The Day The Earth Stood Still (12A)



SciFi (2008)
103mins US

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, John Hamm, John Cleese, Kathy Bates
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer(s): David Scarpa
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

A spacecraft arrives on Earth, bringing with it Klaatu, a messenger from another world, who has been sent to observe the strange race known as mankind. At first, scientists are curious about the invader and question him thoroughly. He warns of impending doom. While under surveillance, Klaatu meets Helen Benson and her son Jacob who allow the alien into their lives, planting a tiny seed of hope for humanity's survival. However, suspicion and paranoia run rampant and eventually the US military uses force against Klaatu, initiating a countdown to the complete destruction of Earth at the hands of the visitor's robot protector.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Day The Earth stood Still

Planet Earth is on the brink of catastrophe and mankind is to blame...

The Day The Earth stood Still. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Fox UK FilmThe verminous human race has plundered and pillaged natural resources, pumped noxious gases into the atmosphere and buried toxins deep within the ground. Millions of acres of forest have been scythed or incinerated to make way for industry and accommodation, ecosystems irreparably disrupted, species hunted to extinction and warnings about global warming ignored in the relentless pursuit of wealth and comfort. With the clock seconds away from doomsday, only one man can pull us back from the brink of self-destruction: Keanu. Cast in the role of an intergalactic envoy sent to rebuke mankind for its willful disregard of Mother Nature, the Lebanese-born actor finesses his art of staring blankly into the camera and running the gamut of emotion without flexing a single facial muscle. No one can deliver gloomy, portentous dialogue in a soporific monotone like him. While Robert Wise's 1951 classic The Day The Earth Stood Still was a product of cold war era paranoia and laden with religious symbolism, Scott Derrickson's remake goes green, banging the drum for an environmentally responsible and sustainable future. "I have come to save the Earth," proclaims Keanu's extra-terrestrial herald blankly. First, perhaps he should turn his attention to David Scarpa's screenplay, which sketches characters in broad strokes and implies that the only way to avert annihilation at the hands of alien neighbours is with public displays of mawkish sentimentality.

The hysteria begins when a strange sphere of light descends from the heavens and touches down in Central Park, New York, bringing with it Klaatu (Reeves), a representative of the other civilizations in the galaxy, who are convening to decide our fate. Some of the world's top scientists, led by Michael Granier (John Hamm) and astro-biologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), interrogate Klaatu, deducing that he is the product of three DNA strands: one human (explained in a 1920s-set prologue in fake snow-encrusted Indian mountains), one synthetic and one screenwriter's clap-trap. The visitor warns Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) of impending doom and the dire consequences should he be held in custody. Thanks to Helen, Klaatu escapes interrogation and he goes on the run with the widow and her truculent stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), who advocates shooting the alien like any good, gun-toting American boy. They seek out Nobel prize-winning scientist Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese), who tries to persuade Klaatu that mankind is not yet beyond redemption. "Change his mind. Not with reason, but with yourself," the professor tells Helen cryptically. Over time, mother and child plant a tiny seed of hope for humanity's survival. However, the trigger-happy, gung-ho actions of the US military against Klaatu's robot protector, GORT (Genetically Organized Robotic Technology), initiate the countdown to destruction. "The military and theirs acronyms!" scoff a supporting character, who will soon feel the automaton's wrath.

The Day The Earth stood Still. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Fox UK FilmThe Day The Earth Stood Still follows the template of Wise's original augmented with all of the technological, computer-generated bells and whistles you would expect. The trailer gives the strong impression of Independence Day-style carnage. There are certainly some striking scenes in Derrickson's film but GORT remains inactive for much of the film and when he does finally awake, he disintegrates into a swarm of tiny, voracious, silver flies which eat through everything in their flight path. Connelly is wasted as the female lead while Will Smith's son Jaden is surprisingly effective as a grief stricken tyke rebelling against his stepmom. "I am alone," he laments, "Helen is just someone who got stuck with me when my Dad died." The plot trundles towards the inevitable moment of reckoning when the special effects go into overdrive and a flicker of emotion threatens Keanu's stoic upper lip, then like his spaceman is gone forever. The film also screens in selected IMAX cinemas around the country.

- Kim Hu


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