Science fiction takes a few steps forward and science fiction films take many steps backwards in this soulless "re-imagining" of the seminal 1951 Robert Wise film. While the first film still remains relevant because of its anti-war message, this remake dilutes that message by going staunchly anti-global warming and such. The biggest misstep however was probably making a film with an ending and a beginning locked, but no middle part to walk us through.
I started off really liking the film because some of the concepts presented are completely against Hollywood thinking, and very fresh takes within the studio structure of the sci-fi construct. Aliens, perhaps only the third time in all recollection, are presented as having transcended the need for physical representations, and are needed to be born in a new human body to make sense to us.
The fact that aliens come to earth has nothing altruistic at all about it - they don't want to magically end war. Klaatu is here to make sure we don't utterly destroy one of the only few planets able to support complex life. As Klaatu himself puts it, "If you die, the Earth survives," which really is his only aim.
The rest of the film, however, is empty, vacuous, and utterly devoid of coherence or energy. The lazily assembled second and third acts run through the motions of filmmaking, but are unlike anything you have ever seen in films. They are completely lifeless moments captured on film populated with lifeless characters played by very bad actors.
This is a role that required Keanu Reeves to be wooden, something that should come naturally to him; and it does, too. It's still annoying as hell. It is telling a lot that his charisma is not even up to the task of him acting as an alien with limited understanding of human emotions.
Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson, a top xenobiotics scientist, is tasked in the film to study the ship and the lone person that has arrived in it. It's a thankless role that requires her to raise he eyebrows at opportune moments and then simply help Klaatu escape, leading us on a thankless fugitive film for more than an hour. Unforgivable.
Equally unforgivable is Jaden Smith as Connelly's son, who, frankly, is a brat and should be slapped hard a few times before being brought in polite company. When this character comes around and learns lessons, it isn't a moment of extreme emotion. It is another one of those inscrutably lazy moments that the film throws on our faces.
This tedious exercise in film-watching also has some appalling special effects - be it Gort in all his splendor, appearing as a cheap tin toy, or the seemingly half-finished jobs on the apocalyptic rage that the nanobots he releases get up to. The whole film looks flat and ugly, and very uninterestingly shot. Nothing about the movie seems gripping, really, but the director's faults are the biggest.
Scott Derrickson makes the film look boring, and stages everything that happens with no interest in his craft or the progression of the film. With the most plodding pace of a mainstream science fiction film I have ever seen, the incredibly appalling effects work, and the terribly ill-composed shots, all that was left for Scott to make this a complete waste was to drain the drama, tension and life out of every scene. He accomplishes that with aplomb.
There is nothing in The Day the Earth Stood Still that salvages it from the train wreck it was from the day they started editing it, and the nifty science fiction concepts will likely be forgotten with the rest of this film in less than a week by anyone who watches this.