The main problem with Scott Derrickson's high-tech retread of Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, is the utter drabness of almost every single aspect of it. Not nearly good enough to be considered a successful cover, so to speak, yet not nearly bad enough to waste time berating the thing to death (though it does certainly lean toward the latter), this humdrum remake, like many before it (last year's insipid retooling of Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes immediately to mind) and I am sure, many after it, is simply a mediocre over-the-counter product made solely for the purpose of cashing in on an already established market - though sadly, most of today's moviegoers are probably ignorantly oblivious to the fact that this is even a remake in the first place.
Putting aside the changes from the old to the new, for most of these updates are thematically appropriate (where Wise's film was made in the age of the cold war and therefore seemed more shadowy and mysterious, Derrickson's version is deadset in the frenzied post-9/11 world we live in now) this achingly middlebrow rendition of a classic is nothing more - or less - than a total unmitigated bore. Granted, if you need someone to be an almost emotionless automaton, dress in black, run from the government and have healing powers that lead to allusions of a chosen one, then Keanu Reeves is certainly your go-to man, but this film (much like Reeves' acting) goes absolutely nowhere. Unmotivated and unconvincing, most of the actors, including the gorgeous but too often wasted Jennifer Connelly (can someone please give this girl a role that involves more than just batting her furrowed eyelashes at her oft creaturely male co-star?), Kathy Bates as a cunt-heavy Secretary of Defense and a cameo'd John Cleese as the, get this, Nobel-awarded voice of calm and reason, seem to merely trudge their way through this film with about as much enthusiasm as Reeves' deadpan Klaatu shows. These people are supposed to be fighting for their very lives yet no one is even willing to break a thespianic sweat to make it seem real.
In the end, losing most of the stoic edginess of the original, all we get is the most pedestrian of remakes full of some of the least energized and banal filmmaking this side of the aforementioned Invasion remake from last year, and some of the most disappointingly unimaginative special effects one could ever, um...imagine. Even the almost pre-ordained destruction of New York City that eventually takes place seems like a lazy cop out when one starts to think of what they could have done here (the uncalled for eradication of Giants Stadium was, in this New York sports fan's opinion, the scariest and most disturbing moment). Mediocre to a frustrating level (one almost wished for this film to go to the extreme of emotions, either great or rotten-to-the-core) this inexplicably dishwater reiteration of one of the finest examples of cold war paranoia filmmaking ever made, a film that takes its own advice and stands still throughout, will surely fade from memory as quickly as it first appeared over the horizon. [12/13/08]