Way back in 1920, there was a mountaineer climbing an Indian mountain range who had a mysterious encounter. He was sitting in his tent one night when he heard something strange outside above the howling blizzard and went out to investigate. On reaching a ledge, he observed a glowing, green-blue sphere which he approached and reached out a hand to touch, then chipped away at its surface as the light from within filled his vision, subsided, and left him alone and baffled. Almost ninety years later, the mountaineer would be seen again, except it was not really him - so who was it and what did he want?
Yeah, who was this guy? Barging into our atmosphere in his massive glowing spacecraft and coming over all enigmatic? He didn't even have a message to offer us, which might have been something you would expect after a) having travelled all the way across the galaxy to meet us, and b) seeing as how this was a remake of the fifties science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, a film with a very definite lesson to teach us, even if it went about it in an unexpectedly ambiguous fashion. Here there was no ambiguity, nor was there even a thought that a stern warning from the space brothers might help humanity.
No, mankind didn't get a smack on the nose with an intergalactic rolled up newspaper in this version, as our visitor Klaatu (as played by Keaatu - sorry, Keanu Reeves) had one thing on his mind, and that was to send us all to hell in a handcart. The point being, we're already headed there, so why not send us on our way with a decidedly non-cheery farewell and leave the planet to the flora and fauna? Actually, we are given a warning to change our ways, and this film is it, which should give you some idea of the ideas above its station the remake has, as presumably director Scott Derrickson felt he was doing us all a favour by bringing home our responsibilities to our environment.
Trouble is, where the original had the concern of possible world-devastating war to worry about, here scenes from that are restaged with the alternative theme, leaving us wondering why Klaatu made such a song and dance about arriving on Earth, bringing his giant robot Gort (yes, he's here too) and coming out to meet us, when all he needed to do was sit in the comfort of his spacecraft and push a couple of buttons, send his gigantic buddy out into the world and put his feet up on the desk as the apocalypse raged around him. The logic of this doesn't stand up to much scrutiny, but that is almost turned to the film's advantage when scientist with a conscience Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) steps in to point out the error of Klaatu's ways.
Here's a film with a lot on its mind, not only environmental issues but those of morals and religion as well. Klaatu and those he represents in his Keanu form are akin to Gods bringing us their final judgement, a take on the disaster movie which proved popular come the twenty-first century. Well, not so much popular as lucrative as there were few who could honestly count this Day the Earth Stood still as one of their favourite science fiction movies the way they could the clearer-eyed, if no less preachy, source. Helen takes care of the morals, as her stepson (Jaden Smith) proves how callow and naive he is by demanding Klaatu be destroyed before he can do the same to us, a stance that is echoed in the military characters to show how far off the mark they are in comparison to the brains in the film. John Cleese appears for about a couple of minutes to persuade Klaatu to give us another chance, and it all ends so abruptly that you'll be thinking "was that it?" once it's over rather than changing your ways to greener methods. Music by Tyler Bates.