Jennifer Connelly, Keanu Reeves
Professor Barnhardt: So it was only when your world was threatened with destruction that you became what you are now.
Professor Barnhardt: Well that’s where we are. You say we’re on the brink of destruction, and you’re right. But it’s only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve. This is our moment. Don’t take it from us…we are close to an answer.
An alien, Klaatu (Reeves), arrives on earth with a giant robot in tow, threatening to end all human life because we are causing the earth to die. Dr. Helen Benson (Connelly) is the scientist who is given unrealistic levels of security clearance, helps Klaatu escape, and tries to convince him that humanity deserves another chance.
This movie was actually better than I expected it to be, but that’s not saying much because I expected the worst. It starts off quite well, as we see events unfolding via Jennifer Connelly’s perspective. There’s an effective tension and creepiness built as the giant alien sphere approaches earth and lands in central park. There’s even a bit of an ode to the strange music from the original version of this film. It was creepy then, and it’s creepy now.
Sadly, once the military and the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) show up, the movie starts to take on a more traditional, big budget thriller mentality. We stop seeing things from Connelly’s point of view, and she just becomes another character in the movie instead of being the audience’s eyes.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it rarely takes the time to let the characters sit down and discuss what’s going on. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, but I recall it having a lot more good philosophical talk about why the aliens felt it necessary to wipe out humanity and what humans could do to save themselves from that fate. Klaatu was a much more charismatic being, and not the emotionless, terminator-like character Reeves plays in the remake.
In this version, there’s only one good discussion scene, and it features John Cleese as a scientist who brings up a few interesting points that make Klaatu start to question his destructive decision. Unfortunately, this scene only lasts about 2 minutes, and then it’s back to special effects and chases.
It pains me to see a movie like this not reach its full potential. It’s great subject matter for a science fiction movie, and has all the ingredients to be really interesting and enjoyable. The creators of this movie, however, chose to go the easy route and fill the movie with special effects and bland characters rather than writing in more good dialogue.
10 – 2 for bland characters, especially Klaatu – .5 for the annoying kid – 2 for relying on special effects rather than the social/philosophical/psychological effects of humanity’s impending doom – .4 for abrupt ending + .1 because I like Jennifer Connelly = 5.2