Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Shrill

I haven't seen the new The Day the Earth Stood Still, and I may never, based on a few reviews.

I rarely see a film produced after 1965 anyway. So many of them today, while technically polished, are so morally and aesthetically loathsome I just don't want to waste my time. They tend to fall into one of two categories: murky grim or utterly mindless. I don't have a taste for either.

But the recent "re-imagined" version of that SF classic is far worse than even most contemporary films. It's evil. I don't even have to see it to know that with high confidence.

For those of you who haven't read any reviews, the salient change from the fine 1951 original is that in this one the alien arrives to spank the global population for mistreating the globe. In other words, it's a viro's wet dream.

In the original, at least the premise — while questionable — made some sense. If humans were too irrational to control their impulses, they were too dangerous to trust with atomic weapons and spaceships. That threatened the peace and safety of beings on other planets and one such was sent as an emissary to do something about it before things got too far along. Fair enough; self-defense is a legitimate premise.

Here, the alien is acting like some Gaian avenger, if not a symbol for Gaia 'herself'. Harm the planet and Big Brother from the Sky will come and wipe you out.

The original had numerous philosophical and aesthetic flaws. But it was rescued by a serviceable script and some interesting characters, not to mention the always highly watchable Michael Rennie and Patricia O'Neal. (Hugh Marlowe was always a treat, too, though in that film his character was a schmuck.)

But this remake, bad enough for the presence of the always-wooden Keanu Reeves — an actor whom one could never in a million years B.C. accept as a super-intelligent being — is absurd and vicious. Not a compelling combination for someone who sees on average five films per week.

Two thumbs down.

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