Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake — a movie review (spoilerific)

Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still
: 103 min
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Jaden Smith
Director: Scott Derrickson
Producers: Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, Erwin Stoff
Screenplay: David Scarpa

(You think: "'Spoilerific'? Oh, that's a bad sign." And you're right.)

A better title would be, "103 Minutes A Movie Stood Still," or "103 Minutes My Life Stood Still."

This is a bad movie. Oh, it has moments, but they're not worth it.

It's a bad remake. Let's just take one point of comparison: the 1951 movie was called "The Day the Earth Stood Still" because, you know, the earth stood still! It was a major plot point: Klaatu gets the attention of everyone in the earth by stopping all power, worldwide, at the same time. Everything on Earth. It stood still. On a day.

Here? Nope, no sir! Oh, well, briefly everything pauses at one point — as a side-effect of something else. Not to be confused with the pause that begins with the opening sequence and ends only with the abrupt end-credits. But this power-down is peripheral, a byproduct of something else that happens. I guess so they can keep the title.

What else is bad? Well, let's see: Keanu Reeves! At his best, Reeves is an actor of... how to say this nicely?... limited range.

But in this movie, it's as if the director said to him, "Say, Keanu — you know all that lively, heart-stirring, evocative, eloquent emoting and over-the-top embodying you always do? Well, don't do any of that!"

It reminds me of the comedian whose doctor told him to make sure his sick cat got plenty of rest. "Rest?" he laughed. "The cat sleeps 22 hours a day! If he got any more rest, I'd have to stuff him and mount him!"

This is that kind of a performance. The Sphinx is looking over at Reeves saying, "Dude. Move. Do something."

I don't really get his appeal. A couple of nameless supporting actors are far more handsome and far more expressive than he, but... ah, well.

Now, Jennifer Connelly — well, bless 'er, she's a pretty lady and a competent actress, and the one character you can almost care for. But she loses all credibility pretty soon, and never really gets it back. Then there's Jaden Smith (Will's son), who does his role, but it's an unsympathetic, predictable, annoying role, another big deficit in relation to the equivalent character (played by Father Knows Best's Billy Gray) in the original. Kathy Bates is always a good and capable presence, but also is not given a deeply-written nor thought-out character.

I went (A) to have fun with Valerie, (B) in spite of some things I'd heard already, and (C) figuring that at least there'd be some good eye-candy. Well: (A) mission accomplished; (B) mistake; and (C) nope, not so much.

In place of 1951's cool (for the time) flying saucer, we get a blurry, gauzy, unseeable mass of whatever, that resolves into a big marbled animated bowling ball. BO RING. And Gort is fairly cool, but doesn't do a great deal. He does however turn into the one fairly cool (if silly) special effect, as he dissolves into a swarm of what Valerie called "cutter bees" that eat everything up. Buildings, trucks, trees, they all dissolve; that's a pretty decent visual.

Oh my gosh, and then there's The Message. We're destroying the Earth! So these intergalactic AlGorean Democrats — always knowing better than the masses! — decide to kill us all to save the planet.

("Your planet?" Reeves challenges Bates archly at one point. To which one wishes to respond, "Yeah, well, a lot more so than it is your planet!")

To save the planet, ah, yes, fine. And... where did we come from? Of what ecosystem are we a part? What gives the intergalactic meddlers the right to decide that one dominant species on the planet is expendable, but by golly, the potato bugs and the maggots and the three-toed sloths must live!!!

Yep, it was eco-silliness preached with somber intensity. But at the last possible second Ke-laat-nu decides to give us a chance after he sees Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith hug. (Yep, they don't teach logic in space, either.)

It's accepted as a fact that we're destroying the planet, though Ke-laat-nu has no trouble finding an untouched forest to run through endlessly and pointlessly, and though one of his little ark-spheres in a nearby pond has all sorts of animals and creatures surviving and thriving and swarming off to leave us to our doom. Gee, thanks, Yertle.

(And, BTW, what happens with the GORT-storm ends? The planet is covered with metallic cutter-bees a mile deep? Yep, yessir, that will make for a verdant paradise!)

In sum: Save your money. How bad? We won't even rent it to show the boys for Burger Night when it comes out on DVD. We'll watch the original instead.

Thankfully, I know for a fact that we won't destroy the planet, because I know there will be a densely-populated world for Jesus to judge, return to, and rule over. It will be remade one day, and it will be a verdant Paradise one day — literally. But it won't happen through our recycling programs, solar panels, windmills, or odd-looking cars. It will be done by the triune God of Scripture.

So what we need to know most is not how to recycle, worthwhile though that is. We need to know Jesus.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6 And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son."
(Revelation 21:1-7)
BAD-NEWS POSTSCRIPT: Fox made history by selecting this (!) as the first movie to be beamed into deep space.

Causing one to picture this dialogue afterwards, in a distant galaxy, following a moment or two of silence:
ZIGGO: Glorp?
GLORP: Yeah, Ziggo.
ZIGGO: You know, before watching this, I wasn't even thinking of destroying that planet.
GLORP: Me neither.
ZIGGO: But now... now, after that....
GLORP: Right there with you, Ziggo. Right there with you.
UPDATE: a hapless Christian writer said nice things about the movie, provoking me to add a few thoughts over at Pyro.


NoLongerBlind said...

Thanks for this--I was leaning away from going, after reading some initial negative reviews; this shuts the door on the idea completely.

Guess I'll take Pattie out for breakfast instead....

matt mckendrick said...

Dan, did you find the original any less offensive thematically? As I recall it didn't have all the eco stuff, but had an equally ridiculous symetric view of war- if people are fighting they MUST both be 'bad.' I took the message to be the US must cede a chunk of its sovereignty to the UN in the interests of 'peace.'

P.D. Nelson said...

Dan thanks for confirming what I thought was going to be true. I feel like I need to recompense you the ticket price for taking the bullet for me. I had read of the reason why Klaatu had come to this planet in a review and I immediately thought "Oh they have spifflicated another classic movie." I'll stick to the classic.

DJP said...

mdeane, not much less so. Wise was a big anti-military guy, or so I've read. But I think you can make a better case that throwing atomic weapons around willy-nilly is a bad thing than you can that we're "destroying" the planet. And wasn't the original Klaatu's message that our violence couldn't be taken to space, which was a shared space? But Ke-laat-u's message is, "We can't just stand by and watch the spotted owls die... so we'll KILL YOU ALL!"

DJP said...

P. D. — no need. Just another service I render my beloved readers.

< bows >

Unknown said...

Ironically enough, my daughter's devotional today was on this very story of the movie being beamed into space, with the Bible verses being Joshua 10:7-15. I was planning on waiting until it came out on DVD and get it through NetFlix, but after reading this I think I will pass. This seems to be the (disturbing) trend in movies from the Day after Tomorrow to the Happening. Romans 1:25 comes to mind.

CR said...

Bummer. I only read enough to know what you thought of it. I might check it out anyway because I have a buddy who works in the movie theaters and he can go to to the movies for free and bring friends along.

Jon said...

Thanks for the review. I'm a glutton for punishment so I'll probably go see it anyways. I haven't watched the original yet, but I will before I see the remake - or should I say the "reimagining" that Hollywood likes to do these days.

I watched Forbidden Planet last week and it'll be interesting to see where they take the story for the "new" version. The whole concept of ID is a tad harder Sci-Fi than mainstream movie viewers would want to experience.

Then there's the dumb thrills of the upcoming Star Trek. The movies have been so hit and miss I'm not getting my hopes up. Don't ya just miss the days of Wrath of Khan when Bones references the Genesis account of creation as myth. There was another reference in Undiscovered Country too, but I don't remember what was said, just something Spock was spouting off.

Fred Butler said...

Ah Dan, you're our sacrificial lamb. Watching garbage so I don't have to. I thought Keanu did a good job in that doghouse video you recently posted.

Fred Butler said...

Oh, I meant to add. Fox made Alien. One of the more fun sci-fi movies I just loved, and they couldn't beam it into outer space?

DJP said...

Well, but wouldn't that tell them that we're yummy, and mostly pretty easy?

Anonymous said...

Dan, thanks for saving me some money. I was going to take my wife to see it. We're both sci-fi fans and loved the original.

Rick Beckman said...

I thought the only reason people went to see this film was for the X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailer?

Now *that* was worth the ticket price.

Gilbert said...

Question: Why do we remake movies and songs? Do we lack the creativity to do fresh material? Even in CCM, up until a few years ago, groups were taking secular rock songs and replacing them with Christian lyrics. Come on! It's bad enough some people are rewriting the Bible, no?

Personally, an episode of The Adventures of Ziggo and Glorp sounds more appealing to me. At least it would be original.

As the Word teaches us, so it should apply elsewhere: remaking the original, unless it was bad, is almost always a recipe for disaster.

And as far as that goes, I would cast Dan as Ziggo and Frank as Glorp. That would be some interesting dialog! ;-)

Unknown said...

So I went ahead and read your blog, knowing it was going to be a spoiler? Why? Because I have such limited time in the States, and I do want to spend some of it in the theaters as I'm terribly movie deprived in Honduras! Ah the sacrifices :-) :-) Anyway - thanks SO MUCH for the info - as I value your thoughts on movies, I will take this one to heart and see something else. Any suggestions?

DJP said...

I haven't seen it yet, but if it's still in the theaters, "Bolt" gets some terrific reviews.

For you guys and The Madinator? "The Tale of Despereaux" and "Yes Man" and "Bedtime Stories" are possibilities. We'll see what the buzz is.

coldwell said...


Go find Bolt. It is excellent, with some some unusual plot twists for an animated movie.

I was considering this movie - it's in Imax down the street - but I'll save my money.

I'm going to go see Bolt again in 3-d,

Lee Shelton said...

Sounds like this might only be worth watching when it's edited down and shown on basic cable. Guess I'll save my money.

Dan, can we look forward to a review of the new Star Trek flick when that comes out?

DJP said...

DV, probably!

~Mark said...

I said on Pyro too but again, thanks for the heads-up on yet another "Green" movie. Finding a Christian message in this ranks right up there with "Christian vampires" (Oh no he didn't?!) as stuff to avoid trying to mold.

Unless of course you're growing mold for the greater good, then you may mold away.

Tim said...


Question: Why do we remake movies and songs?

For the same reason the left gives for wanting to give communism another try: It Wasn't Done Right The First Time.

Joe W. said...

I know I'm a Johnny come lately, but despite warnings from DJP and others, I went to see this movie today. Why? Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment. However, sometimes I find what’s happening in the culture fascinating. I recently read a couple of articles on global warming that were so ridiculous, alarmist, and over the top (even for global warning proponents) I thought perhaps they were a joke, satire, or something from The Onion, but they were real articles from the MSM.

So I really didn't go for the entertainment value, although I thought the first forty-minutes worked pretty well as a story, but I digress. My main point is this: I thought it was fascinating how they described man, that he is violent, stubborn and unwilling to change. It almost sounded like they were talking about total depravity. But of course, they were talking about carbon emissions. Man will not repent of his wicked carbon emitting, non-recycling, SUV driving, Big Mac eating ways. That is the sin worthy of death and judgment. They have even given Noah's ark an update. Klaatu states "We tried to reason with you."

Of course, I can't help but think of Romans 1:25: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Lastly, for good measure, the plot also included how the ham-fisted Americans are always messing things up.

Preston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SolaMommy said...

I read this review months ago, but decided to watch the movie when they showed it on my flight from NY to TX (don't worry, I used my own headphones, I didn't pay for them). It was just as lame-o as you described.