You know, going in to see The Day the Earth Stood Still, now out on DVD, I confess that I was a bit concerned. Fifties-era science fiction getting a remake sounds like little more than a true sign of Hollywood’s deep desperation. And putting Keanu Reeves in at the lead, who isn’t exactly one of Hollywood’s best, left me even colder. So with all that working against it—a tired premise, a relatively obscure canon piece as foundation, a soap carving for a lead actor—you can just about imagine my shock when I discovered that the whole would actually be somewhat watchable, if just a smidge on the preachy side.
Basically, in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Keanu Reeves appears as Klaatu, part of a group of races who’ve decided that humanity has become untenable on the planet Earth, and is thus risking the destruction of several million species. Thus, Klaatu has been dispatched to gather up representatives OF these several million species and tell humanity metaphorically where to stick it as the races Klaatu represents launches a full-on destructive sweep in the form of a massive cloud of nanotech.
Granted, the ending is less than satisfactory—anyone else remember Escape From L.A.? Yeah, it’s a lot like that, except nowhere NEAR as much fun. And yes, the whole couldn’t be much more preachy if Al Gore were playing Klaatu instead of Keanu Reeves; though it would be awesome to see this, there’s just no way the average human being could take exposure to that level of condescension and not set the theatre on fire, possibly taking him or her with it..
Frankly, I’m getting sick and tired of being preached at about how my “carbon footprint” is too big or I’m a huge polluter because I still drive a CAR or how the fact that I use electric lights is going to kill the polar bears. I especially hate it coming from celebrities with their own jets. Like somehow my car puts out more carbon and does more pollution than your eighty-foot Lear jet. Yeah, okay, call me when your feasibility upgrades arrive.
But anyway, this aside, the resulting film is really not that bad. Yes, it’s preachy. In many places it lacks coherence. Keanu couldn’t be much more wooden in his portrayal of Klaatu—some say he looks bored and distracted, and frankly, I see it.
But it’s not unwatchable. It’s a beautiful movie that looks great and watches at least fairly well. Sure, I wouldn’t have paid the extortionate prices the theatres often charge to see it there, but would I watch it on DVD? Sure. There’s no reason not to give this one a spin, especially if you’re any kind of sci-fi buff. Of course, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the original, which actually almost managed to completely omit the great classic line Klaatu barada nikto, and if that’s not a dark sign I don’t know what is.
But there’s one thing that remains clear—this movie looks good, and it’s actually watchable. It’s a good rental, but not one to keep.