Radio 12.12.08
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at the Majestic Theater in Greenville :
 
            Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly star in “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” a remake of the 1951 classic.  Connelly plays Dr. Helen Benson, a scientist who is kidnapped by government agents in order to deal with an urgent emergency:  a certain fast-moving object from space is going to collide with earth in an hour, and it appears to be on an irregular flight pattern---that is, guided.  All attempts to intercept fail.  Braced for immediate impact, they are then surprised again:  it doesn’t crash into earth, it lands.  And what emerges is a brilliant orb.  What is birthed out of the orb is a humanoid, who, at first, is barely able to speak.  He calls himself  Klaatu.  Gaining strength rapidly, he soon breaks free of his restraints, and eludes all attempts to capture him.  The military’s feeble attack of the orb is easily repulsed by a gigantic Ironman-looking defender, who can reverse the impulse of any missile or projectile, controlling all electricity, radio waves, sound waves, and, of course, computerized guidance systems.  The humans just cannot believe that all their weaponry is useless.  When they order Dr. Benson to drug the alien by injection, she uses saline instead, which makes him trust her only, and thus she wins his confidence.  He tells her that he has been sent not to destroy the earth itself, but the people on it.  It seems that the galaxy is in short supply of life-sustainable planets, and the humans are so rapidly deteriorating the environment that they need to be removed so other life-forms can have a place to safely inhabit.  Dr. Benson, of course, pleads for another chance---we can do better with the environment, really, we can!----but Klaatu must be convinced not so much by her earnestness as by her love for her stepson, Jacob (Jaden Smith), whose parents are both dead, and Helen, as the widow of Jacob’s Dad, winds up taking care of the boy.  Klaatu sees a sensitive side to humans, that makes him think there might be something redeemable there, after all.
Since the unstoppable desolation has already been unleashed (good special effects here),  Klaatu must decide whether to halt the destruction, and thus allow the remaining humans to start over.  The dynamics are kind of like God deciding to destroy the earth by flood, but saving Noah in order to give the humans another chance, or destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, but deciding to save Lot and his family, giving them another chance.  Of course, we don’t exactly want to think of an automaton like Keanu Reeves as God, or even the avenging angel.  And the “Save the Earth” point is a bit heavy-handed.  But “The Day The Earth Stood Still” seems like a timely re-presentation of a science fiction flick with a message.
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM