Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Keanu Reeves is an artist who divides opinion. There are those who say he's a bad actor with the emotional range of an Easter Island statue, while others simply describe him as “bollocks”.

Whichever side of the fence you reside, the real mystery is how such a limited talent has managed to cultivate such a long and successful career with a delivery as flat as Keira Knightley’s chest.

Weirdly, it was probably his ability to act with an almost zombie-like detachment that drew casting directors to award him the part of the robotic alien Klaatu in Scott Derrickson’s remake of the B-movie classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The plot sees Keanu cast as a tree-hugging alien despatched to Earth wipe out the human race as punishment for destroying the environment. 

After landing in Central Park, Klaatu is met by a hostile welcoming committee of stereotypical 'hoah-ing' marines who set about interrogating him Guantanamo style. With reluctant scientist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) in tow, Klaatu uses his extra-terrestrial powers to affect an escape and finish his mission to destroy mankind.

Dr Benson attempts to stop Klaatu by taking him deep into a forest to see Nobel prize winning Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese). He persuades Klaatu that we aren’t all bad eggs and that mankind has the capacity to change. Just as he is about to buy that baloney Dr Benson’s brat-ish stepson grasses Klaatu to the cops and leads them to his hideout.

As the law move in, a pair of police choppers loom over the tree line and home in on the alien invader. Before they can mow him down, he uses his powers of telekinesis (or bad acting) to fry the helicopters circuitry. 

With the pilots disabled by a cacophony of high-pitched interference coming from their headsets, the helicopters go into the now traditional tailspin that fans now will end in an exploding helicopter. The two whirlybirds smash into each other and break apart. Debris plummets to the ground and blows up in a delicious ball of flame.

Artistic merit

The film is chock full of choppers so it was only a matter of time before one went to helicopter heaven. The explosion here is nicely realised with some rich and satisfying oranges and is all the more impressive for silhouetting Reeves in much the same style as Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It would have been nice to see the wreckage hit the floor but there is no doubt about the chopper’s demise.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Helicopters destroyed by alien mind control - it's unconventional if nothing else.

Do passengers survive?

We don’t know for sure as Derrickson refrains from showing us the impact of the stricken choppers on the ground but chances are the pilots are barbecued to a crisp in the chunky fireball.

Positives

For a film that relies so heavily on special effects it is just as well Weta Digital made the visuals plausible. I particularly liked the swarms of tiny nano-machines programmed to wipe out every man made device and bring the earth back to its natural state.

Oh, and James Hong (Big Trouble In Little China) turns up for a cameo in a bizarre scene which only really succeeds in reminding you that this film isn’t as good as any of the other films you’ve seen him in.

Negatives

The film has very few interesting elements to distract you from a pedestrian plot chock full of genre clich├ęs, product placement and forgettable performances. Worse, the film ends on a preachy, environmental message when all you want to see is the aliens get their ass handed to them by the human race. 

Favourite quote

Helen Benson: "Have you done your homework?"
Jacob Benson: "School's cancelled on account of the aliens."

Interesting fact 

A photo of GORT the humanoid robot and purveyor of destruction alongside Ringo Starr dressed as Klaatu graces the cover of Ringo’s 1974 Goodnight Vienna album. Rumour that purchasers of said album wanted the world to end after hearing it could not be verified at the time of going to press.

Review by: Neon Messiah

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