Remakes of sci-fi classics are rarely a good thing. Leonard Nimoy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a bad idea. Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds was a terrible idea.
Surprisingly, Keanu Reeves is rather good in The Day The Earth Stood Still.
The rest of the movie's pretty crap, though.
This isn't a movie that wallows in its crapness. There's some pretty good cinema buried within. The script isn't happy with re-doing the original version's alien-as-Jesus motif, and explores a range of other sci-fi allegories. It tries its hand at a Columbus-and-the-natives storyline. It plays with an environmental parable. It experiments with some ideas about societal evolution. It never really settles on any of them, though, and the whole thing ends up being a shallow and confused mess.
Jennifer Connelly is awful. I want her to be good. I really do. For some reason I'm convinced there's an actor buried in there somewhere, but if there is then they still haven't dug up its body. She brings nothing to the role and whenever she's on screen she leaves the audience wondering how long it will take Keanu Reeves to turn up so we can see the real movie.
Keanu Reeves, as I mentioned, is rather good. He plays the alien Klaatu. Klaatu is, by nature, expresionless, wooden, and speaks in a dull monotone. This is the role Keanu was born to play. He inhabits it with an eerie versimilitude. It is, on paper, an undemanding role, but Reeves brings a presence and seriousness to it that are quite honestly the best thing in the film.
The second best thing in the film is Gort. The classic killer robot is reimagined here as a 60 foot monstrosity, produced entirely with CGI, with a shape and tone more or less identical to the original. He looks, in the vernacular, frikkin' awesome, but that's not enough to save the movie from a couple of hours of punching nuns. Also, in the final "WTF" scenes of the movie he turns into a cloud of totally non-awesome nanites.
For fans of the original, you need to know that the phrase "klaatu barada nikto" only appears in the movie once, it's mumbled, it's almost inaudible, it's near the start, and it has no plot significance. That's pretty much all you need to know to tell whether this remake's worth the time, so I probably should have put it at the start of the article. Copy this post into Word and move this paragraph to the top of the page to see a special "director's cut" of this review.
The Day The Earth Stood Still isn't the most awful remake in the history of remakes. It's halfway watchable and probably wouldn't suck as a rental or suchlike. But you'll have forgotten it existed within six months, if not sooner, so if you were on the fence about whether to see it save yourself the cash and go buy the new Prince of Persia game instead.
The new Prince of Persia game, it turns out, is rather good.