From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still - C-

Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence, 110 minutes

Bloated, overdone “Day” is a needless remake of a timeless classic

The 1951 classic sci-fi film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is timeless, relevant and was ahead of its time, not to mention very modestly budgeted. The idea of remaking it is actually not a bad idea, but remaking it into a big-budgeted, bloated disaster flick with an all-star cast, loads of special effects and heavy-handed environmental messages is a bad idea. The remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is exactly all that and more, a huge disappointment and a waste considering the gazillions of dollars thrown at the silver screen. The most entertaining parts of the new film involve the big, indestructible robot who becomes the star of the film.

The plot concerns an alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) who is sent to Earth. He lands in Central Park in New York City (where else?) but it shot by a soldier as he is approaching a group of scientists led by Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). He eventually morphs into human form but has brought with him a huge robot-like creature named Gort who can be extremely dangerous and indestructible.

The U.S. government, led by Kathy Bates as the Secretary of Defense, believes the Earth may be up for destruction, but after globe-like sphere’s are placed all over the world, it seems the aliens are collecting specimens after humans, not the Earth is destroyed. It’s up to Helen to communicate with Klaatu to stop Gort from destroying the human race and give us all a second chance, that is before the U.S. Government steps in to mess things up (now that part is realistic).

The premise of the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is an intriguing one and starts out well, but within 20 minutes of the film the special effects take over and things go awry. The plot, updated slightly from the original, has the Earth being destroyed. The original 1951 film went delved more of the miscommunication between man and alien life form - here there is little of that, which is unsurprising given Reeves’ inability to communicate as an actor.

Insert loads of talented cast members, including Reeves, Connelly, Bates (chewing up the scenery as fast the robot can destroy it), John Cleese (merely a cameo), Jaden Smith (yes, Will Smith’s son) and “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm, utterly wasted in a small supporting role. Insert loads of special effects, some of which are entertaining. What ends up on screen is a mess, helmed by Scott Derrickson (“The Haunting of Emily Rose”) who is clearly the wrong (and an inexperienced) director to handle something like this, not to mention a script that gets heavy-handed, disaster-laden, and lost amidst its own spectactle.

The most entertaining scenes of the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” involve the big robot Gort, one thing about the film that stays closest to the original. This time he’s more biological and indestructible, and clearly has the most fun fending off whatever the military can throw his way. It’s obvious that much more time was spent on Gort than the acting or the confusing, muddled story (Klaatu is here to destroy humans but then ends up saving some people-huh?).

Speaking of which, the final act of the new film is utterly ridiculous (“Just give us one more chance!” begs Connelly) with Reeves, Connelly and Smith running in various directions. After “The Matrix,” you’d think that casting Reeves as the alien would be an inspired choice, but it’s more of an insipid one (“your planet?” he tells Bates).

The lack of a relevant, poignant message gives way to video-game style special effects, which should no doubt please those going for the entertainment value this holiday season. The messy, bloated and overdone remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” should be a big hit, but for a truly more thoughtful and better movie (and especially if you’re a sci-fi fan), you’re far better off watching the original.