are such a technologically advanced culture that you can make your representative (Keanu Reeves) appear all human and carry human DNA, why do you need to collect animal samples in the first place? Why can’t you just store the digital code of the animals’ DNA on your hard drive? After all, a human’s entire DNA code fits on one single layer DVD.
The conclusion is inevitable: The Day the Earth Stood Still is all about appearances!
Best joke: The supplementals go on talking how green the film's production was. They report being very careful with the napalm that they used.
Technical assessment: Good, but nothing inspiring.
Overall: Being green and having a good agenda does not mean you can get away with murder on the screen. 2 out of 5 stars.

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