22 December 2008

Thoughts On: The Day The Earth Stood Still


How the heck did I end up seeing this turkey? It's a remake, but, more importantly, its television ads have oozed staleness and torpor. Add to that the pairing of two of the most beautiful but uninteresting leads of modern memory-- Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connely.

What happened was this: feeling like a movie, Orcidgrl and I printed out a list of available films from OttawaFilmCan.com. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Valkerie looked worth a shot. When we got to the multi-google-dodecahedron-plex, we suspected nothing out of the ordinary. There were all of the same titles on the marquee, just like on our printout. In both cases, we soon discovered, the releases for the coming weeks had been placed alongside those currently in theatres.

Ugh.. FilmCan is not a professional site, so I guess I got no complaint there. But the cinema marquee is another story. "Dec. 25" was marked somewhere on the sign, but who the heck looks for dates on a movie marquee? (My guess is not the guy who runs OttawaFilmCan.) Anyway, The Day The Earth Stood Still was playing IMAX, which we'd never done. (Regarding IMAX, I was more impressed with the sound than the picture, although the picture was excellent. It wasn't, however, IMAX-y in the way I'd been led to believe. There was no neck-craning whatsoever.)

Earth Stood Still is a real throwback. Not to the fifties, but the eighties. Its acting, direction and particularly its script all positively reeks of the unsophisticated and cinematically regressive eighties. Disregarding the "Inconvenient Truth" environmentalist table top dressing poured all over this remake's plot, it feels extremely dated. It's the type of movie I thought long since deceased, where its not enough that the authority figures serve as obstacles for the heroes, they must growl and posture and drawl like heavies from particularly unsophisticated anime.

In this flick, there's THREE authority assholes to choose from: the posturing politician, the sleazy and secretive man-in-black, and the Southern, shoot-first-and-who-asks-questions general. It's enough to say as that the original Robert Wise movie (1951?) would've found these characters too unsophisticated to be credible.

And there's no satire going on here. These aren't Neo-cons or fundamentalists or any of the modern day bogeymen making everybody miserable. In fact these characters aren't anything like really people from any real period, ever. This film is nowhere near bright enough for satire. It's the kind of film where the more scientific babble the characters spout, the more it feels like you can almost envision the screenwriters flipping through biology and astronomy reference books.

The kind of film where an alien ship lands, looking nothing like a ship, but rather a big ball of energy, and, after its only traveler is easily wounded by a gun shot, the U.S. army decides firing missiles at an energy ball is a good idea. I know this film, like its predecessor, is built around lamenting humanity's flaws, but even the current U.S. administration, with its reactionary lunatics, and current U.S. civil defences, with their tetchy mandate, are capable of recognizing that inactive is inactive, extraterrestrial is extraterrestrial, and completely ethereal and electromagnetic is ... well, not a "missile" type target.

Let's not even get into the sentimentalized and cliche protagonists and their stock reaction to everything. That only leaves the visual FX. In a word, horrid. Sometimes they work, but mostly one or two texture fixes away from acceptable. GORT, the robot, has a dark dashboard vinyl type texture that the FX people were unable to light correctly for day, night, explosions ... everything, really.

But, hey, the film had Keanu speaking Mandarin. THAT was entertaining.