The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

In 1951 Director Robert Wise helped create one of the most insightful films of the dawning Science Fiction genre. At that time, the growing theme was the good folks of Earth having to defend ourselves against all manner of evil creatures from beyond.
This tone has carried over to modern day as the notion of hostile invaders from beyond has become part of our cinematic and written culture.
The ironic thing about “The Day The Earth Stood Still” was that it was a cautionary tale that stood apart from the genre films of the day. Instead of an all out assault on humanity, a visitor named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) came to deliver a message that change was needed or else there would be dire consequences. Klaatu told the people of the earth that they must learn to live in peace and make war a thing of the past or they would run the risk of being destroyed by more powerful races that would see them as a threat to their peaceful ways.

Klaatu had a powerful robot named Gort who would destroy any hints of aggression and used him to get his message of the need for peace across.

Now in 2008, 20th Century Fox has recreated this classic tale with a star studded cast and a large production budget.

In the new version, Jennifer Connelly stars as Helen Benson, a scientist who is raising her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), who still mourns for his father who was recently killed while serving in the gulf. One night, Helen is taken into custody by agents who whisk her and other scientists to a secret conference where it is learned that an object in on a collision course with Manhattan and that due to a lack of warning, there is no time to evacuate the city.

Just when the gathered group prepares for the worst, the mysterious object lands in the middle of Central Park and after being surrounded by the military, produces a lone being from the interior of the spherical object. Just as Helen is about to make first contact with the being, he is shot by a nervous soldier, and before anyone knows what has happened, a giant mechanized being emerges from the sphere and incapacitates the assembled crowd with a sound wave. Just as the creature is about to take matters further he is called off by the wounded being.

The wounded being is taken to for medical care and the confounded scientists are amazed to find a human being underneath the organic suit that the being was wearing. The being grows very quickly and is soon a full grown adult.

Naturally these events are very concerning to the U.S. government and Defense Secretary Jackson (Kathy Bates). The Being identifies himself as Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), and asks to speak with the leaders of the world about a very important matter. Jackson is convinced that Klaatu is the first wave of an invasion and orders him to be interrogated in order to learn his true mission.

Klaatu is able to escape and soon finds himself on the run with Helen and in doing so, learns about humanity. As his mission is revealed, it soon becomes a race against time for Klaatu and Helen to save the world from the greatest threat it has ever known.

The setup to the new film was very good and I was fortunate enough to see the film at an Imax screen which really enhanced the visuals of the film. Sadly there was not enough action for it to hold my attention as the best visuals in the film were largely shown in the trailer.

Once the events of the plot were put into motion, I found them to be very underwhelming, and the message of the film was lost in a series of muddled dialogue and a script lacking any really tension or drama. Klaatu is supposed to be a fish out of water that learns through Helen and Jacob about the other side of humanity, the one that is not about war, death, and destruction. Yet, thanks to the lack of chemistry between Reeves and the always good Connelly the audience is left with little to root for.
When the action finally comes it is very brief and restrained and not nearly enough to save the film, which stumbles to a very awkward and predictable finale.

I had hoped that this new version would be able to up the action promised in the first film and greater delve into the origins of Klaatu as well as the message of change he brought to humanity. Instead the film loses its way and the message becomes an afterthought leaving the audience with very little.

2.5 stars out of 5