The Day the Earth Stood Still

IMAX Has Never Been Less Impressive

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly

By Robert Patrick

Director Scott Derrickson’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the supposed 1950s sci-fi classic, is conceptually boiling over with thoughts and ideas. Originally conceived as a way for screenwriter Edmund H. North to wax philosophical about the hyper-violent nature of human beings, The Day the Earth Stood Still became canonized as a science fiction landmark. Today, with the social climate still floundering, Derrickson and company decided that the message – one of peace and understanding – would be best conveyed by Keanu Reeves and his incomprehensible verbal prowess.

For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the fifty year-old plotline, the movie begins when a craft, in the form of a noxious orb, lands in Manhattan. The government, in a bid to assemble the best scientists available, recruit a college professor named Helen Bensen (Jennifer Connelly) to examine the unworldly sphere – by this movie’s logic, we’re to believe that she is the most qualified to handle this volatile situation.

Once Bensen begins examining the object, a colossal robot emerges from the gaseous ship, inferring to the human race that aliens are an aesthetically disappointing species. In fact, I think that everyone is so angry after the robot gingerly walks out of the orb, that a skittish soldier accidentally discharges his weapon on a separate being that appears from beyond the spectral craft.

After the wounded figure is taken into custody, it begins to molt it’s shell of placenta, only to reveal none other than Keanu Reeves – how very anticlimactic to the people of earth. Once the being gains consciousness, it explains that his name is Klaatu. Using his negligible amount of enthusiasm, Reeves explains that he must address the people of earth about an impending attack on their planet. In great dramatic fashion, no one on earth will grant him his wish, so we’re stuck watching Reeves’ vapid persona for ninety more minutes.

Jennifer Connelly’s character, who assists Klaatu with his journey, manages to somehow mirror Reeves’ insipid mannerisms to a rueful degree. Generally a fine actress, Connelly sleepwalks through The Day the Earth Stood Still, doing little more than wearily plodding about during her screen time.

There are flaws in this movie – some of them having to do with continuity – that are beyond distracting. A fellow colleague reminded me that, in one scene of the movie, Klaatu is eating a sandwich. In the next scene, for one miraculous reason or another, the sandwich has regenerated itself to its former state. Obviously, at this point, I’m assuming director Scott Derrickson was less than focused on the details of this film.

After watching The Day the Earth Stood Still – and believe me, leaving the theatre was a cathartic experience – I realized a few things. First, I realized that Reeves, who is listless as always, relies on the action around him as a means of performing. The man simply stands there and waits for a crescendo of explosions to move along the plot, leaving little purpose for him to expatiate his feelings. Secondly, I realized that McDonalds, if accurately portrayed, will be the perfect location for a plot twist if you ask either Scott Derrickson or the fast food chain’s marketing agency.

All in all, The Day the Earth Stood Still, despite its purposed allegories for world peace, plays like a movie without a thought in its head. Too bad, because 20th Century Fox is actually screening this movie in space – talk about the most precipitous decision possible. I guess the economic recession didn’t dampen the spirits of the studio. If there is alien life, I only hope that they don’t watch this movie – what a slap in the face of intelligent minds everywhere.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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