Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Day The Earth Stood Still


Keanu Reeves is an artist who divides opinion. Some say he is a rubbish actor with the emotional range of a pork pie and the personality of an Easter Island statue, whilst other more generous critics merely refer to him as “bollocks”.

Whichever side of the fence you reside, it is surely a mystery how the man has managed to cultivate such a long and illustrious career (whose zenith is still arguably Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) with a delivery as flat as Keira Knightley’s chest.

His ability to act with an almost zombie-like detachment was probably what 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.

Humans are raping the Earth so Keanu and his tree-hugging alien chums touch down intent on wiping our destructive asses off the planet in order to preserve the Earth’s unique flora and fauna for the benefit of…well, no one.

After landing in Central Park, Klaatu is met by a hostile welcoming committee of stereotypical hoo-ha-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 destroy mankind.

Dr Benson attempts to change Klaatu’s mind about wiping us out by taking him deep into the 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 Jacob (Jaden Smith) ruins the argument by grassing up Klaatu to the cops and leading them to his hideout.

As the law move in, a pair of police choppers loom over the tree line and home in on Klaatu. Before they can mow him down, he uses his powers of telekinesis (or bad acting) to fry the helicopters circuitry causing the pilots to clutch their heads as their telecoms unit malfunctions in a cacophony of high pitched interference.

With the pilots disabled their helicopters go into a traditional tailspin before smashing into each other and breaking apart. The debris plummets to the ground and goes 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 - this is quite an unconventional take-down.

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. It is a by-the-numbers blockbuster lacking wit or imagination and unforgivably ends up being a bit preachy and up its own arse.

Substituting the original film’s anti-war message for the remake’s environmentalist guff really doesn’t wash within the parameters of the original story, and by the end you couldn’t care less if the world’s population lives or dies.

I was forced to watch it due to contractual obligations imposed by the litigious hierarchy at Exploding Helicopter H.Q. It was either watch this and write a half-arsed review or engage in sexual activity (not the good kind) with a senior member of staff. If anyone knows any good employment lawyers please email me their details.

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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