The Day the Earth Stood Still

by Rick Grant

Grade: B+ / Rated PG-13 / 103 min
The blasting surround sound and IMAX screen were made to exhibit this type of grandiose alien invasion movie. The remake bears little resemblance to the original 1951 nuclear apocalypse-pending black & white film. Scott Derrickson directed this big budget spectacular from David Scarpa’s screenplay-a complete rewrite of the original story.
With the in-your-face IMAX crystal clear images and the thunderous sound, the advanced aliens in their spheres seem frighteningly real. Their envoy on earth–an alien/human hybrid Klaatu (Keanu Reeves)-communicates with Dr. Helen Benson, (Jennifer Connelly) a renown PhD bio-physicist. The giant automaton robot is Klaatu’s security.
Klaatu tells Helen his civilization belongs to a universal coalition of planets that have been watching earth since its birth. Now, since we haven’t changed our ways and have polluted the planet, they plan to destroy all human life to save the planet. Helen tries to convince Klaatu that we can change.
Kathy Bates portrays the Secretary of State Regina Jackson, who speaks for the president. He is hunkered down in a secret location with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One big sphere has landed in Central Park and other smaller spheres landed throughout the world.
Given the aliens obvious quantum leap in technology allowing the spheres to travel between galaxies, it would seem futile to send in our primitive military machine. These aliens could be millions of years ahead of us in every aspect of planet building and space flight technology.
But nooo, in all these alien invasion films, the dunderhead generals decide that if the aliens are not like us, they push the panic button and send in our useless (by comparison) tanks, F-16s, artillery, brigades of infantry with their puny M-16s. Right, that’s going to stop the giant robot. Well it’s traditional in alien invasion films to have scenes of troops being deployed.
So, when the giant robot comes out, they open fire on it. A beam comes out of the robots face shield and paralyzes all the troops and fries their electronic systems. Of course, the aliens have the power to destroy the entire planet. But they came to earth to communicate with us before they unleashed their human killing Armageddon. And what do we do? Attack them!
Much of the scenario involves Dr. Helen Benson, her stepson, Jacob Benson, (Jaden Smith) and Klaatu who knows everything about us and must decide whether or not to advise the aliens in the spheres to send in the human exterminating plague of bugs. Of course, Helen pleads a strong case for giving us another chance to change-even enlisting Klaatu to help us gain the technology to stop polluting the earth. This morality play within the scenario is also traditional in alien invasion films.
Derrickson doesn’t let the arsenal of advanced special effects to overpower the development of the three main characters-Helen, her stepson, and the serious faced alien/human Klaatu. For the film to balance the drama with the action, the viewers have to care about the main characters. At some point in the story, Klaatu sees another side of humanity through Helen’s consciousness. She cares about the human race and the Earth.
As the trio of humans and alien travel around, avoiding the dragnet of law enforcement and military looking for them, Klaatu begins to see Helen is different from most of the humans he has come across. He develops a working relationship with her.
Writer David Scarpa’s script insinuates that Klaatu sees the righteousness in Helen’s soul and the other scientists desire to do the right thing to save the earth. Of course, this fits in the Al Core’s environmental initiative, thus updating the premise from the cold war fear of thermonuclear war to saving the planet from ourselves. Hell, the aliens could have killed all the humans on Earth before we knew what hit us, but they decided to land and communicate.