Remakes are part of the culture in which we live, we just have to accept it and take it for granted. It is just one of those things in life we have to get used to. Having said that, though, the idea that a big budget Hollywood remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still was in the works was a hard pill to swallow. The original is a bona-fide sci-fi classic – a timeless piece of cinema. The remake stars Keanu Reeves.
We have had time to digest that frightful bit of news. Or, as is perhaps more to the point, push that particular casting decision to the back of our minds and pretend that it didn’t happen. Now, though, all attempts at pretending this remake (or re-imagining, or whatever PR-coined term is now employed to distract us from this abhorrent lack of originality) is not afoot have been scuppered by the arrival of the first trailer for the movie. It is here, it is really happening, but, if truth be told, it really doesn’t look like the abomination we had all feared.
Reeves looks hopelessly miscast. That doe-eyed monosyllabic delivery that he likes so much, on paper, makes him an ideal choice for an alien. In practice, though, it just comes across as tired and uninspiring. That aside, however, the film itself shows signs of promise. Orchestrating an Emmerich-esque sense of scale and disaster while maintaining a more sombre and pensive tone was always going to be a tough task – how do you appease the fans of the original while staying true to the story’s message and delivering enough wanton carnage for the multiplex masses? Director Scott Derrickson – yes he of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose ‘fame’ – seems to have found a suitable balance in the execution of the CGI set pieces and the muted emotions of the film’s human players.
The problem, perhaps, lies less with the film’s tone and more with the film’s story. “If the Earth dies, you die; if you die, the Earth survives,” Reeves states in the trailer, at his laconic deadpan best, of course. Updating the atomic warning of the original for a contemporary ‘environmental’ theme is a risky game to play, though. Sure it is more current, it is something we can all relate to, and it is an issue with which we do need to engage pretty darn quick, but films with such a clearly defined message rarely make riveting cinema. Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow stands as a clear example of exactly where Derrickson could come unstuck. There is potential for a decent and thought-provoking film it seems, despite our anxieties over Reeves and the molestation of a beloved classic, but the last thing we need is a bigger budget sequel to Shyamalan’s The Happening.