A classic sci-fi movie with strong anti-war themes made during the Cold War, updated for our own troubled times. Just replace the threat of all-out nuclear war with climate change, ocean acidification, rainforest deforestation, and other depressing problems looming just around the corner. Throw Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly into the mix and what could possibly go wrong?
A lot, apparently. I’ve never seen the original but I’m familiar enough with it. On paper, it seems like a great opportunity for a remake. But that’s only if made to the high standards of say, Children of Men or Moon (the last truly intelligent and well executed sci-fi films that come to mind). To say this movie falls short of its potential is a huge understatement.
Klaatu (adequately performed by Keanu Reeves) has arrived on Earth in a hurricane-filled vessel that looks like the ultima spell from Final Fantasy 8, only cooler. He’s come to save the planet from its irresponsible caretakers (i.e. mankind). He’s brought along his robotic pal GORT, who can only be described as a massive failure of special effects. Have you seen Pepsi Man? He’s more realistic than GORT.
Not only does GORT look super fake, but he doesn’t liquidate the army’s guns and tanks as in the original; instead he just emits a high pitched noise which paralyzes the soldiers. Did they run out of money?
That’s not to say GORT isn’t cool. His body dissolves into nanomachines that look and behave like locusts on steroids, decimating anything they come into contact with on the molecular level. These sequences are actually really well done. Unfortunately, GORT is criminally underused.
On the run from the US military thanks to the sympathetic Dr.Benson (Connelly), Klaatu hooks up with an old friend from college at a McDonald’s who has been living on Earth for a human lifetime and has come to love and understand humanity. I’m sorry, but are we honestly supposed to believe that a being of such higher intelligence that it can transplant its mind into another body for fun would spend a lifetime on Earth? If I could fly around the galaxy in my decked-out tempest sphere, exploring life-sustaining planets, I certainly wouldn’t stop for the backwoods of New Jersey.
Then there’s Connelly’s annoying step-son played by Will Smith’s kid, who tags along and generally ruins every scene he is in. Like father like son. He’s supposed to be an annoying brat so I guess I can’t knock him for being just that. Anyway, suffice to say that by the end of the film we don’t believe in Klaatu’s change of heart towards humanity after witnessing the loving bond between stepmother and stepson. The movie ends so abruptly, and with such an underwhelming cathartic moment, that I was left stunned by its ineptitude. Luckily the movie runs only 1h44mins so if you want to subject yourself to it, it doesn’t last very long. Probably better to hunt down the original, instead.
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