MOVIES: Standing ‘Still’ Keanu sends humanity back to the Stone Age

The original version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is to this day considered a science-fiction classic; it is both a compelling tale of alien invasion that bypasses the genre’s conventions and a timely call for more circumspect use of nuclear warheads (and the rhetoric they inspire).

The good news is that you can pick up that version of the movie in stores today.

The bad news is that the entirely unnecessary and unremarkable remake hits theaters today.

U.S. military freaks out, shooting him after he exits his spherical spacecraft; a team of doctors and scientists must nurse him back to health.

One of those scientists is John Cleese.

You could do worse than using the ex-Monty Python funnyman as the symbol for all that’s good about human society, but why waste one of the world’s foremost dry wits as a straight-man professor? He doesn’t have to smash a dead parrot over his head, but please, give him something funny with which to work.

Mr. Cleese isn’t the only miscast actor in this movie; Anakin Skywalker in “The Phantom Menace” He is precocious, annoying and whiny; this is a major step backward for the young actor, who was quite good in “Pursuit of Happyness.”

Mr. Reeves, on the other hand, is perfectly cast. Blank, semirobotic stare? Check. Flat, monotone vocal inflections? Check. Awkward head cocks as he processes information? Check. He was born to play the part of an alien in human skin.

The message of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is vaguely insidious when it’s not downright idiotic. In the original, an advanced alien race came to tell humanity to stop testing nuclear weapons because the radiation was escaping the atmosphere and harming far-away civilizations.

This makes sense; Klaatu’s actions could be interpreted as a form of self-defense.

In the remake, however, Klaatu is little more than some sort of intergalactic bureaucrat, traveling the galaxy to planets (like Earth) that can sustain life and deciding whether the dominant species (like humanity) can be trusted not to destroy it. He’s the neocon of the environmentalist set, pre-emptively eliminating threats to the environment before they can cause too much damage. Or some such nonsense.

Saving the Earth, however, appears to entail shutting down or destroying man’s capacity to produce energy: This is the insidious part. If Klaatu and the environmentalists really want to stop wars, making energy (and, as a result, food) impossible to produce will do little to achieve that end. Millions (if not billions) would die as a result of the famine wars that followed Klaatu’s visit. Poverty would be rampant, disease would spread, and despair would follow.

But hey, they stopped all that nasty polluting, right?

1 star

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