The Day the Earth Stood Still: the remake feels like a big-screen videogame

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:14

    The Day The Earth Stood Still Directed by Scott Derrickson Running Time: 103 min.

    Hollywood confesses remake mania in the title of this year’s version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It indicates Z.C.P. (Zero Cultural Progress), although the film pretends to caution mankind’s destructive ecological and political habits: Extraterrestrials send an envoy in human form, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and his menacing security guard, GORT (Genetically Organic Robotic Technology), to save the planet but not its people.

    Director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter David Scarpa think another snipe at the Bush Administration is ground-breaking (Secretary of Defense Kathy Bates worries: “Further military action will only make things worse. I believe we can still open a dialogue”). Yet the Iraq War metaphors are as vague and useless as the film’s spiritual ones: Klaatu also represents a vengeful messiah, healing the wounded and promising fire next time. Yet, only divine intervention can overcome Hollywood’s current dependency on special effects. Digital technicians control this film’s narrative, show-offy CGI marvels never give the pleasure of clear and simple action; everything’s blurred.

    Robert Wise’s original 1951 film remains compelling for its waking-nightmare of a stupefied modern world—credible images of an unimaginable catastrophe that brought home the shock of Hiroshima. Because the Earth has stood still more recently, Derrickson’s copycat version is set in New Jersey, close enough to New York to evoke 9/11. But chaotic scenes of a giant orb settling in Central Park, GORT obliterating army battalions and a traumatized city merely show the excess of F/X teams who care nothing about narrative; they’re making big-screen video games and disgracing our movie heritage to do it.

    Derrickson rehashes Wise’s plot, disregarding the relationship between Klaatu and a female scientist (Jennifer Connelly) and her bratty adopted son (Jaden Smith). This sci-fi kitsch recalls the cheapness of Independence Day, not the profundity of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. And Derrickson even neglects the unforgettable “Klaatu Nicto Barada” climax that thrilled every generation who ever saw the first film. Instead, GORT becomes a plague of the gods rather than a specter of the Atomic Age. This film is a perfect illustration of how to screw-up a remake despite having a perfect example in front of you.