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The Day the Earth Stood Still

Nearly Stillborn

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was released in 1951 and contained a chilling message about how manís inhumanity to man would inevitably spell our doom. The film clearly reflected fears about the Cold War and communism. Fifty plus years later, director Scott Derrickson is at the helm of the remake with the same name. While much has changed in fifty plus years (the end of the Cold War for starters), manís continued inhumanity to man is sadly still alive and well.

The film opens dramatically with NASA discovering a strange object hurtling towards Earth at a startling rate. If this object collides with earth at the current speed at which it is traveling, humanity will be ashes and dust. The US government mobilizes various scientists in a vain effort to ascertain what this object is and what if anything can be done to stop it.

Unfortunately, the collective intelligence of the worldís greatest scientists can do nothing to stop the object from hitting Earth. Conveniently, the mysterious object slows to a crawl and lands gingerly in Central Park. Astrobiologist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) slowly approaches a being emerging from the strange object only to have the military abruptly interrupt this communion with gunfire. Apparently, manís inhumanity extends to extraterrestrials as well as man. The otherworldly being is seriously wounded.

Naturally, the world is consumed by panic, fear, and assumes the worst. Is this being a sign of the apocalypse? Dr. Benson thinks otherwise of the being referring to itself as Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and finds herself trying to liberate Klaatu and find the real answer for why heís here and what his arrival means for humanity.

Reeves is perfectly cast as the odd and seemingly emotionless Klaatu. Reeves already has an otherworldly air to him and has a gift for playing roles with a certain emotional distance and coldness. While Klaatu doesnít exactly seem menacing, his motives donít appear to be entirely magnanimous either. Reeves does a solid job at being vague and oblique. Itís quite easy to believe heís an extraterrestrial or an android.

Connelly is always easy on the eyes and is typically an excellent actor, but her turn as a scientist is nothing worth mentioning. Sheís convincing enough as a scientist and does a passable job as a mother. But, in some respects itís hard to understand why Helen would be terribly invested in the future of humanity. Recently widowed and saddled with an ungrateful child, Jacob (played by Jaden Smith), her motivations are a bit unclear.

Also unclear is how Jaden Smith was cast as Jacob. Well, this isnít entirely unclear. Given that Jaden is the son of uber-star Will Smith, itís likely director Derrickson had his arm twisted a bit on this casting choice. Jaden Smithís performance is off from the get go. What few lines Smith receives are delivered awkwardly at every turn and it becomes a real distraction as the film progresses.

Setting aside some souped up special effects, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remake that offers nothing better than what was offered in the original. Derrickson has effectively done a color by numbers job. Itís not a terrible film; it just doesnít excel in any particular facet. The acting is mediocre and the story is predictable. One could argue a film like this is quite relevant today given the collapsing economy, global warming, and the looming threat of terrorism and I wouldnít necessarily disagree. But, The Day the Earth Stood Still is likely not going to be the kind of film that inspires any kind of change.