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The Day The Earth Stood Still: Humanity’s End, Courtesy of Robot Bugs

Embarrassed critic confession: I haven’t seen the original. I have nothing to compare this to other than to let it stand on its own two feet. I understand that the third act of the original differs greatly from this remake, full of amped-up special effects, typical disaster movie destruction, and yeoman-like direction from Scott Derrickson. This film doesn’t really do anything wrong—it paints by the numbers quite admirably. It never, however, does anything quite right. Some neat special effects sequences and generally fine performances across the board are cancelled out by things such as laughable product placements and plot occurrences that are wildly silly. It’s a humorless action/thriller, making it more preachy than entertaining, yet I was never really bored. I actually feel it might deserve the worst insult of all: it’s not bad enough to be bad, or good enough to be good, instead content to play it safe and linger in mediocrity.

If you don’t know the plot, it followed Helen (Jennifer Connelly, looking pensive and emotional) as the hottest astrophysicist ever. Several scientists are gathered together to prepare for the upcoming end of the world. When they arrive at the impact site, they discover they’re not in for what they anticipated. Why would the government’s priority be to gather these scientists, if they’re just going to take them to the most dangerous location on Earth, is not the concern of the filmmaker. An emotionless alien (Keanu Reeves in the role he was born to play) emerges, and is interrogated—could this be the end of the world? Hint: if it wasn’t, the movie would be far more boring. Jennifer Connelly helps Keanu escape, and despite the entire government and FBI looking for them, they are able to drive away freely, meet in public places, and learn many lessons along with Connelly’s cute kid. Can they convince Keanu Reeves to call off the attack on Earth? Or will humanity be killed by a giant cloud of robotic bugs?

The bugs are easily the coolest feature of the film, yet Derrickson doesn’t set them to any rules—they can devour Meadowlands Stadium in 10 seconds, yet a few get under the cute kid’s skin, and it takes a full minute and a half for them to even give him a nosebleed. When they crawl out from under the kid’s skin, he’s fine… what are the internal bleeding hazards of a robot bug attack? They fly in clouds, but in no particular direction—how much of America have they destroyed? They all seem to be congregating in New York at the end… have they destroyed everything from DC to NY? We don’t know. When the bugs are swarming in their direction, Keanu helps hide Connelly and the cute kid under an overpass, so the bugs all fly right past. Is this supposed to be a joke? At least when two aliens hold their meeting for the fate of the world at (wait for it) McDonald’s, it gets a laugh. The bottom line is, action/thrillers, especially with creatures and sci-fi elements, should follow their own rules if they even want to HOPE to be taken seriously or be remembered 24 hours after being seen. At the end of the day, I don’t think Scott Derrickson was worried about the audience remembering it 24 hours later, he was worried about putting asses in seats opening weekend with some cool special effects they could throw into a movie trailer. During Oscar season, unless you’re a fan of special effects work and/or mindless sci-fi, I can’t strongly recommend this flick.

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~ by russellhainline on December 14, 2008.

One Response to “The Day The Earth Stood Still: Humanity’s End, Courtesy of Robot Bugs”

  1. I too haven’t seen the original but when they revealed the location of the space craft did you already knew it was New York? Too predictable. I also notice at the end of the movie, when Connelly and Smith were hiding from the bugs, it was the exact same location in Cloverfield.

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