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December 10th, 2008 Andy Davis | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Klaatu barada nikto whatever.

     
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KLAATU’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE: Keanu Reeves tries to pass muster.

Something’s not right when a movie made in the aughts is cheesier than the 1950s movie it’s a remake of, a movie famous for its iconic image of a Jiffy-Pop-style flying saucer settling down on the Mall in D.C. so that an alien named Klaatu can deliver a message to mankind.

The original The Day the Earth Stood Still still resonates today as a wistful morality tale, sort of like Rod Serling without the twist, mostly due to the gently pained amusement Michael Rennie brought to the role of Klaatu. The alien’s message this time, and thus the movie’s, have been tweaked somewhat to fit the times, although the film still threads a surprising amount of the original material through it’s revamping. Given that the first film was essentially one long lesson couched in a minimum of sci-fi trappings, it would have seemed natural to make this the one remake where it’s OK that all bets are off and the story is drastically different.

It’s not, and in fact it seriously ratchets down any sense of excitement, jumping right into the landing without enough buildup, and failing at the end to deliver the suspense the original managed to without lifting the finger of a single special-effects man. As for everything in between, apart from a dreadful version of the robot Gort whose videogame look makes the ’50s tin-man version impressive by comparison, the film is simply as remote and affectless as Keanu Reeves’ Klaatu.

It’s easy to see why Reeves was first choice for an emotionless version of the alien, although someone should have told him it was OK to show emotion in the prologue, where he plays a 1920s human unbedazzled by an incredible discovery. And it’s probably for the best that one thing that was jettisoned from the original is Klaatu’s speech about how he and his people have no need for stupidity. No way Reeves could have pulled that off. PG-13.


SEE IT: The Day the Earth Stood Still opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, Cinetopia, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Oak Grove, Pioneer place, Sandy, Sherwood, St. Johns Twin Cinema-Pub, Tigard and Wilsonville.
 
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