Deacon’s DVDs: Spoiling It For You

If you haven’t seen the 2008 remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and for some reason you still want to, leave now. I’m going to ruin this sonofabitch for you if you continue.

Of course, it deserves to be ruined. Spoiling the ending is all too necessary for the good of movie-renting humankind, because this movie had no ending.

OK, technically, it has an ending. But it’s such a jaw-droppingly stupid one. Such a “what the hell just happened?” one. A complete, “That’s it?” kind of experience.

We spend a couple hours seeing special effects that are, to be honest, pretty damn good.

We see Keanu Reeves in his usual, expressionless mode, but it works perfect here, because he’s an alien in a body constructed to be human…so he is not used to being a human or feeling like a human. So, Keanu’s typical acting weakness, his lack of ability to emote, is actually a strength here.

Jennifer Connelly does a fantastic job of emoting just perfectly and being expressive in all the right ways.

John Cleese is fantastic in his cameo.

Kathy Bates isn’t given nearly enough to do with her role, but she does it well.

But what we end up with is a movie about a collection of alien races who send Klaatu (played by Reeves) to Earth to make the final decision about us. And that decision is…

…remember, I’m going to spoil this for you…

…last chance…

…I mean it…

OK, you’re still here. He is here to push the button on the human race. To save Earth, the aliens figure humans have to go, so that the planet can heal and other life can go on. The notion is that only a tiny fraction of planets in the universe can support complex life, and so they are not willing to spare one species…that is, us…and lose the planet. Essentially, we are seen as a cancer that needs to be removed so that the patient, the Earth, can live.

Actually, as far as concepts go, that ain’t bad. It’s a decent update for our time, since the original version of the film dealt with aliens being mad that we were pursuing nuclear science, and were too immature for it. That’s probably true, but it would be  a little late for them to complain about that now, so the environmental theme works better now.

Predictably, after making it clear that he thinks we’re unredeemable as a species, and must be wiped out, he decides after starting a nanotech “plague of high tech locusts” end of the world that hey, because one little kid cries and his stepmom hugs him, we must be OK. So then the rush to reverse Armageddon so that we won’t be wiped out, with some queer comment about, “It will come at a cost. You will have to change” or something like that.

And what changes?

Klaatu turns off our power.

Yeah. That’s the end of the movie. Klaatu returns to his vessel, turns of the nanotech bug swarm, and shuts off every powered device in the world, including wristwatches.

And leaves without a single word.

That’s right. Everything’s shut off (including, presumably, life support machines for patients, heat in places where people will die of hypothermia without it, and so on).

Nobody tells the world why. Nobody says, “OK, this is your last chance. Start from scratch.” Nobody tells the people of the world one damn word about why the power was shut off and what step we need to take…or goals we need to meet…to prevent a return to destroy us.

All that work with the special effects, some pretty good acting overall, an interesting take on the robot Gort this time around, a story that had promise for maybe most of the first 2/3 or 3/4 of the affair…all to get a contrived “I understand you humans now” change of personality from Klaatu, and a head-scratching ending that just left me pissed off more than any other crappy movie ending I’ve ever seen.

I mean, I said to my computer screen: “What kind of useless shitting ending is that?”

I never talk to the screen when I watch a movie.

The 1951 movie shouldn’t have been remade to begin with. But if you’re going to remake it, can’t you at least give us an ending that makes at least some small fraction of sense?

(If there are typos galore in this, I’m not surprised. It’s almost 2 a.m. and I’m headed to bed, and I have no plans to go back and edit this.)


19 Responses to “Deacon’s DVDs: Spoiling It For You”

  1. November 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I’m with you on this one: hugely disappointing. This movie, in its original version, has been a favorite of mine for years. And for that long I have dreamed of a remake, and even speculated on how it might be accomplished for today’s jaded moviegoers who were raised on Star Trek, and Star Wars.

    My version begins on a distant planet, and we get to see the alien races who send Klaatu to earth with the final warning: “Shape up, or we’ll ship you out.” Maybe all don’t agree, and they reach their decision with reluctance after much wrangling. Maybe we don’t learn that earth is the next planet in their sights until the craft enters our atmosphere.

    Further, I thought the impact would have been greater had we seen at the beginning of the movie what the robots could do, by actually taking out a planet that ignored warnings.

    I would like to have seen more of the robot, and our scientist’s attempt to dismantle it, although unsuccessfully. Having it break down into some nano version of a locust plague was disappointing, and stripped it of some of its invincibility with what amounted to a wimp factor.

    And the spherical shape of the craft was another big letdown. That concept has been overused.

    And the ending. You summed it up correctly. Had I seen this ending in the movies rather than on DVD, I would have bombarded the screen with rotten tomatoes. It was a rotten ending, totally dissatisfying, which left you with the feeling that the makers of this film had it in for anyone who was sucker enough to pay to see it.

    The makers were not aficionados of the original film.

    I got the feeling that the real movie was left on the cutting room floor, and perhaps a victim of time constraints.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    November 24, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Gort had so much potential, too. He looked good, and he looked menacing not simply by his size but for his implacable sense of presence. Unlike the one in the original, who left me thinking: “How could this 7-foot-tall-robot destroy the world?” the Gort in the remake looked and felt like something threatening in the extreme.

    The “real” movie might not have even ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s death might have come much earlier. I wouldn’t be surprised if a better movie had been outlined (or even scripted in an early draft) and then been updated and updated until almost nothing good remained.

  3. November 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I can feel your anger from here. I know these types of postings.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    November 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    LOL. You know, it’s funny, because I will rarely ever complain about a movie, much less bitch about one.

    Even with a crappy movie, I figure I get some entertainment, and even if I pick it apart for stupidity with my wife later or something, even that can be fun, and give the movie added value.

    It’s so rare that I feel like I’ve truly just been treated like dirt by a movie and everyone involved in producing, directing and editing it.

    I think this was the cinematic equivalent of engaging in some good bedroom fun with your significant other, having it go on a while with the usual ups and downs, thinking that it’s going to be a pretty good evening, and then your partner just suddenly stops, rolls over, and says, “Good night” without anyone getting any sexual resolution, and then goes to sleep.

    That’s what the ending of this movie did. It managed to completely invalidate all possible value of the two hours, give or take, that came before it.

    On the bright side, I didn’t pay for it, since I checked it out of my local library. But even, so, I’m still irritated and want my money back even though I didn’t pay any.

  5. 5 taifunu
    November 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    ” The “real” movie might not have even ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s death might have come much earlier. I wouldn’t be surprised if a better movie had been outlined (or even scripted in an early draft) and then been updated and updated until almost nothing good remained.”

    Apparently, there WAS an earlier version of the script.

    Click to access TDTESS_xx_UD.pdf

    But it went through rewrites, for various reasons , probably studio/producers/director related.

    Honestly, I prefer parts of it which got rewritten. such as the scene at the professor’s house.
    But NOT the ending. The final cut’s ending looks fine to me. The one in the early script sounds too… much. Too explicit. Too pedagogical.
    Besides, to hear Reeves say ” The choice is yours. What happens next is up to you.” would sound too Matrix-y 😉
    I repeat, liked the ending they chose to go with.
    But to each one’s own 😉

  6. 6 Seer
    November 26, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    As one who grew up on the original I wasn’t happy about a remake at all. Had it not been for Keanu Reeves I’d not have watched it (I’m not in the corner where those who think he can’t act – or emote – stand). IF a remake had to be made, better it would have been under another name and completely disconnected from TDTESS publicity-wise, so that it could stand on it’s own. That said.. I did watch it and have to say that I actually liked it – but it does benefit from a second viewing in order to pick up nuances that are easily missed the first go-round. Such as being left with the impression that the kid cried and his mom hugged him and Klaatu had a sudden change of heart about the human race (a lot more than that went into the change of heart, the bits and pieces that changed his mind were scattered all through the film).

    As for the ending, look at it this way ; Klaatu asked to speak to world leaders and was refused the opportunity. The ‘leaders’ involved didn’t bother to enlighten the general public of what was happening – and usually when one is in Rome one tries to do as the Romans do – why would Klaatu bother to explain in detail when the ‘Romans’ didn’t bother with explanations? He did leave Helen with a crystal clear explanation of cause, are we to assume that she never said another word about it? Klaatu’s reason for coming had also become clear to the SoD before it was all said and done. To look at it from the alien’s point of view, he merely responded to the socio-political structure of the planet’s inhabitants. Telling ‘us’ what happened and why was not necessary, he left that in the hands of the ‘powers that be’, that’s how the nations on this planet conduct their societies. The ending makes perfect sense to me ;).

  7. November 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Well, taifunu and Seer, I appreciate the counter-thoughts. Your positions make enough sense that I’m not going to poo-poo them, though I still think that if you’re going to give the human race a second chance, I think that doing more than throwing them back into the stone age (or maybe the bronze age) without a word of guidance or direction seems to lack a certain amount of maturity. I mean, if the goal is to save the Earth and still spare the humans, do you really want to leave those who made the mess in the first place in complete confusion?

  8. 8 Seer
    November 27, 2009 at 12:06 am

    If humanity is to be given a second chance, better that they prove they’ve learned the lesson – and giving us direction and guidance would defeat the learning of the lesson, it would merely be showing us ‘what and how’ to do. I would suppose that they hope to see us make the correct decisions on our own, ie learned our lesson. It is humanity’s responsibility to ‘do it right’, not their responsibility to show us what that ‘right’ is.

    Starting from scratch as we would be gives them the time to observe what we did with our second chance – and it would present no problem to send G.O.R.T. back to finish the original job – so they’ve got time on their side and a win/win situation ;).

  9. November 27, 2009 at 12:51 am

    I guess what I’m getting at is that Klaatu tried to approach the leaders, and was rebuffed. This means almost the entire planet remains ignorant of the situation, with no assurance that anyone will inform them. Unless I’ve forgotten something, the general populace was never told that they were targeted for elimination nor why. With the ability to manipulate electromagnetic and digital systems, it seems that bringing the case to the people…at least to tell them what the beef of the ETs is with them…would be in order.

  10. 10 Seer
    November 27, 2009 at 5:53 am

    That’s just your humanity thinking ;).

    Honestly I don’t think that the human race was actually given a second chance for the benefit of humanity, the planet was the prime concern, humans were just collateral (if almost damaged 😉 ). Sort of like “Well they were here, we’ll just knock ’em back a bit and see if they can stay a part of the picture”. Not benevolence, more benignity.. don’t think Klaatu (‘they’) really cared if the humans make it or not. On a scale similar to our discovering that plants interact with their environment with design :). There may be intelligence there but we can’t relate to it and don’t particularly care to.

    See what happens if you watch this thing more than once?


  11. 11 Deacon Blue
    November 27, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    I’ll concede that you make a case for being able to turn lemons into lemonade here, but I still maintain it’s a stinker of an ending. And, for me at least, not a movie worth re-watching. I’ll leave that to more stoic souls such as yourself. 😉

  12. November 28, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Not to beat the proverbial horse beyond recognition, but I agree with Deacon Blue. The first duty of a movie is to entertain. When it fails to do that it fails. Speaking of horses, someone should be horsewhipped for allowing that ending. Having an appealing message is not enough, the movie must first hold the attention, and not bore. This movie bored.

    Many who came to watch the remake were aficionados of the original. If the makers of this film had nothing new to offer except special effects, then it shouldn’t have been made. To make it, despite something new, and meaningful, is to perpetrated a rip-off and a fraud, both unforgivable offenses.

    We can all speculate on the possible meaning of the ending and some perhaps may find in it a profound statement about our current and future condition. But profundity should not trump a satisfying, expected, and cohesive ending unless the message that it holds is truly transcendent.

    In this case, it was none of the above, and failed overall. When I’m in the mood to punish myself, I’ll whip it out again and watch it. In the interim, I’ll stay with the original.

  13. 13 taifunu
    November 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    … IF the movie would have delivered the – apparently- compulsory spelled-out-speech in the end, it would -probably- have been called unoriginal. Since it didn’t, it’s called a bore.
    *sigh* damned if you do, damned if you don’t…
    they probably should have left it alone, or at least, as Seer said, released it on its own.
    Still defending the movie though, for what it was trying to do and partly – at least in my case- succeeded. This movie holds the mirror up to us, the people of 2008. If we don’t like the reflection we see… it’s not the movie’s fault 😉

    ” The first duty of a movie is to entertain.”
    Allow me to disagree. The first duty of a movie is to tell a story. For entertainment there are sitcoms, stand-up comedies, Vegas shows and reality tv.

    but then, again, to each one’s own.

  14. 14 Deacon Blue
    November 28, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Well, I have to say I’m both pleased and amazed that one of my Deacon’s DVDs posts actually generated a real discussion. 😀

  15. 15 Black Diaspora
    November 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    “‘The first duty of a movie is to entertain.'”
    “Allow me to disagree. The first duty of a movie is to tell a story. For entertainment there are sitcoms, stand-up comedies, Vegas shows and reality tv.”

    Now you’re being disagreeable to be disagreeable. Movies, sitcoms, stand-up comedies, vegas shows, reality tv, Dickens or Shakespeare may all tell stories of various quality–but, if they fail to entertain (hold the attention in some compelling fashion), no one is coming back for seconds. And the immediate, or eventual result: box-office sales suffer, ratings drop, shows aren’t renewed, comics are canceled, and reality TV faces the reality of reruns.

    Look, I’ll agree to be agreeable: I’m glad you liked the movie. I’m glad that you saw something in it that resonated, entertained, told a story that appealed, and offered a timeless message, or, at least, a message for the times.

  16. 16 taifunu
    November 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

    ” Now you’re being disagreeable to be disagreeable.”
    Far from my intentions ; please don’t make assumptions.
    I just understand the term ‘entertain’ as in ‘supplying amusement or diversion by specially prepared or contrived methods’.

    But thanks for agreeing to be agreeable, and let’s leave it to that 🙂

  17. 17 Seer
    November 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    *The first duty of a movie is to entertain.*

    It is true that most viewers attend these things wishing to be entertained ;). But in actuality movies, books, etc, are just like any other work of art, they are driven out of the one who creates as a form of self expression, once that is accomplished the reception is up to the receiver :).

    And a fairly civilized discussion at that Deacon, which is very nice :).

  18. November 29, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I only have had a couple folks around here who have ever gone for the uncivilized route, and have only ever had to ban one person, so I feel truly blessed on that front.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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November 2009

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