Mladen and Del review ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’

Klaatu’s (Keanu Reeves) arrival on Earth via a giant sphere, triggers a global upheaval.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, and John Cleese. Directed by Scott Derrickson, 103 minutes, rated PG-13.

Mladen’s take

Add the recently released re-make of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to the ever-growing list of hokey films about redemption.

In fact, if you’re tired of watching Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and his dwarf friend discover that they’re wonderful beings no matter what anyone else believes, consider “The Day the Earth Stood Still” as alternative holiday viewing fare. Here, the whole of humanity is redeemed.

There are no subtleties in this sci-fi movie.

Klaatu, the alien portrayed by Keanu Reeves, arrives aboard a cloudy, sparkling sphere. He’s an interstellar diplomat without portfolio sent by a god-like cabal of deep-space civilizations.

Klaatu’s mission is to evaluate Earth’s health. The prognosis ain’t good.

It isn’t too long before he tells astrobiologist and unwitting ally Helen Benson, played by Jennifer Connelly, that extra-galactic help would be needed to save the planet.

Benson assumes that means helping humanity but eventually figures out she’s mistaken. Klaatu had concluded that the only way to save Earth is by eradicating mankind.

The universal diplomat, protected by GORT, a very impressive gigantic automaton comprised of nano-sized wasps behaving as a single being, initiates Operation Roach Motel after explaining to Benson that, in essence, humanity is a cosmic error.

Meanwhile, what does the U.S. Defense Department do when it encounters hyper-intelligent, unbelievably technologically sophisticated entities from distant worlds? It tries to kill them, of course.

Throughout the movie, Klaatu or GORT turn military target acquisition devices, laser illuminators and high-performance aircraft against the troops using them. The aliens – masters of the electro-magnetic spectrum, severe traumatic injury repair, pure reason, and unemotive faces – gain control of the weapons systems by wireless hacking.

It takes Benson’s unceasing effort to protect her belligerent young stepson and a brief exchange of mathematical equations and a little conversation with a Nobel Prize-winning scientist for Klaatu to start recognizing that humanity ain’t all bad.

It seems – and this has never, ever, been expressed in other movies, books, poems, pamphlets, hieroglyphics or pre-Sumarian script – that humanity can become its best only after demonstrating its worst. The Nobel laureate argues that mankind has some kind of intrinsic sense that will let it know when there has been enough bloodletting and destruction of the environment, as well as the moral fortitude to correct those mistakes when the time comes.

Klaatu starts seeing the microscopic good among the overwhelming evil around him and reverses his decision to obliterate all traces of humanity. The mechanism for scraping clean the Earth’s surface is the neatest visual part of the movie. GORT dissolves into a swarm of flying nano-bots that consumes everything in its path, organic or inorganic.

The swarm is one of a few transparently biblical references in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Hell, at one point Klaatu even walks on water. Hallelujah.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is an OK movie, probably worth the price of a matinee ticket. But, I’m worried about Reeves. Come on, man, next time give me something as spectacular and revolutionary as “The Matrix.”

Del’s take

It isn’t the Earth that’s standing still – it’s Hollywood.

Talk about a movie that didn’t need remaking. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” circa 1951 is a Robert Wise classic that to this day presents a quietly dignified message about the follies of war.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” circa 2008 is a diabetic coma-inducing fried Snickers bar of a mess, covered with sugar-dot cliches and gluey nuggets of contrived melodrama – all of it wrapped in a cloying caramel blanket of unconvincing CGI.

I’m still trying to figure out which cliché most nauseates me – the save-the-environment cliché, the racial-harmony cliché, the empowered woman cliché, the all-government-employees-are-evil cliché, the stupid-military cliché … see what I mean? One more cliche and you’d have a C-bomb big enough to do the aliens’ work for them.

Most of the characters in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” are cardboard cut-outs with Keanu Reeves winning the Oscar for Best Performance by a Stoned-Out Quualude Refugee. The lone exception is Will Smith’s kid, Jaden, who plays the rebellious and disrespectful stepson of Jennifer Connelly’s Helen Benson character (has there ever been a stepchild who liked his new mom or dad?).

Let’s not talk about logic flaws … well heck, let’s do.

Here’s the deal: The aliens have come to Earth because there are few habitable planets in the galaxy and humanity is ruining this one. To fix everything the aliens plan to unleash a biblical horde of tiny robots that will dismantle mankind molecule by molecule, restoring the earth to pristine form … presumably to serve as home base for a future alien megalopolis.

Stop and think about it –  if E.T. has that kind of technology, why not unleash it on an uninhabitable world, making it habitable? Science calls the process “terraforming,” a piece of cake for Klaatu and pals.

But then there’d be no movie – albeit a stupid movie, and be $8 to the richer. And I could use that $8 to make the world a better place so we’d never again be afflicted with Keanu Reeves.

Or I could just buy beer to wash away the taste of this nasty movie.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.