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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

A lesser remake with humanity cast as vermin

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 1, 2009 -- This remake of the 1951 Sci-fi movie is bigger, longer, louder and has better special effects, but it misses the point. It is emotionally flat and the character motivations are suspect. Keanu Reeves (“Speed”) stars as the alien, Klaatu. He has a human body but an alien's mind. Unlike the original Klaatu in the original film, this one has no particular regard for human beings. In fact, he seems to find every other form of life on earth more important than humans, and worthy of preservation.

The film also starts out very differently than the original, with human DNA being harvested from the earth many years ago. This DNA is used to grow the body of Klaatu so he will at least look human. Another departure from the original has alien spies living on earth for long periods of time, watching humanity and evaluating it. This is a very interesting idea, but is a very underdeveloped subplot.

Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly of “A Beautiful Mind”) becomes the alien's friend and fellow conspirator for no particular reason, while her young stepson, Jacob (Jaden Smith) is a good deal more skeptical of the alien's intentions. While Klaatu says he wants to meet with the world's leaders to give them a warning about the earth's imminent doom, he never does. Nor does he give the earth a practical demonstration of his power as part of said warning, as was done in the original film (the demonstration, turning off all the electricity in the world, was the basis of the name of the original film). Klaatu just cavalierly goes ahead and decides to get rid of the human race and all traces of civilization.

In the original film, Klaatu's mission was to deliver a warning to earthlings to confine their aggression to their own planet. In the sequel, his mission is to determine whether human beings should be allowed to exist, regardless of whether or not they are a threat to other worlds. The idea is that worlds capable of supporting life are too rare for one to be wasted on a species as irresponsible as human beings. Klaatu, along with the alien spies, determine that human beings are essentially vermin overrunning the world. In order to save the planet earth, human beings, and all their works, must be completely destroyed. Dr. Helen Benson, renowned scientist, Prof. Jacob Barnhardt (John Cleese) and Jacob must convince Klaatu not to destroy all human life on earth. This is an extreme example of environmentalism (what those in the trade call an “environmental ethic” or “deep ecology”) run amok. It represents the view that life on earth would be perfect if there were no human beings to muck things up. This anti-human sentiment lies at the heart of some schools of environmental thought. This film reveals what environmentalists who think this way would do if they had unlimited power. This is not a humanistic point of view and certainly is a huge, and sinister, change from the original film. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)