Critics Pan 'Day the Earth Stood Still' Remake With Global Warming Theme

Klaatu barada nikto!

The reviews are in for the environmentally themed "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake and the results are more devastating than any destruction that Gort could do to our planet. Over at Rotten Tomatoes,  this remake received a lowly 24% on the Tomatometer. This lousy reception to "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake was fairly predictable. Back in April, Newsbusters writer Warner Todd Huston discussed the reasons why this movie remake would have problems:

...As far as the new “Day” movie goes, these powerful aliens are mad at us not because we are mean to each other, not because we might then bring that meanness with us into outer space. No, the important message that the Keanu Klaatu wants to bring us, the message that will warn us of an apocalyptic impending alien police action is….

Global warming.

That’s right folks, apparently the new “Day” movie is positing that the worst thing man has done, the one thing that will make an alien race ponder our destruction, is that we caused global warming.

Although the words "global warming" are never actually uttered in the remake, that is what the producers mean as the threat posed being posed by humans along with the other environmental problems. Perhaps the worst environmental problem posed by this movie is the waste of good film stock as you can see in the devastating reviews such as this one by Joe Leydon in the Houston Chronicle:

Arguably the worst reconstitution of a '50s sci-fi classic since the ghastly Godzilla remake — that 1998 travesty made by boneheads who forgot the Original Gangsta Lizard can, like, breathe fire — The Day the Earth Stood Still is a stunningly misconceived folly that is bearable only for as long as it remains a fair-to-middling chase movie. During its final act, alas, it repeatedly sacrifices narrative logic for CGI-spawned spectacle, all the while building toward an ending that aims for the ambiguity of 2001, but misses by several light years. 

For the benefit of those who tuned in late: The original 1951 Day the Earth Stood Still was a cautionary Cold War-era fable — intelligently scripted by Edmund North, efficiently directly by Robert Wise — about a tough-loving extraterrestrial, Klaatu (played with unflappable dignity by Michael Rennie), who issues an ultimatum to earthlings hellbent on threatening each other (and, by extension, the rest of the universe) with nuclear weapons: Chill out, or get chilled. Klaatu is accompanied on his peacemaking mission by a humongous robot named Gort — a laser-armed behemoth who responds to the classic command, “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!” — but he demonstrates his ability to obliterate humanity in a scrupulously nonviolent (yet totally convincing) fashion.

In the new but not improved version, Keanu Reeves takes over the role of Klaatu, who’s been re-imagined by director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and scriptwriter David Scarpa as a vaguely defined alien life force that assumes human form, and doesn’t seem particularly happy about it. Rennie underacted the part to the point of sporadic stasis, but Reeves makes him look in retrospect like an over-caffeinated show-off. On the other hand — and there’s no way to say this without sounding snarky — Reeves has the edge when it comes to conveying the concept of a stranger in a strange land, and a strange body. The deliberateness of Reeves’ gestures and the monotone of his speech, often cause for unintended laughter in other movies, are altogether appropriate here.

So it’s not really Reeves’ fault that this updated remake — in which Klaatu has zero tolerance for global warming, not nuclear proliferation — is about as satisfying as a plate of lukewarm leftovers.

Derrickson lavishes expensive production values on his twice-told tale, and, to his credit, generates some modest suspense here and there. After being wounded by a trigger-happy Army marksman, Klaatu escapes from a heavily-guarded government laboratory and takes flight with a sympathetic scientist (Jennifer Connelly, in the kinda-sorta equivalent of the role originally played by Patricia Neal) and her too-cute-by-half stepson (Jaden Smith).

And even though they’re being pursued by what looks like all branches of the U.S. armed services and the combined police departments of three or four states, the fugitives have time to briefly visit another scientist (John Cleese) while making a wink-wink, nudge-nudge allusion to a key scene from the ’51 film.

But the remake jumps the tracks, and quickly plummets into frenzied incoherence, when the new film’s bigger and badder version of Gort transforms itself into … into … well, gee, it’s hard to describe. A swarm of high-tech locusts, maybe?

In any event, what follows is a great deal of f/x excess, as various large items — a trailer truck here, a football stadium there — are arbitrarily destroyed in scenes that seem designed less to advance the plot than to jazz up TV ads and coming-attractions trailers. This in turn leads to an ending that reprises Klaatu’s ultimate power play from the ’51 movie, for no apparent purpose. After that, the remake doesn’t conclude, it merely stops.

At which point, audiences can be forgiven for shouting rude remarks at the screen.

Most of the other reviews of the remake are just as critical. However, it still might be a good idea to produce a remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." In the remake envisioned by your humble correspondent, Klaatu, starring Yours Truly, would land in Hollywood and threaten to have Gort destroy all the studios unless the producers quit making lousy movie remakes with leftwing themes. The only ones shown mercy by Gort would be hot Hollywood actresses but they would still have to recite "Klaatu barada nikto" like Patricia Neal did in the original film. Yes, Salma Hayek would escape pulverization by Gort by reciting that line.

Did I say that I wanted to play the part of Klaatu? I think I would rather be Gort.

Global Warming
P.J. Gladnick's picture