The Day the Earth Stood Still
If you are going to make a movie with a message, make sure that you are clear what that message really is. It’s virtually guaranteed that audiences packing the theatre to see the latest Keanu Reeves blockbuster aren’t used to cognitive puzzles anymore complex than "insert dollar face up - push big plastic button - get frosty beverage." This means that they are unlikely to piece together your disjointed narrative and draw their own conclusions from the sparse trail of breadcrumbs you left scattered throughout the movie’s excruciatingly expository dialogue.
Director Scott Derrickson, perhaps best known for hammering out yet another direct-to-DVD installment of the Hellraiser franchise, proves that Hollywood lightning rarely strikes twice with this completely lackluster remake of the groundbreaking for its time film "The Day The Earth Stood Still."
"Updating" a classic never really works, unless by "update" you mean "stuff it full of big tits and fireballs." Unfortunately, Dickerson went heavy on the fireballs and clothed Jennifer Connelly’s xenobiologist character in a thick mom-sweater that hides her generous chest melons and adds a layer of dignity to her performance that the film truly doesn’t deserve.
This is especially true when given some of the film’s more egregious plotting errors. A brief example: Connelly is summoned by the government to investigate the imminent ‘impact’ of a huge interstellar body with New York City, what is the first thing they do? Send the best and brightest scientists in the nation up in helicopters to WATCH THE IMPACT FROM AS CLOSE A VANTAGE POINT AS POSSIBLE. Obviously, nobody in this brain trust was familiar with the basic physics of big fast rock hitting bigger planet, but more likely is the fact that they knew it was an alien ship about to land and they just SKIPPED the scene explaining why the scientists were put in harm’s way in the first place. But hey, Hollywood hates real science nearly as much as they hate a narrative that takes the time to actually form a cohesive story, and one gets the feeling that lurking somewhere on the cutting room floor amidst endless takes of Reeves falling asleep in mid-take are miles of footage explaining half the shit that happened in this movie.
This gap in the film’s plot was the first of many as the screenwriter lurched from scene to scene like a drunken school bus driven intent on collecting as many kids with his front bumper as possible before passing out. Keanu wanders around New Jersey, alternately shitting out cringe-worthy dialogue and staring off into space at something only he can see.
Apparently at one point he releases a plague of nanobots on the Earth, something I myself would have welcomed with open arms had they chosen to attack the theatre I was trapped in first, but instead I was forced to watch them swarm across the industrial wastelands of the Garden States before being cryptically destroyed by Reeves’ character without any explanation.
This brings us to the single worst aspect of the film - the end. Trapped underneath a bridge surrounded by buzzing grey metallic insects, Keanu tells Connelly that he can stop the apocalypse he has unleashed, but that it would ‘come at a great cost to your people and your way of life’. He then walks through the storm to his ship and sets off some kind of pulse that seems to knock out the creatures, and then launches the vessel back into space. We are treated to a few seconds of the power going out in various industrial facilities around the country (including an auto assembly line, a nice touch, given the release date), and then the credits roll.
That’s it – there’s barely even a segue. No word on if that ‘terrible cost’ was just a brief brownout or the end of all technology as we know it, as the audience is instead forced to write their own conclusion to this stinkfest inside their own heads, almost like a "choose your own adventure" book except when you flip to the final act it just says "this page intentionally left blank." Just like Keanu’s face.
Unfortunately, not at all like the massive paycheck he received for this film, which ranks up there with the Solaris remake as one of the worst sci-fi redux experiments of all time.
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