Klaatu - Barada - Nikto!
It's the battle of the Gorts and - because I enjoyed myself on Sunday (despite a very disturbed night's sleep earlier on) - I'm declaring a draw!
Yes, I went off to see the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Even though I already knew the basic storyline, for me this remake was an engrossing-enough movie. I guess the fact that I didn't fall asleep, even though I was quite tired, is a good sign.
I actually like Keanu Reeves in most of his films. The "Bill & Ted" movies were such a cack, and I enjoyed his unique contributions to "Parenthood" and the first "Matrix". (I've had the DVD of "The Lake House" for about a year, purchased on the strength of his appealing performance in the theatrical trailer, although I haven't found the time o watch it yet.) So, if he's known for his wooden acting, then it certainly helped him bring an alien quality to Klaatu, this film's featured character made famous by the always intriguing Michael Rennie in 1951. Big shoes to fill!
Kathy Bates was also excellent. I had no idea she'd even been cast. A nice surprise. Jennifer Connolly was a likable female lead, and the young actor playing her stepson was appealing and capable.
I'd deliberately avoided the newspaper and Internet critiques, but I guess I'm now not surprised that it's garnered some rather lacklustre reviews... I suppose the main stumbling block is: did they really need to remake this classic, when the original still holds up so well? (I do have a great DVD version of the original - with a fascinating commentary by Nicholas Meyer and the then quite elderly director, Robert Wise. Coincidentally both men directed for the "Star Trek" features, so it was fun to hear them working together.)
The new film combines new SPFX with plenty of nostalgic homages to the original. The new take on what makes up Gort was interesting from a SPFX angle, and the swarms of alien, self-replicating nanite creatures seemed innovative. I guess most people were expecting Gort to use brute strength. I was surprised this Klaatu had no traditional flying saucer, but the network of giant spheres, which seemed to provide transport, communication and ark-like retrieval pods (for Earth's non human fauna) seemed efficient, and very pretty to behold.
There are some other interesting changes. The new Gort is huge! In the original film, if I recall correctly, he was played by an extra, whose day job was working as a security guard (Lock Martin) at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Famously, the old costume was made in two versions - one with the zipper in the back, the other with the zipper in the front - so the "metal" suit would appear seamless. This time Gort's all CGI, I guess, and it's the US military who name him, not Klaatu. G.O.R.T. is now an acronym for "Genetically Organized Robotic Technology".
Probably the film's green messages were a bit heavy handed. But we haven't learned much by way of Michael Rennie's Klaatu's warnings in 1951, so will we also ignore Keanu's Klaatu as we approach 2009? Yep, I think we will..
Oh, and I also loved that the bridge in Central Park, under which the main characters shelter during the finale of the new "Te Day the Earth Stood Still" seems to be the same bridge used by the young heroes of "Cloverfield" in that film's finale. Next time I visit Central Park, that's a must-have holiday snapshot. Hopefully I won't pick a day of impromptu alien invasion.