GENRE: Sci-fi remake with high-tech hardware
THE PITCH: When an alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) takes human form in advance of a possible invasion, single mom/scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) tries to show him the best sides of humanity to forestall our extinction.
MONEY SHOTS: A big glowing strange thing lands in Central Park like an outtake from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Klaatu's giant robot, Gort, gives a beat down to airborne attackers. While held in a military installation, Gort's single glowing eye follows a government observer. Later, Gort spectacularly busts out of the base. Trucks, road signs and even stadiums dissolve in a massive gray cloud.
BEST LINE: "School's canceled on account of the aliens," declares Helen's stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith) when the alien ships cause global hysteria. Jacob's overwrought squabbles with Helen provide some of the film's worst lines, too.
WORST LINE: Jon Hamm's NASA honcho says, "If the sphere is the ark, then what comes next is..." "The flood," intones Defense Secretary Kathy Bates (who's surprisingly unconvincing here).
MOST AMBIGUOUS LINE: "Change his mind – if not with reason, with yourself," Helen's Nobel laureate friend (John Cleese) tells her. Wait, is he suggesting that she sleep with Klaatu to save humanity?
BODY COUNT: It's hard to say, because there are at least four on-screen near fatalities cured by extraterrestrial means – Klaatu's sort of like the Jesus of electronics. Nano-locusts kill one guy in a grisly fashion and possibly hundreds more off camera. Two manned helicopters crash and Gort destroys a small army, but casualties are not identified.
FLESH FACTOR: Klaatu sloughs off blubbery alien skin to reveal his skinny human bod curled up on a hospital table.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Klaatu goes to a McDonald's to meet a mysterious associate (James Hong) who drinks tea from the "McCafe." Afterwards, Klaatu seems particularly downbeat about humanity's chances for some reason.
BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? No. In 1951, director Robert Wise's thoughtful first version of the story helped usher in the decade's science fiction, which mixed Cold War-era metaphors with neat-o monsters and effects. The remake doesn't embarrass itself, but it doesn't bring much to the table except CGI spectacle.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Keanu Reeves should always portray aliens, since he's not as good at playing emotions as he is at not playing emotions. Director Scott Derrickson's remake admirably avoids preaching at the audience, leaving mankind's misdeeds implicit, rather than spelling them out. Still, while the film provides a reasonably entertaining two hours, The Earth won't move for you.