Tis the season to be jolly, and because of the success of Will Smith's I Am Legend remake last year, I suspect tis the season for Hollywood to look at some of its past science fiction classics and set its gunsights on potential storylines to be redone, or "reimagined" on time for the holiday season, though the structure for this seemed to mirror quite closely to that of the original, save for the message to be preached.
But as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, please don't fix it. While I still buy into the notion that us human beings will likely to wake up our ideas if we know for sure that we're not the only civilization in the universe out there, that bickering amongst ourselves would be just plain silly in the face of potentially hostile creatures from outer space, the way Scott Derrickson presented this film, seemed more like a rehash of plenty of sci-fi elements from the likes of Independence Day (alien ships hovering around the globe), Third Encounters of the Third Kind, Armageddon (seriously, I was half expecting Bruce Willis to board a space shuttle with his crew and enormous drillbit), and even that obvious shade of the Matrix with Keanu's shaven fetal state in goo. And could someone tell filmmakers that shots of empty streets of New York's Times Square is already passe?
In this troubled time of ours, I thought the anti-war message is still quite relevant in today's context of world conflict, where hatred seem to be the emotion running very high. The original's message of peace doesn't ring any truer now, though this remake preferred to take on the more environmentally green message that if we don't take care of the Earth, the Earth will die and so will we, along with it naturally. But we Earthlings (or rather, the Americans) are a stubborn bunch, and toward all alien beings visiting our planet, they will dish out all available military hardware to obliterate anything that moves.
Sure, like the original film, there will be some who will balk at the messiah like character of Klaatu, with his sudden appearance, of being born again in human form and performing miracles such as resurrections and healing. Some might also balk at Keanu Reeves' tendency to play such messiah like characters, though a different camp would argue that he excels in roles such as these given his lack of acting range. And true enough, there isn't much for him to emote except to be in awe and to adjust in his new homo-sapien form.
The cast were all truly wasted, as Jennifer Connelly seemed to remake her Helen Benson from her Hulk's Betty Ross, while Jaden Smith didn't do much as the skeptical stepson Jacob Benson. Kathy Bates became a caricature as the Secretary of Defense, and John Cleese too was a flower vase as Professor Barnhardt. Yes, a male flower vase. If there's any level of difficulty here in anyone's acting, I'd give credit to Keanu Reeves for his dare to converse in Mandarin, which I thought was quite alright (probably even better than mine!)
What was truly a letdown, was the pace at the final third of the film. The movie plods to the finishing line, and what do we get at the end of it? Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The obvious parallels here to end the movie makes it look darn lazy, as you can substitute you know who for Galactus (a gaseous ball of mass) and for the Surfer himself. It's anti-climatic and very lacklustre, and I for one would have applauded if it went along the lines of the original to shove down its message verbatim to the audience, rather than to provide such a hokey ending that made it all a joke and threw whatever impact of its good-natured message out the window.
And not since Jack Neo do I see product placement coming in so intrusively, like MacDonald's, and the one that took the cake, was that huge Microsoft Windows logo sitting pretty atop a glass table top for image manipulation. I was waiting for a blue screen of death to occur, which would fit into the story proper since a lot of electronic gizmos went poof. Those who would want to give this a go for its special effects, would like to know that all the extravagant money shots have already been included in the trailer, so you might want to save your money, and go rent the original instead, which is a classic in itself, rather than to sit through something that's very bland and generic. Disappointing stuff.