We went yesterday to see the new version of “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. Being big fans of the original we’ve been looking forward to it. We saw it in Columbia, MD, at the Imax theatre there, one of two Imax locations in Maryland. The other is up north of Baltimore at White Marsh. And size does matter. We sat right in the center, 4 rows from the front, which was a great choice. This Imax was not as immersive as, say, the Imax theatres at most museums, but it’s still a great way to see a movie. The seating is much closer to standard movie theatre stadium seating, not as steeply angled, and I don’t know that the screen is as big. Not to disparage the theatre, mind you, because it was an excellent movie experience. Kind of like the way it was “back in the day” before the whole concept of multiplexes with dozens of closet-sized spaces took over the world.
On to the movie. It was…OK. Maybe even good. Definitely not great. I enjoyed it, liked it, but I think it could have been much better. There were some things that were most excellently realized - the robot Gort was great, IMO. A really well-done update of the original, while still keeping the identity, with a modern twist that I don’t really want to reveal. Gort’s surface was really cool, nothing really fancy but a good and IMO appropriate texture. I thought Keanu Reeves did a good job as Klaatu, it’s not a role that calls for much emoting and Reeves can “not emote” with the best of them. I’m neither a fan nor a hater of Keanu, and I thought he was fine in this role. No quibbles with the rest of the cast, either, though I thought Kathy Bates was good as the SecDef and I rather enjoyed the short appearance of John Cleese as the reclusive genius. Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith also did perfectly acceptable jobs. And that leads me into what I didn’t like about the movie. Why did this movie need a kid? Why did it need a dysfunctional stepmother-stepson subplot? Isn’t the concept of the imminent destruction of the Earth enough? I think it’s an example of the extraneous crap that Hollywood seems to think they need to throw into every movie, like an obligatory romance or sex scene. Meh. My biggest problem is with the alleged reason the alien community has for wanting to destroy the earth. Now, I count myself as a Green. I drive a Prius and am proud of the fact that my family of 3 generates less than a full can of trash most weeks. However, I think that taking the original concept of humans as a nascent threat to the galactic civilization and changing it to an environmental theme of “kill the humans, save the planet” was a dumb, easy, entirely too topical choice. I preferred the self-interest of the original alien view, kind of like humans killing vermin that threaten their livestock, as opposed to the noble aliens trying to preserve the planet. Maybe I’ve had enough of noble aliens. I think the environmental plot dooms this movie to be a period piece, but that’s just my opinion. It could be argued (and my son did make this argument) that the original was a Cold War period piece, but I think it rises above that by considering us as potential members of a larger community, not just playing to our fears of Soviets or nukes.
Things I really liked:Gort, the scene with the polygraph, the spheres, what Klaatu and Gort do when attacked. Don’t want to give too much away. I also thought then ending was pretty well done.
Things I didn’t like: most of the plot.
Having already gone on far too long on this, I’ll wrap up by saying that this could have been a great movie in different hands. As-is, it’s too much a “normal” film, too stuck in current plots and conventions to be great. In the larger sense, it breaks no new ground, doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before beyond a few well-realized scenes and characters, such as the updated Gort. In short, merely an average movie.
One final quibble. If you haven’t seen or know of the original, the title makes no sense, IMO…