Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still

When a film is so beloved by generations of nerds (myself included) any attempt to remake it is well and truly behind the 8-ball before it even begins. It’s bound to be met with scorn, derision, calls for the heads of the producers etc.

Just put “the day the earth stood still sucks” into Google and see if I’m wrong.

A lot of the derision is around the casting of Keanu Reeves as emissary-from-the-stars Klaatu, originally played by Michael Rennie.

day_krI think it’s actually a fine piece of casting. Klaatu’s taken on human form but hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet. What a perfect excuse  for wooden acting and awkward movements.

And of course, the original being 57 years old means that a lot of the plot updates were necessary.

The threat of nuclear destruction (the original film being grounding in Cold War-era nuclear paranoia) has been replaced with the threat of environmental apocalypse, and the government security requires a bit more hoop-jumping for Klaatu to escape.

Other changes are just to ratchet up the cool factor, like the silver-jumpsuited robot Gort becoming an agglomeration of nanobugs and the flying-saucer spaceship a nondescript glowing orb.

the-day-the-earth-stood-stillThe thing I found really interesting was the Klaatu-as-Messiah imagery (only hinted at in the original) being so much stronger, giving the story a very clear link to Christian end-of-days mythology.

Watch out for references to God-born-as-human, healing hands, forgiveness, stigmata, sacrifice and a new world order. They’re all there.

Of course, the point of the film is an admonition to protect the environment and while this important point is made, in a few places it all gets a bit lost in the cheese.

For some reason modern Hollywood scriptwriters stumble when writing profound dialogue. It was managed much better in the original film, but it could be that Michael Rennie was just a better actor than Keanu.

Either way, like most modern cinematic science-fiction this manages to walks a fine line between saying something important and saying it well.

3.5 out of 5