Friday, December 12, 2008

Scott Derrickson: The Day the Earth Stood Still

X down, and three to go … or four. Which makes seven, I guess. Or, umm ...

Not a remake of the 1951 original, but a reinvention. I haven't seen the original (yet), but by all accounts it's so different that this can hardly be termed a remake.

On remakes: In an attempt at a discussion on the BookCrossing Chit-Chat forum, someone said something ridiculous to the effect of what's the point in doing a remake if they aren't going to stick closely to the original. WTF? What's the point in doing a remake if they are?? Of course, there isn't much point in doing remakes at all, but there you go. Or is there? Any thoughts?

So, I saw this on Wednesday; me and Anéa. I think I liked it a little more than she did. ;-) But we did agree that it was worth seeing. My opinion summed up in seven words: a fantastic movie, apart from the plot. >:-) Visually it's absolutely stunning, fantastically well made, with very convincing SFX and some very striking effects. 'Spectacular' is the word I’m looking for. If you like this kind of thing – effects-laden Hollywood blockbusters, or effects-laden SF movies – then TDTESS is worth seeing for that alone. The scene in the cemetery especially sticks in my mind. I don't know what they did there, but they did something, and it was really beautiful.

As for the actors, let's see. Jennifer Connelly does a good job, but I didn't quite buy her as a brilliant scientist. She made the character too emotional, leaning almost towards the irrational. It didn't quite work for me. But of course she's very pretty and that is generally the most important thing in H'wood productions. At least there's no hint of romance, which would have been just so wrong and bad and stupid.

John Cleese is a little pudgy and very good, but he's only there for about five minutes. Kathy Bates is good as always, but I wouldn't rank this among her best work. Knowing her talent, I'd say this is middling. Jaden Smith … blech. He would not have gotten this part if he hadn't been a star baby. And if he hadn't been a star baby, maybe the writers would have done a better job with his character. He plays the Connelly character's obnoxious stepson. The part is rather underwritten, and the entire story arc centring on his character is so clichéd, so predictable, so uninteresting. You see everything coming a mile away … because you've seen it all SO many times before. V. obvious and, dare I say it, v. American.

Anyway … I'm sure we’ll see much more of Jaden Smith, but I really would rather not. Keanu next. ;-)

Keanu Reeves is perfect in this movie. Absolutely completely perfect. They could not possibly have found anyone better to play this character. This is the part he was born to play, forget about Neo. Neo who? This part is perfect for him, and he for it. He's talked in interviews about how he worked a lot with the character and found it quite hard to get it right (since he could not hang out with aliens and figure it out that way), but obviously, he found a way. :-) Fantastic performance, stellar. And for those of you who aren't able to perceive that it is a performance, and that it is very good … trust me, the flaw lies in your perception, not in his acting. Which I will definitely get back to at some point.

The big problem with this movie is the plot. No, that's not really true. Rather, it's the ending, and the morale. The story works well up until the ending. Should I give it away? Why the hell not, it's Hollywood, of course you've already guessed that it ends happily, he doesn't exterminate us as he's come to do. But he should have. He really should have.

The alien sphere lands in Manhattan (of course, only natural, why would aliens care about anything outside the US) and the Americans react the same way they always react to anything unknown and potentially threatening. (This part was very credible. >:-) OMG KILL KILL KILL!!! They capture the creature and when he asks to address the UN, Bates' foreign secretary hawk refuses. He escapes and starts the extermination process. So far so good. It all makes sense. And it's the right thing. Homo sapiens sapiens must go. When the Connelly character figures out what he’s doing, he explains it very simply: If the earth dies, you die. But if you die, the planet survives. Yess!! I so agree. Someone please put us out of the misery we’ve created. (<-- Not a joke.)

Anyway. Here's where the logic starts to fall apart. The creature, Klaatu, is supposed to be so highly evolved and so rational. He comes here to wipe us out, because we suck. Then he gets to know two humans – 2, one of them very annoying, out of a total of 6.7 billion specimens – and this is enough to change his mind. Highly evolved my shiny metal ass. Obviously this is a ridiculously small sample and worthless scientifically. These two may be nice, but so what? It's not the individuals we're talking about, it's the species. I don't buy how it's so easy for Klaatu to forget that.

Keanu claims that what happens is that he 'becomes human' a little bit … being around these two people influences and changes him. But why not dismiss Keanu as a big softie who sees the world through rose-tinted glasses and thinks that everyone should just get along, and rather say that Klaatu is infected and brought down by our irrationality and stupidity … the very qualities that have led us to destroy our own biosphere. Oh, the irony, the crippling irony!! IMO the movie would have been much better if it had introduced this element towards the end, and not just had Klaatu save us because … oh yeah … We can change! We can!

The Connelly character keeps saying this. We can change! We can! So annoying. Because, being a brilliant scientist, she should realize the obvious – sure, it’s quite possible that we can change. But we all know that we won't. Deep down, we do all know this. But let's soothe our fears with more irrationality, that'll make it all better. Yeah, right.

Anyway … since Derrickson is so religious, I was a little worried that this would turn out to be a total all-hail-the-mighty-Messiah kind of xian fundie thing. But it’s not. It got me to thinking less about Christ, actually, and more about Obama. (We can change! Yes we can!) There's a scene where the Bates character tries to persuade the president (who is of course in hiding and never seen) that another attack is not a good idea. But obviously he metaphorically shoots her down. I had to whisper to Anéa, Now you know that that's not Barack Obama she's got on the line there. ;-) They've gone surprisingly easy on the religious overtones. All to the good.

So … I don't buy the morale in this story, which is that we can change, it's not too late, and we're all good people really. Fact check: No we won't, yes it is, and we suck. It's so stupid: The Cleese character explains to the creature that it's only at the tipping point, the precipice, that people really make the necessary changes. The creature accepts this so-called logic and saves us. But isn't the whole point of the tipping point theory that when we get that far, it's too late!! The ending was a letdown, because it made no sense that he saved us. He either should have exterminated us or, if there must be a 'happy' ending, he should only have saved us because we scrambled his brain. But no, happy happy is the only way to go. Yuck.

But it was a spectacular sight and definitely worth seeing. As you can tell ;-) it did get me to thinking. There are some really good performances, some fantastic SFX, and – dare I say it – something we should all think about in this crazy fucked up world of ours. Where do we go from here, ekcetra ...

Run, it will crush you ... !!


Paz said...

here's my twopence worth, I agree that films can be remade only for the developments in SFX etc, stuff like psycho does not live up to the original. I remember watching Flash Gordan as a child and saw a clip of it recently where you sould see the strings and models how easily I was taken in :(.
I agree on one thing a remake does not have to be a carbon copy, eg Romeo and Juliet has been made in so many different ways, most of them not in name
On the Ditzy Scientist I worked for a large company and some of the most brilliant/educated women with P.hd's could be mistaken for beauty queens in dumbness.
Jennifer Connnolly, I would...
and yes the world is f"cked

James said...

What a surprise. "Keanu is perfect".

Never heard that one before...

I'll never believe it no matter how many more times I hear it, either.

And I know that I WILL hear it again. And again, and again...

On the other hand, I'm off to work soon - on my bike in gale force winds, torrential rain and freezing winds (hooray for good old-fashioned British winter!), so maybe I won't have to put up with anything at all for very much longer.

And on that note...

Paz said...

James, Stiff upper lip old boy, your lucky to have the bike when I was small I had to walk 5 miles to school uphill, against the wind, in my bare feet, happier times.
agree on the review at least Leisha managed to put her prejudices aside and gave a completely unbiased report, it is refreshing to see someone not let their personal feeling cloud their judgment. ;P

James said...

Well, I survived. It was pretty hair-raising, though. I'm pretty sure Blighty was never witness to weather like that when I was a wee nipper ... though as anybody who knows me will be thinking right now, "But you can barely remember what you did five minutes ago".

Moving swiftly on...

It's once again interesting to see that she hasn't responded to our comments. Selective vision, mayhap. Or perhaps she's just used to our bitching and whining about her inexplicable (and inexcusable) obsession with the plank so she's just letting us get on with it.

(Though I'll be surprised if she'll let me get away with that plank reference...)

Leisha Camden said...

Or maybe I have other things to do ...

Sorry, James, but arguing with you on this score just doesn't seem worth spending much energy on. Don't take it too personally - for 'you', read basically any Keanubasher. The thing is that you, all of you, you've just got nothing. You're arguing from your own prejudice and I just don't see the point in debating that. I think Keanu has done a fantastic job in this movie. It's a part that he is perfect for. I'm not saying that 'Keanu is perfect'. I'm saying that as an actor he is perfect for this acting role. You really can't spot the difference there? See, that's because you're arguing from prejudice, and it's a waste of my time debating that. On any issue.

I actually do think my review is pretty objective. You should check out some Keanusites for reviews of this and see what 'real' fans have to say ... then maybe you'd think twice before calling me biased. For me to review a Keanumovie in an objective way, will I have to say that he sucks in it? Pot calling kettle black, much?

The worst movies he's made would have to be, IMO, Johnny Mnemonic, which has pretty much no redeeming features, and Bram Stoker's Dracula, which I loathe with a passion for so many reasons. One of them being Keanu's ridiculous performance. He ought to have been fired. But of course he wasn't hired for his acting skills. I've hardly ever met anyone who doesn't think this movie's great, but I think it's a piece of shit. For so many reasons.

Are these opinions more objective than my opionion of TDTESS, because now I've said something bad about Keanu? If your answer is yes, then you don't really understand what 'objective' means. And I don't think my perceived lack of objectivity is the problem you're having with my review, either. >:-)

James, you don't know that you'll hear it again & again & again. Maybe Keanu's career will be nothing but Johnny Mnemonics from here on out. I'm not sure which one of us is the one having the problem with bias, actually. >:-)

And as for your awful weather (which I have to admit doesn't sound like the greatest biking weather), look at it like this: you could have had four inches of snow like we've got here. ;-) And console yourself with the thought of how others have suffered - when Paz was a boy he had to walk to school barefoot in snowstorms all year round, and it was uphill both ways. So you have it pretty good actually.

I'll get back to that plank thing, yeah. I'm working on something there. Foreshadowed in this current post. You'll see.

About remakes - Paz, we agree, except on one point. IMO remakes should either be made (if they must be made at all) because there have been major strides made in SFX so that a new 'presentation' will be worthwhile, or because someone has developed such a new take on the plot and/or characters that the remake will be something new & original. More of a reinvention than a remake. This does explain why no one has ever gotten anywhere with a remake of Gone with the Wind.

But I disagree about the Romeo & Juliet argument - those aren't remakes, because the original isn't a movie. It's like Pride & Prejudice. Any number of new versions of that can be made (and probably will, alas) but they still won't be remakes. They'll just be new adaptations of old material. Well, 'just' ... but you know what I mean.

Shoot, now I really want to see Pride & Prejudice again. Mmmm, Colin Firth ...

Paz said...

on a funny side note on remakes there was an email a while back on the porn industry and the way it comes out with film titles based on movies 'Johnny Mnemonic' becomes 'Joanie pneumatic' what made me think of it one of the list was Pride & Prejudice which became Bride & Prejudice. there were some really funny ones like Good will humping and shaving ryans privates etc etc

Paz said...

forgot to add that the walking to school thing is a family joke, when we would complain about stuff my mother used to say when "I was young we had no (whatever we complained about).... and we had to walk to school" as we grew into our teens we would get creative with add-ons like the uphill both ways barefoot through thistles on broken rocks, we used to also tell guests sitting down to eat with us that we did not get to eat everyday, we had to take turns, great kids to have ;)

Leisha Camden said...

Yeah, that's a classic, isn't it - I think most families have something like that. 'When I was your age, bah humbug!' In the future though we probably won't be able to do that, will we ... since future generations will most likely be worse off than ours, what with peak oil and everything. There's a thought ...

... and here's another one, entirely unconnected: James said that 'it's once again interesting to see that she hasn't responded to our comments'. Well, I think it's interesting that he himself almost only comments on posts where I mention Keanu in some way. Am I touching a nerve?? ;-)

(Sorry, James, I don't mean to be mean to you (it just happens ;-). A word of warning: you'll get a package you didn't order from The Book Depository this coming week. Don't open it till Christmas ... ;-)

Paz said...

We can tell kids how we wasted half our wages on stuff we never used cause we had too much money, the pressure of trying to spend it nearly killed us, everytime we bought a new SUV the neighboure bought a bigger one, they were tough times ;)

James said...

Any packages I get these days will be ones that I haven't ordered. As happy as I am not to be working for Royal Mail any more (essentially because it was such an irredeemably shit employer), I'm finding things a bit of a pinch on half the wages and my new employer (Surrey County Council) is almost as bad as Royal Mail.

On the one hand, "We need more men working in libraries". On the other, "We can only offer you extra hours if you travel twenty miles to work in one of Surrey's most remote libraries for six hours on a Sunday".

I can't seem to find any other jobs, either. I've applied for paper rounds, leafleting jobs, envelope-stuffing mind-killers, a few storeroom jobs. Nobody wants me... >>sob<<

Anyone fancy a kidney? One careful owner. Special Christmas discount? Might provide an interesting alternative to the traditional dead birds that are devoured at this time of year.

And as for my being prejudiced against Keanu Reeves - bloody right I am. Can you remember when I wasn't? Can you remember even one time? (Fingers crossed that you don't remember what I said after the release of "Matrix Revolutions"...).

Anyway, Chrimbo has been cancelled in ... er ... my head, so no prezzies for anyone this year.

Which is something I try to get away with every year, but this time I have an actual reason for doing so.

And call me crazy, but that makes me very happy indeed...

Leisha Camden said...

Christmas hugs sent across the North Sea to someone who sounds like he needs them ... :-)

James, I sent you an email. Hope you like your present. Tell your parents and everyone else merry Christmas from me!!