Monday, December 15, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still - 2 1/2 stars

This is not a terrible movie, just a very forgettable one. It could have been so much better.

The movie wastes no time introducing characters. We meet Jennifer Connelly’s character Helen while she is teaching some kind of advanced chemistry / astronomy class. Ok, she’s a smart scientist. Check. Then we meet her step son Jacob (Jaden Smith). We quickly learn that his dad is gone, and she is not his mother. Check.

Before any time is wasted on actual character development, the feds show up and tell her she needs to come with them. As federal agents often do in movies, they refuse to tell her why she is coming with them. She isn’t sure if she is under arrest or if they need her help. We quickly find out that there is an object on an intercept course with Earth. Better call Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck!

The object turns out to be a spaceship which lands in central park. The alien that emerges is Keanu Reeves (whoa!) who says that he is here to save the Earth. But if you’ve seen the trailers, you know that doesn’t mean what Helen thinks it means.

Except for the fact that the characters are two-dimensional, I enjoyed the first two acts of the movie. Once the alien arrives, the movie takes its time and there are some interesting moments between Reeves and Connelly. I got a little tired of Jacob reminding Helen that she wasn’t his real mother and acting like a brat, but Smith is a decent young actor. Kathy Bates was fine as the obligatory representative of the President who never listens to the scientists.

I was disappointed with how little John Cleese was used. I saw his name in the opening credits, then I forget he was in it. About an hour in, he shows up. I got excited. He has 3 or 4 lines, then he is gone. Poof. No more John Cleese. You don’t put the great John Cleese in a movie for only 5 minutes. James Hong also shows up for about 5 minutes. His character is very interesting but they do nothing with him.

The biggest letdown was the ending. We know that the Earth is not going to be destroyed because this is a big budget 20th Century Fox movie. So there is no surprise when Klaatu stops Gort. I can’t complain about that. But it just ends too abruptly. No discussion about how close we came to the end of the world. No warning about taking better care of the Earth. Nothing but a special effect to end the movie.

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