I have traveled across the darkest reaches of outer space to bring you an apocolyptic warning ... see the new "Day the Earth Stood Still" at great peril to your sensibilities and your wallet!!!
I saw the film earlier this week, and I begrudge even the discounted matinee price that I paid. And I'm seriously reconsidering my stance as an envronmentalist ... it really is that bad.
Today's filmmakers hesitated to call this a "remake" of the classic film from 1951, prefering the term "re-imagining." That's good, really ... I'd hate to think some youngster would go see the current film, and wonder why his or her parents go on-and-on about the old film ... probably attributing it to the advanced dementia that most teens assign to anyone over 30 years-of-age.
Was anything good about the movie? Well, yeah ... the special effects were pretty spectacular ... and its already earned several times the first film's total gross of box office receipts ... and those are probably the only advantages this re-imagining had over the original, which arrived in theaters 57 years ago.
What is it about that early film that has struck such a chord? According to its write-up in Wikipedia, "the movie is ranked seventh in Arthur C. Clarke's List of the best Science-Fiction films of all time, just above Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey ( for which Clarke himself wrote the screenplay). In 1995, The Day the Earth Stood Still was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.' In 2008, it was voted as the fifth best science-fiction film ever made as part of the AFI's 10 Top 10. Lou Cannon and Colin Powell believed the film inspired Ronald Reagan to discuss uniting against an alien invasion when meeting Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Two years later, Reagan told the UN, 'I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.'"
And that comment was inspired by a film that raised the hackles of McCarthyites (the neo-conservatives of their day) for what one reviewer called "certain subversive elements" and for the inclusion in the cast of Sam Jaffe, a liberal who was allegedly sympathetic to communism. Somehow, the film rose above the rhetoric - something about the film transcended the political posturing, and prompted us to ask deeper and far-more-important questions of one another ... and of ourselves.
One other point I'd like to make before climbing off my soapbox ... one that I've made about other films in the last few years. The sensibilities of modern society, and the reflections of those sensibilities in modern filmmaking, do not necesarilly make better movies. I'll cite just one instance in the new film - the role of Helen and Bobby (Jacob in the new film). Of course, we can't have a loving and supportive relationship between a parent and child ... at least, that's how it seems sometimes. So we have to make her a cold stepmother, and him a rebellious stepson. In the early film, Klaatu's chance to see the world through their eyes, and to share a part of their lives, provides him the hope that this world might yet be redeemed ... not in the current film ... that will have to come later.
By the way, the original film was inspired by Harry Bates' 1940s short story, "Farewell to the Master" which you can read here ... but be prepared for a different story!