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science fiction Tag


My usual modus operandi with this column — and the reason why its title is phrased as a question — is to look for signs of quality in cultural products for which I have no reasonable expectation of finding it. I’m not even necessarily expecting that Hannah Montana DVD to be bad — I’m just not expecting it to be very good. My hope is always to be pleasantly surprised. Oh, I hear the same word-of-mouth that you all do, and I know the received wisdom as well as anyone else; but usually I can shrug them off and try to approach the work with an open mind, hoping against hope for something good.

There are times, though, when my own prior experiences lead me to approach my subject with a pre-existing anticipation of its crapulence, and that shit is hard to shake. Such is the case with Star Trek: The Animated Series, released in 2006 in a handsome boxed edition, which I have just re-encountered for the first time since seeing it in its original run.

Before we begin, allow me to state for the record that I hate remakes. With very rare exceptions, they tend to be lifeless, pale imitations of the classics which came before them.

The remake of the 1951 classic The Day The Earth Stood Still does nothing to change my perceptions of Hollywood’s latest runaway trend.

Set in New York instead of Washington D.C., the film focuses on the arrival of Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), an alien who comes to Earth with an ultimatum for mankind. Before he can even finish assembling his true form in front of an astonished gathered military force, a soldier shoots him, nearly killing him. He’s taken to a military academy for study, where one of the scientists allowed to observe him as he is operated upon and allowed to heal is astrobiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). When Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates), the Secretary of Defense, arrives with agents in tow and declares that Klaatu is a prisoner of the government and is to be interrogated, Benson finds a measure of empathy for him and rather than dope him up, gives him a harmless saline injection which allows him to retain enough of his faculties to escape. Once he does–eventually reuniting with both Helen and her estranged stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith)–it’s up to Helen to keep him from being recaptured and, once Klaatu’s dire intentions are known to her, prove to him that humans deserve the chance to evolve, rather than be destroyed.

Aside from some minor character changes, so far it seems that The Day The Earth Stood Still follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor (that original film inspired by the short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates…no relation to Kathy). As with all remakes, however, the proof is in the execution… and as executed by director Scott Derrickson (Love in the Ruins, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and writer David Scarpa (only previous credit: The Last Castle), this retelling of the tale is slow-paced, bland, boring as hell, nonsensical in many parts, and is, in many ways, an outright insult to the original.