Now, I’m not the sort who recoils at every utterance of remake, reboot, relaunch, and the like. Sure, I agree most err on the side of money-grubbing irrelevancy, but I believe the occasional renascence sports intriguing potential, such as with the case of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I had never seen the original, I confess, and even worse, I’m a total mark for the special effects-driven spectacles. The idea of eerie 50s sci-fi realized with today’s tech hooked me. By the time Keanu Reeves (big-time defender of him) and Jennifer Connelly (well, dur) signed on, I was finished.
And, y’know, after investing myself so heavily in the caped heroes scene, I’ve found I look forward to the other big budget fare where I have little at stake. This mindset further distanced me from the original. I would brush it aside to “maybe someday.”
Then Taos happened.
Silly bastard got the bright idea to watch the original. And of course he loved it.
He began directing some real vitriol towards the ’08 take.
Now I was obligated. Fast-forward to one week ago: the epicenter of a sleepless, soul-crushing finals campaign. The symbolic light at the end of the tunnel was a 7:00pm Friday showtime of Keanu Klaatu. And maybe, just maybe, the 1951 original before…or after. I submitted my absolute final final 6:00am Saturday on an extension.
The weekend brought sobering reality of underwhelming reviews and so-so friend reactions. Still, I was determined. The trailers had some snazzy cgi. The movie may have an unpleasant stench, but it’d at least have the requisite fun. Right?
Plans are soon set for Monday evening. Turns out I have plenty of time for a look at the classic. My thoughts? Holds up exceptionally well considering the genre, thanks in large part to its non-reliance on now cheesy effects. Nonetheless, with half an hour until showtime, I continued thinking a new attempt bore promise.
The verdict? Wholly mundane. Painfully so, in fact.
It’s not fun or entertaining in the least. All the cool stuff? Yeah, you saw it in the trailer (nanobot swarm). The opening was fairly interesting, but that’s two or three minutes out of a 100+ clunker.
I acknowledged ’51 didn’t have an abundance of action. Shouldn’t I have expected the same here? Giving it thought, the new one has several action beats/sequences. Only, they’re all so damn unimaginative and nearly each feels like an unwanted chore for the crew.
It seems that’s how everyone involved in this project approached it. As a chore. Taking out the trash, washing the dog, and mowing the yard for their cut of allowance.
The characters are one-note (while some are fiercely putrid in an unintended kind of way). The writers apparently couldn’t be bothered to have them spout anything beyond very forced reactionary outcries. None of the dialogue shines light on any of the characters. Some script choices rob Klaatu of his benevolence. Also, the screenplay failed to convey he was on a vital mission, that he was striving for an important goal. A military figure that recalls John Turturro’s Transformers‘ role, and sadly even worse, is one of many unnecessary characters. Unnecessary – there’s a slot for synecdoche.
The cgi? Horrid. The moment Gort moves, the film loses credibility. Way fake. Looked like a big damn superimposed cartoon.
I can usually overlook sponsor branding, but too many shots play like an aggregate of all the Super Bowl ads minus the humor. A pivotal scene takes place over a cup of tea inside a McDonalds. The lovely Miss Connelly offers a self-aware line. I felt ill.
The plot is adjusted and rearranged from the first. Instead of any improved directions, it feels divided. Several characters come across as mismatched and not belonging in the same film. Everything seriously lacks cohesion.
A few new curious fragments break into frame, but they’re either left unexplored or executed poorly.
With so much wrong, it’s no surprise the filmmakers also fail at opening our eyes to anything or even revisiting the original’s still pertinent message in a compelling way.
Taos, you were right. (This time.)
This is flat-out one of the worst studio films of the year.