Here’s the thing - the next time you find yourself in a potentially cataclysmic situation, say the fabric of reality is unravelling around you or the universe or history itself is under threat, check the whereabouts of Keanu Reeves. Matrix, Bill & Ted and now this: it appears that the man is arguably a fulcrum of humanity’s preservation. Maybe I should Facebook him.
In this remake of the old-school sci-fi trailblazer, he finds himself at the centre of a battle for Earth’s very existence, surely meat and drink to him. Top scientist Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is summoned to NASA HQ to help deal with an urgent threat - an object hurtling towards earth which seems to signal the Earth’s demise.
Instead of destroying us, the object parks up, shedding a life form, Klaatu, that’s taken into custody, which adopts a human form (played by Keanu). Klaatu implies that rather than wage war, he represents some kind of intergalactic landlord, intent on evicting us for being such dodgy tenants.
None too chuffed about the thought of being obliterated, Benson snaffles Klaatu from the US military custody, intent on bagging us a chance to make amends.
In remaking an aged classic, it seems to be looking for a gloss of timelessness, like War of the Worlds before it, and there is a naïve simplicity to the well-worn invasion premise that lends itself to a heads-down blockbuster. The problem is that there’s not too much to lift it above the indifferent.
Keanu aside, the casting sells it short - Connelly is short on presence, which combined with Reeves’ neutral approach means it’s hard to care too much about the plight, while Kathy Bates seems oddly campy in her role as a senior political figure. Oh, and John Cleese is in it, which is medically proven as a symptom of a film that doesn’t wish to be taken too seriously (see Charlie’s Angels 2 and others).
What’s most disappointing is that it lags as an event movie. Movies like The Day After Tomorrow set a pace for the spectacular SFX destruction needed to carry this off - aside from the one impressive set-piece where stadiums and major landmarks are obliterated, there’s little to coo over, as if they put all their eggs in one SFX basket.
Perhaps morally it’s a tad galling, too. The notion that we all need to change our ways, look after our fellow man and not abuse the planet to move forward is clearly a noble one, but coming from the nation that so strongly resisted the Kyoto treaty and has been so active militarily, that feels a bit rich - though if nobody on the crew voted for Bush, then they’re in the clear and I willingly apologise.
Acceptable but perhaps uninspired, The Day The Earth Stood Still is Hollywood treading water.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary