Sunday, December 14, 2008

Klaatu barada nikto

Among the the many sci-fi films in my extensive collection, 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of my most treasured. Thought provoking, intelligent and civilised, they just don't make them like this any more. It was one of those movies that I had to get on DVD when the video format changed (plus I'd worn out the VHS tape).

So when I heard that The Day the Earth Stood Still had been remade my thoughts were mixed.

Remakes are often a mixed bag. The Coen brothers' remake of The Ladykillers was okay, but they shouldn't have touched such a classic which couldn't be bettered. Same with I am Legend (The Omega Man). Get Carter I couldn't bare to watch more than thirty minutes. The Italian Job was a mild diversion, but ultimately pointless.

But then there's Scarface, Eldorado and Ocean's Eleven which bettered their predecessors.

Charley and the Chocolate Factory, The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars (both remakes of Kurosawa classics) equalled their forbears.

The Day the Earth Stood Still comes under the best left alone category. It missed the original's anti war message and 1950s optimism out of adversity ethos that has survived the passage of time. Robert Wise's 1951 film is what the term 'classic' was invented for.

This new version won't be joining my dvd collection. Keanu Reeves as Klaatu just does his wooden thing, with none of the measured compassion and cold reason of Michael Rennie's Klaatu. Although it starts well as a re-imagining of the story, the new film tries too hard to be current, with climate change (although not mentioned) being the reason for our destruction. Klaatu comes to our planet to kill us off, to save the planet and all the other species living here from our excesses. Some great special effects as robot Gort starts taking apart the fabric of human civilisation, the manner of which is slightly remiscent of Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

Ultimately though, it's disappointing, the ending morally ambiguous with a preachy paternalism that bordered on dictatorial.

At least it's not as bad as Indiana Jones crystal skull whatever.

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