The remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” retains many of the basic plot elements of the 1951 classic and the overall message of its source material. But these days, our source of apocalyptic dread has shifted from Soviet A-bombs to a corrupted, dying environment.
This version begins with microbiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) whisked away to a military installation, where she and a group of scientists are informed that in about an hour, a large object from space will crash into Manhattan’s Central Park. The object — a huge, translucent sphere — lands. The emerging alien being is Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). Helen slowly discovers the true purpose of Klaatu’s visit: Humans are blowing it as far as maintaining the Earth, and a group of intergalactic civilizations have sent him to forcibly evict us from the premises.
While there are some logical gaps and forced sentimental moments, the film is pretty good. Director Scott Derrickson makes good use of special effects while avoiding the kiss-of-death-overuse-of-CGI-at-the-expense-of-good-storytelling mistake to which so many directors fall victim. As the alien, Reeves projects the correct amount of awkward emotional void (again, his forte), and Connelly manages to anchor the human side without emoting her way into melodrama.
On the minus side, young Jaden Smith (as Helen’s stepson) displays the emotional range of a pencil sharpener, and is more annoying than sympathetic.
Overall, it is worth seeing not so much for its message or performers, but the apocalyptic tension created in the pacing and overall production. —Mike Robertson