The Day the Earth Stood Still (PG-13) ** ½

Jacob Benson (Jaden Smith, left) and Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) react to an event that could have dire consequences for the planet .Photo:Doane Gregory.

Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

When the alien Klaatu stepped off his spaceship the first time, in 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, he had come to warn us that man’s constant warring against itself had become a threat to other civilizations and we had better stop it — or else.

In director Scott Derrickson’s respectful, perfunctory remake, Klaatu once again comes to visit us with a warning, although he’s apparently been hanging out with Al Gore, since it’s what we’re doing to the environment that now has the extra-terrestrials wringing their hands (tentacles? pods? suction cups?)

Just because the new The Day the Earth Stood Still is green, though, doesn’t mean it’s dull. If anything, there’s a lot more mayhem and destruction this time around. Gort, Klaatu’s red-eyed robotic guardian, is a lot more short-tempered than he used to be (as well as a lot bigger). And when he goes on the rampage, even Godzilla’s got nothing on him.

Klaatu is played by Keanu Reeves, who you could say was born to play the role of an expressionless, unemotive alien, and Jennifer Connelly is the female scientist and single mom who finds herself on the run alongside the otherwordly visitor. Kathy Bates plays the secretary of defense, although going by the humorless way she barks orders at everyone, they might as well have made her the president.

The performances ultimately don’t count for much in The Day the Earth Stood Still, since the new version — unlike the original — is mostly a special-effects show. But what special effects they are! Director Derrickson knows how to avoid the fake, pasted-in look that plagues so much computer-generated movie imagery, and the visuals in the film (which should be seen in its IMAX incarnation for maximum effect) are pretty nifty stuff, such as the sight of Giants Stadium getting devoured by — well, no fair telling. Even if you know the original by heart, the new Earth has a couple of surprises in store, although the message remains the same: Watch it, Man.

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler

Director: Scott Derrickson

Screenwriters: David Scarpa, Edmund H. North

Producers: Edwin Stoff, Paul Boardman, Gregory Goodman

A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 103 minutes. Vulgar language, brief violence, adult themes.


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