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the day the earth stood still

The Day The Earth Stood Still
Scott Derrickson
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, James Hong

Stewart Armstrong

June 26, 2009


The premise of this movie is pretty simple. But let me start off with some of my top "Why?" moments, which, regretfully, I found to be pretty intrusive and which, in my opinion detracts from understanding the story.

It all starts with an object hurling towards the Earth. Soon, top scientists and the military start rustling up people randomly. Or so it seems because they are telling folks to come with them. At this juncture we are introduced to our heroine Dr. Helen Benson (played by Jennifer Connelly) and her son Jacob (played by Will Smith's son Jaden Smith). From the get go you can see the tension between the two--it's pretty obvious. And we get told "why" that tension exists. But I wonder, why tells us? We can see that the little prick has a problem. Next we find Dr. Benson at a military installation meeting up with Michael Grainer (played by Jon Hamm) who is prepping her for the inevitable. She and others are loaded onto a helicopter which will take them to the impact zone. Why? Were the parties con cerned hoping that the Easter Bunny left them an Easter egg or something? Then we segue to Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (played by Kathy Bates) who, along with her sidekick John Driscoll (played by Kyle Chandler), questions a mysterious man by the name of Klatuu (played Keanu Reeves). Klatuu requests to be allowed to speak with the heads of state. Jackson interrogates poor Klatuu using various methods, hoping to gain answers as to who he is and why he is here. Why? I guess no one learned any lessons from the movies Independence Day and War of The Worlds. Youíll be asking a lot of questions during this movie, and most of them will be, "why?"

As for the acting, Connelly was outstanding in her role, with Hamm, Bates, and Chandler also turning in strong performances. It seemed like Connelly was channeling Patricia Nealís performance of Helen in the original film, which I found interesting because it made Connelly's character feel a bit more human in dealing with her son, relating to Klatuu, and managing the overall situation her character finds herself in. Benson's mothering, her relationship with her son, feels genuine; at no point does it come across as shallow or hollow. Connelly gave such a commendable performance I'm just sorry she had to suffer through a poorly thought-out and executed script. As for Smith's performance I guess it couldn't be helped. Nothing against Smith, but his character was a bit too annoying, sort of like the character Rachel Ferrier in the War of The Worlds remake in which Rachel just screams all the time. Instead of screaming, Jacob is just plain angry and inconsiderate of his mother and of the situation they are facing. I would prefer Billy from the original film over Jacob any day. As for Smith's actual performance of Jacob, it was okay, certainly nothing to write home about.

Coming in at number two is Jon Hamm as Benson's fellow scientist and friend. Although Hamm's character Michael Grainer doesn't have a counterpart in the original he was a nice addition to the story. It would have been nice if he had more screen time and more involvement in the story. Next up is Kathy Bates, who put in a solid performance as well, but again, due to the faulty script, her character becomes a one-note character like Kyle Chandlerís John Driscoll--one-note and forgettable. The onl y person I haven't mentioned yet until now was John Cleese as Professor Barnhart. Again, it would have been nice to see more of this character beyond the one scene he has when he meets Klatuu for the first time. Though it's supposed to be the most poignant scene in the movie, the Barnhart character becomes forgettable as well. All I can say is what a waste of talent. It ís impossible for me to tell if the Barnhart character is an improvement over his counterpart in the original.

And now we come to Keanu Reeves as Klatuu. There is really nothing to Klatuu in this film. No weight, no depth. With all due respect to Reeves, I thought Klatuu was a changeling at first, and I was waiting for his double to show up and say "I'm the real Klatuu and he's an imposter!!" Seriously, Klatuu was bland. Bland and lifeless. In the original, Klatuu had a presence from the beginning to end, thanks no doubt to the great actor Michael Rennie who played the part. You could see why he took the actions he did to make the world understand the consequences of its actions. Not only that, you clearly saw what his mission and objectives were. And, if you are a Gort fan, well, don't waste your time because Gort is just as uninteresting as the movie. I was waiting for Gort to go=2 0wild. Instead, he turns out to be less than the sum of his parts. I swear they reused the same CGI effects from The Fantastic Four movie for Galactus.

As for the story and plot, there ís really nothing to speak of. The viewer will wonder if this movie existed or even started when it ís all said and done. I can understand why they would make changes from the original story, but they really didn't have to. The characters could essentially have remained the same with only a minor tweak here and there, and so could the plot and story. The original may have spoken of the Cold War tensions of that time, but it is still applicable to today's world. Just replace the "red menace" with the "terrorist menace" and it still holds true. The story does not hold up and is just riddled with holes, lack of character development, and a failed message, which happens to be a green one but you really wouldn't know it because it gets within the story.

That's the best I can say of this dismal movie. There were only two or three soli d and interesting characters in the movie; but the cast, along with said characters, gets lost along the way. In the end, you simply don't care for any of them including Benson and her son Jacob. Viewers will be disappointed or feel cheated, like they've just wasted their valuable time. My recommendation? Watch the original if you can. I wouldn't exactly call this remake trash, but with the exception of some nice set pieces and some well executed scenes, it sure smells like it. I feel a little generous so I'll give this film a well-deserved "D".


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