The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

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*. Ugh. Of course. An inevitable “Ugh.”
*. It didn’t have to be this bad, but the concept had flaws from the start, beginning with the typical Hollywood approach of taking a classic property and “updating” it with a bigger budget and state-of-the-art special effects. The problem here is that in the original the effects were already pretty decent and have since become iconic, while the story was corny and had to work very hard to carry a feature. Hollywood’s target for remakes should be great stories that were let down by their effects or production values.
*. Then there’s Keanu. I guess they thought he might work as an alien. And he does a credible job. But the part is a total blank. Michael Rennie seemed a bit more engaged, I thought.

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*. I can’t get over how stupid the military is presented as being. They have no idea what is going on aside from the fact that the situation is clearly not “under control.” They are totally outclassed by the alien technology, but still keep trying ever heavier weapons because that’s just what authoritarian jerks in uniforms do.
*. Firing missiles into the cloud was my favourite tactic. It made me think of Chief Wiggum on The Simpsons shooting his pistol at a cloud of germs.
*. Gort (or more properly GORT in this film, since his name is a military acronym) is rather selective in his targets when he takes the form of a swarm of metal locusts. Why that particular truck? Why that stadium? These are just “wow!” scenes they threw in to give the audience a bit of what it paid for.

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*. Cleese’s advice to Helen Benson: “Change his mind. Not with reason but with yourself.” Hm. Well, she is Jennifer Connelly. Alas, as Roger Ebert observes, Keanu Reeves is “the first co-star in movie history to elude falling in love with Jennifer Connelly.” So: no dice.
*. I actually think it would have made more sense if she had tried to seduce him. As it is he is converted by witnessing her hugging her step-son. He only then realizes that Earthlings “have another side.” This is beyond trite. How long have they been observing Earth? And yet he is surprised to learn there’s some truth to the Professor’s banal observation that people are driven to change at times of crisis?
*. A movie with an environmental message? It would have been easy to put one in, but here it’s left pretty indirect. The alien sphere looks like a green and blue planet. And there’s reference made to a “tipping point” but no explanation of what this means. Really, the reason we’re doomed as a species could just as easily be due to human bellicosity as global climate change or the destruction of the environment.
*. I wonder if they pulled back from having a more explicit environmental message because they didn’t want to be seen as controversial, or risk alienating the “drill baby, drill!” crowd. Whatever the reason, it’s odd to have a film that is so manipulative end up being so pointless.
*. The ending is a total fudge. Are we going to change our ways? Probably not. But the alien threat has gone away. Back to business as usual then. Fire up that SUV and let’s head to McDonald’s. Burn baby, burn.

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