Although I have never actually seen the original of The Day The Earth Stood Still, word has it that the remake, which is in theatres now, could have been worse, but that it also could have been a lot better. Robert Wise's 1951 original, based on the Harry Bates short story Farewell to the Master, saw a lone spaceship landed in President’s Park in Washington, DC on “a mission of goodwill”. It was ground-breaking in its day and in that era of curiosity, became an instant classic. In the remake, a massive futuristic globe (kudos go out to the computer-generated techies who worked on this version of the film ) descends upon New York's Central Park and out pops a representative of an alien race named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves ) and his trusty sidekick robot, an Oscar-esque titanium figure who is eventually given the acronym name GORT (Genetically Organised Robotic Technology ). Immediately we know we’re about to embark on a film that, having long surpassed its sell-out date in the believability department, can only be described as cheesy.
Reeves’ Klaatu (who bares a striking similarity to Neo, bar the sunglasses ), has come to earth via his spaceship to assess whether humanity can reverse the environmental damage they have inflicted on their planet. Taking a very Al Gore approach to the remake (the original dealt with ending atomic warfare ), the film comes across as preachy, even to those who are genuinely concerned about what kind of results our actions are having on the earth.
Taken into custody by the United States Secretary of Defence (Kathy Bates ), Klaatu manages to, among harsh interrogations, make a magical escape (duh, he is an alien after all ) and finds himself eluding the authorities with Princeton professor Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly ) and her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith ). Obviously not caring enough about his poor robot buddy (who saves his hide countless times ), GORT is captured and being experimented on by the military in an underground facility when he suddenly transforms into a swarm of insect-like ‘nanites’ that begin destroying everything in their path. Conveniently Klaatu has also decided that our world is evil and sends in a whole load of little spheres hidden throughout the world to begin taking animal species off the planet. Yikes.
Confusion and panic ensues, as you can imagine, and well, you will just have to go see the film to find out if our enviro-hating species survives the wrath.
The visual effects are stunning, there is no denying that, but with a cast so lacklustre and emotionless, and a storyline so far from believable, The Day The Earth Stood Still will probably never compare to its original, even those of who haven’t seen it know that. However, with USD$31 million in box office sales in its first weekend, there is little doubt that comparisons matter.