Movie News & Reviews

What on 'Earth' is this?

In the original 1951 version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," Michael Rennie's humanoid alien Klaatu comes to Earth to demand that its people live peacefully and harmoniously with the rest of the universe, or else the planet will be destroyed.

But before he can deliver his message, he finds a world filled with paranoid, war-crazy, hate-mongering humans who will probably do more harm to each other before they even think of taking it into outer space.

That version was both a Cold War allegory and a crafty retelling of the story of Christ. (Klaatu quietly observes humanity by slipping into society under the name "John Carpenter" -- J.C., carpenter, message of peace, get it?) It was such a well-written, brilliantly executed piece of pop cinema that I'm quite shocked by the campy, B-movie rep it has gotten over the years.

The original "Earth" still holds up, in contrast to this new version, which appears to be coming into theaters broken and damaged.

Instead of Rennie, we have Keanu Reeves, acting even more robotic than usual, stepping into Klaatu's human form. Instead of visiting Earth to give its people a pacifist ultimatum, he is here to exterminate all those pesky humans before they do any more damage. Apparently, it's up to a cute astrobiologist (Jennifer Connelly) and her even cuter stepson (Jaden Smith) to convince him that humanity is worth saving.

The more I think about what I witnessed in "Earth," the more enraged I get. Director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose") and screenwriter David Scarpa ("The Last Castle") seek to do a present-day "re-imagining" of the original, throwing in more explosions and bombastic CGI effects. Needless to say, there's none of that we-come-in-peace junk for this movie.

The new "Earth" reeks of artifice, ironically lacking the sincere humanity that's supposed to make Reeves' Klaatu change his mind.

Apparently, everybody on this planet is too dang violent and shifty to save. (After a while, you may start wanting Neo to just wipe everybody out.) And am I the only one who thinks Jon Hamm, stuck in the role of a NASA scientist, would've made a great Klaatu? Hasn't he been basically auditioning for the role on "Mad Men" for the past two years? (Isn't Don Draper just a life form that assumes an identity and tries to resemble a normal member of society?)

I could tell you more about why this movie disgusts me and makes no sense (why have Klaatu kill a cop when he is just going to bring him back to life seconds later?), but I have to keep this review short for space purposes. I will say this: If you're a fan of the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still," you certainly won't stand for this one. You may even get quite angry. No one says "Klaatu barada nikto," for God's sake!

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