Film Reviews

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

By • Dec 21st, 2008 •

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Far superior to the silly robot in a silver jumper original (even though the seven-foot-tall guy inside sacrificed his mental health for the sake of cinema). I loved the glowing globes, the enormous Gort, Reeves as Klaatu, and the message. Earth doesn’t belong to us.

I recently watched the original, black & white,1951 movie. Who could possibly say this re-imaging is inferior? I loved the glowing globes, the enormous Gort, Reeves as Klaatu, and the message. Earth does not belong to us. Was the 1951 movie sci-fi’s CITIZEN KANE?

Would today’s audience accept a male alien hanging out with a boy without the mother present? I knew the new version would have to correct that. And the classic line? Only the star of the movie could deliver the iconic “Klaatu barada nikto”. It’s as if the house maid had said, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

(Pay attention since it’s easy to miss. It is not done as an “I’ll be back” moment. Klaatu says the line to Gort after he is wounded.)

I saw DESS in Imax and I will see it again. If you think Keanu Reeves is a little “stiff” as Klaatu, was Michael Rennie any more expressive? Klaatu is an alien without Earth-based emotions. And he’s serious about his mission.

If you don’t know the story, here goes a brief summary. Glowing huge globes suddenly land all over Earth. The U.S. one lands in New York’s Central Park! An alien alights from the glowing globe and is immediately shot at. This confirms that humans are hostile, violent beings. The alien, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), is protected by an enormous robot nicknamed “Gort” by the military. The military wants to destroy Gort, kill Klaatu and not bother asking any questions.

Klaatu is merely injured and is sent to a military hospital where he meets astrobiologist Helen (Jennifer Connelly). Helen helps Klaatu escape. He meets an old friend slumming as a human.

The glowing globes cause mass riots, food famines, and everybody is jumping into the Express-to-Hell handbasket with their looted flat screen TVs.

In 1994 I conducted THE ALEXANDER UFO RELIGIOUS CRISIS SURVEY: THE IMPACT OF UFOS AND THEIR OCCUPANTS ON RELIGION for The Bigelow Foundation.

The abstract states: The Alexander UFO Religious Crisis survey addresses just one of many problems facing the UFO Community: how would organized religions in the United States react to confirmation of contact with an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. The results of this pilot survey are straightforward and remarkably simple. The theologians surveyed would not feel their faith and the faith of their congregation would be threatened. The following results, based upon a 23% return (230 surveys) should have a significant and meaningful impact on the UFO Community, its doctrines and attitudes. http://www.nidsci.org/articles/alexander/survey_religion.html

Helen is mother to peeved, nasty stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith, whose family needs his salary). Helen’s husband/Jacob’s father was killed in the Iraq War. Klaatu realizes that Earth’s humans are still hell-bent on war and destruction.

Klaatu is not here to save us but the planet. He wants one simple thing. He wants to address the United Nations. But stiff-necked, anal-retentive Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) is unimpressed with having a visitor from a highly advanced planet as her guest. She tells Klaatu that to have him speak to the U.N. is absurd. And since no world leaders, the press, and public are not interested in him, when he escapes, Jackson uses the red phone. Arrest the illegal alien and destroy Gort with fire power and/or nuclear weapons. Whatever it takes.

Klaatu needs help getting around without money, so Helen (along with angry Jacob) takes him to meet Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese). When Klaatu fixes a complex mathematical problem for Bardhardt, he has the Nobel winner’s complete attention. But the professor doesn’t know anyone who will help Klaatu with his mission. He doesn’t even pull out a digital camera to memorialize the visit.

With no one listening to Klaatu, the planet’s humans are on course to be destroyed. The clock is ticking and no one cares.

DESS is directed by Scott Derrickson. I like the added dimensions and explanations that enlarged the simplistic original. The feel is much more intense (then the original) and flows with an ominous note.

Visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun has given DESS a sinister look and alien-like texture. In fact, the visual effects are really outstanding. I especially liked GORT. And Reeves’s performance? Yes, it was tough to match Michael Rennie’s suave, smiling alien on a mission. Reeves’s Klaatu is far more menacing and goal-oriented. Jaden Smith’s role, as written, makes him an annoying, disrespectful kid. With Jacob’s behavior, I could easily see him joining Hitler’s Youth and snitching on his parents.

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One Response »

  1. Its a wonderful Film

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