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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Day The Earth Stood Still

Yeah, it's definitely been a frenzied few weeks, and hopefully I will learn to spread out my movie watching over the year, rather than borrowing and renting everything at the last minute. Well, I tried, and I haven't done bad for a guy who started these reviews six months ago. It's become quite a wee hobby, and I must nerdily cofess to enjoying reviewing the films, even if the are bad. This film however, I opted not to wait for DVD, and on a free day with nothing to do, what could be better than matinee priced seats at your local cinema? Okay, the new Day The Earth Stood Still film will be the topic of review today. Now, it has been getting rather alot of slanderings and bad reviews from the press as of late. For example, it currently stands at a certainly unimpressive position of 20% on RottenTomatoes.com. By my standards, that makes it worse than The Happening. Now, there is no way in hell it is that bad. In fact, I myself I compelled to speak my mind and be honest, and am able to say that I thought it was a good and enjoyable film. Story goes that alien comes to earth, is wounded, and speaks cryptically about how humans are destroying the planet. Thats all you really need to know, and to tell any more would be to spoil the whole point of the film. Now, what's good about it, you ask? For a start, I would like to correct the critics on their misguided judgement regarding Keanu Reeves' performance in this film. Everyone knows that he is a pretty wooden actor and is never going to win any Oscars, but nonetheless, isn't it Arnold Schwarzeneger's wooden quality (if there is such a thing) which made one of the all-time great performances in The Terminator? Reeves' Klaatu is unique in cinema, for normally this alien character would end up becoming a showy, glossy, over-the-top performance, the likes of which you could imagine the likes of Marky Mark trying to do. In this role, Reeves manages to create a fine balance of human enough to understood and alien enough to mysterious. I personally think it is a fine role. Also, for a movie marketed as a special effects blockbuster, I think that it certainly deviates from what the audience (or what Michael Bay thinks they) expect from a modern blockbuster. Yes, its an updating to our blockbuster era, but there are no ridiculous chase scenes coming in out of nowhere, likewise with action scenes being shoved in for the sake of excessiveness and indulgence. They all seem to be here in the movie for a purpose, in terms of advancing the plot along. Also, Jaden Smith, son of "that Smith" pulls off a charming role as Jacob Benson. Scott Derrickson too, director of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, seems to make a good transition from low budget horror flicks into the realm of big-budget blockbusters. He is not doing a great job here, but he is does an admirable job nonetheless. To get into the bad stuff about the film, in parts it is dull. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them is that in my opinion Jennifer Connelly, formerly a reliable actress, seems to have reached a point in her career where she is putting her feet and not exerting herself for role the way she used to. It's like after she did A Beautiful Mind, where she met her husband Paul Bettany and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, she put her feet up and decided not to act well anymore. She did this exact same thing in Blood Diamond, turning out as the worst actor/actress performance in the film. Even John Cleese in all of five minutes onscreen upstages her. Also, I feel that the special effects were rather poor, with some sequences looking rather out of place. The whole point of this film (and the original) is to keep it rooted in reality so that it can make a commentary on the world we are living in. It is clear that this is the film-makers intentions but like The Strangers, the opportunity to create something original gets lost in the heap of genre expectations and conventions. Finally, to like it with it being dull, the script does not help matters. The dialogue is very generic and merely transitional for a lot of the time, only serving to advance the story and weak dialogue being used in the attempts for subtext. Only Reeves as Klaatu gets good dialogue, which all the more highlights that this is a film on his shoulders, for the rest of the cast have been neglected of anything besides convention and same old. That is why I feel people have been jumping on his back, because he isn't exactly the best actor in the world as it is. He is the scapegoat. The other excuse I feel critics are using too much is "oh, it's a remake, not as good as the original." Well, you know what, this cinephile didn't see the original yet. So I refuse to use that excuse, because let's face it, no one likes remakes, and ends up comparing them to the original, even if it's subconcious. The case is completely the same with sequels. That brings us to our conclusion. The Day The Earth Stood Still is certainly no masterpiece. It has some very dry performances from Jennifer Connelly and Kathy Bates, poor, unimaginative special effects, and is very conventional and predictable story wise. However, there is much to admire. While Derrickson's direction is bog-standard, he does a decent job, and even the underlying subtext manages to come across as slightly convincing. The only individual who deserves to escape unscaved is Keanu Reeves, who delivers a subtle and delicately balanced version of the mysterious alien Klaatu.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.9/10

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