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Monday, December 01, 2008

Naive Knaves

A remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is due for a December 12 release. That the producers chose to release the film on 12/12 is about the measure of the meager cleverness I personally expect from the film.

The original was a creepy, anti-nuclear war polemic that successfully combined a sense of foreboding menace with 50-era sci-fi aesthetics and a reasonably, if superficially intelligent veneer. It was the best thing Robert Wise did, including West Side Story.*

The politics were friendly enough, as I've yet to locate a person on the planet actively in support of widespread nuclear war. Can you imagine someone twittering about, saying things like, "Oh yeah, I actually think there's not enough radiation in the atmosphere. A few hundred mushroom clouds might do us a bit of good. Get the blood boiling, if you know what I mean."

Well, the producers of the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still might just fall into this category. Given that the adverts tend to focus on shots of large buildings being blown into ashes and aeroplanes crashing into things, it plays like an Al Queda recruiting film with premier league production values and celebrity cameos.

Apparently, there's also some environmental message to the film. It's hard to tell though because the adverts seem to imply that the entire planet, trees and all, is getting walloped into dust. It's awfully hard to hug a tree whilst it's being atomized.

Still there is the bit where Kathy Bates says something about Earth being "our planet" and Keanu Reeves, playing the alien** responds, "No, it is not."

Walked right into that one, didn't you Kathy?

Seriously, doesn't this intergalactic, Marmite for brains clod with a Dennis the Menace haircut know anything about the rhetorical difference between residency and ownership, or at worst stewardship? He's supposed to be from an advanced extraterrestial race. Does the acqusition of technology automatcially mean that all sentient communication will be reduced to the level of poorly translated technical manuals?

Hearing this obtuse exchange reminded me of the line in Hamlet:

"How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo

Perhaps a better writer would have had Bates respond thusly. I suspect the finished screenplay of this film has her snapping her fingers and exclaiming, "You be too clever fur me, super-a-lee-en man."*** There is no way to tell at this juncture, the advertisments leaving us in a very mild state of suspense.

Unless there is much more to the film than meets the advertisted eye (and in most cases of blockbuster Hollywood productions like this there is even less), perhaps the only suitable response to the film comes from one of Mr. Reeves previous works: "Bogus."

*Without the musical numbers, it has all the earthy relevance of The Lords of Flatbush.
** Which means no acting at all was required of Mr. Reeves
*** Although the dialect might be beyond that writer, as it was for me

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