For the most part, Hollywood does what Hollywood does and I just shrug. Other than avoid their rehashed hash as much as possible, what can I do? It has gotten to the point where Hollywood produces close to zero original screenplays. Instead, it mines old movies, tv shows, even Disney amusement park rides for source material. It seems to me, coming from the perspective of a soon-to-be-no-more bookseller, that a lot of novelists are even writing their books as first drafts of screenplays. I’m sure Chuck Palahniuk is already exercising his vocal chords for his eventual commentary track on the special edition DVD release of Choke—a film that hasn’t even hit the theaters yet. Anyway, enter The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring **shudder** the Keanu. Keanu is fine and all in certain roles, such as Neo, but as Klaatu? Really?
The original TDESS is with no doubt one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. The story of space traveler Klaatu arriving on Earth to warn us that our flirtation with insanity (i.e., nuclear armament and war paranoia) had consequences that the rest of the universe could not ignore was a paradigm shift for sf filmmaking. No tentacled, Earth-women-lusting, monstrously strong aliens here. Klaatu is a messenger of peace; the villains are us. This point is tragically made in one of the very first scenes of the movie. Klaatu holds a small metallic device in his hand as he first steps out of his spaceship. A young solider assumes it is a weapon and fires on Klaatu, and the device is destroyed. Klaatu sadly explains that it was a gift for the president and was a machine that could help humans study life on other planets. As the movie continues, Klaatu refuses to negotiate only with the US (or the USSR for that matter) just because of its military might and economic superiority. Rather, he demands conference with humanity as a whole. In the end, the only way he is able to achieve this is by addressing a collection of the world’s leading scientists—and not only ones with white faces (this was 1951 mind you). It’s a truly moving film that came out at just the beginning of H-bomb paranoia.
Granted, the 1951 Robert Wise film itself was an adapted screenplay, based on the short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates, but the film stands on its own and is significantly different from the original story in many ways (including nixing the twist ending). I’m sure this new version will also be significantly different from the previous film. For instance, the Keanu-as-Klaatu version will be dreadful. We’ll see if I’m wrong.