By CAINE GARDNER
If the reimagining of The Day the Earth Stood Still bore any title but the original, it could possibly be a film that could stand, however shakily, on its own. Instead, the flick keeps reminding viewers about where it comes from and that proves to be an ill-advised notion.
Intact are the ideals that the Earth is at a tipping point and that the human race is a catalyst for its demise. We have Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), the mother (Jennifer Connelly) and the son (Jaden Smith), but what we don't have is the original's simplistic heart.
In the updated version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu, as they allude to in the commentary, comes as more of an assassin than emissary. He's here to eliminate the cancer that is killing one of a very few planets that is able to sustain life -- the human race. Through the course of events, Helen (Connelly) is able to convince the alien that the world can change, a sentiment that Professor Barnhardt, played brilliantly by John Cleese, echoes.
With the world almost literally rocking back and forth on the tipping point, what will Klaatu choose to do? Carry out his mission or give the human race a second chance he's not sure they deserve?
As a stand alone film, the reimagining is an interesting movie. Billed as the first "green" film, the makers went to great lengths to make sure their impact during production was kept to a minimum. It has a handful of great scenes, dazzling special effects and some noteworthy performances. Again, what fails the film is a lack of reasoning and heart.
In the original, we see Klaatu come to Earth, observe and warn of our imminent destruction unless we change our ways. Now there's no warning; there is only the mission, and the human race in nothing but an obstacle that Klaatu must eliminate to complete the mission.
The best scene of the flick is between Reeves and Cleese. As they discuss the situation, the curious scientist mentions the effects of technology to which the alien responds, "Your problem is not technology, the problem is you. You lack the will to change." The scientist states his case and realizes that this is a crucial moment in the history of the world. "Only at the precipice, do we evolve. This is our moment, don't take it from us."
Cleese had the most powerful presence in the film. It's his reasoning and dialog that give the story weight and substance. Connelly is solid, but Smith is a bit of an enigma. The youth plays a lot of the scenes very bland, but when it calls for an emotional response, he nails it. He's a young actor who is just learning the game, but I believe that we will see some amazing things for Smith in the future.
Then there's Mr. Reeves.
Reeves tackles Klaatu and plays him more robotic than alien. The monotone voice and blank expressions result in a character that we care little about -- a far cry from the original Klaatu. Reeves is a talented actor. (Check out The Gift is you question that statement.) But in The Day the Earth Stood Still, he's not there. He has some moments where he really connects, but those are few and far between.
Final Cut: Stick with the original. The new version is a spectacle, but it fails to live up to the original in heart and passion. The elements are all there, but the final vision comes up flat.
2.5 out of 5 stars
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: David Scarpa, Edmund H. North (source material)
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence
Available on DVD and Blu Ray
* Copy of Original 1951 Classic
* Deleted Scenes
* Re-imagining "The Day" Featurette
* Unleashing Gort Featurette
* Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life Featurette
* The Day the Earth was "Green" Featurette
* Commentary by writer David Scarpa
* Still Gallery