Friday, January 09, 2009

THE DAY KLAATU SAID WHOA! (Warning! Spoilers!)

When I saw the trailer for "The Day the Earth Stood Still" I knew it was going to be trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for dumb.

Just to set the record straight, I'm not one of those classic movie geeks who's against remaking any and all old movies. Some of them work. Both Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments are remakes of silent films. Victor/Victoria is a remake of an old German film. And lest we forget "The Maltese Falcon" had been made twice before Bogart stepped into Sam Spade's shoes. "Fistful of Dollars" is a remake of "Yojimbo" (Unfortunately they didn't stop there. So is "Last Man Standing")

So, no, I'm not anti-remake. But I also think it's kind of silly to set yourself up for a fall.

There are certain movies that were done right the first time, and there's no real point in attempting to try to get lightning to strike twice. "Citizen Kane" leaps to mind. "Children of Paradise" is another one. So is "The Day the Earth Stood Still"...

This isn't a case of "don't mess with my sci- fi classics.". John Carpenter's version of "The Thing from Another World" is equal to Howard Hawks' version, and maybe even a little more claustrophobic. Phil Kaufman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is just as paranoid as Don Siegel's. (We'll leave "The Invasion" out of this) I haven't got a problem with a remake that recognizes what made the original work and expands on it.

"The Day Klaatu went Whoa" doesn't do any of those things.

Where to begin? Keanu is too easy, in fact his flat acting style sort of suits Klaatu to a point. Jennifer Connelly is just okay (But the waif look doesn't suit her at all). John Cleese is wasted for the 5 or so minutes he's on screen. Kathy Bates is her dependable self as a Hilary Clinton style Secretary of State (Apparently the President doesn't deal with Alen Invasions). The Smith kid is annoying, but then in this version he's supposed to be...

Hey! We may have something... This version...Yeah.

Remember how in the original the Aliens...Okay the One Alien and his badass Robot comes to Earth because of Nuclear proliferation and impending space travel threatens the peace they've struggled to maintain for centuries "As long as you went about killing each other it was none of our business,,,"etc. Remember the theme of Non Violence? Sort of the cornerstone of the original? Remember that?

Okay, now forget it...

This Klaatu hasn't come to negotiate. This Klaatu has come with the Universe's Final Solution to Earth's environmental issues...Yes, that's right. Earth's Environmental issues are a threat to the rest of the Universe,,,No , not really. What's being threatened are billions of other species on Earth and the answer and the solution is to rescue all the others and 86 the one that's causing all the trouble. You know...Us. Not the US...You and me. The Universe's final solution is not unlike Himmler's, only a tad more comprehensive.

Kinda misses the point, of the original, don't you think?

The major culprit in this disaster is the script written by David Scarpa. It is gratuitously stupid which is sad because what it's based on is so smart. I'm not a science type, and I got lousy marks in it in High School. So maybe it's just that I've seen enough movies to know that if an extraterrestrial object is on a certain trajectory, then abruptly changes course, and then accelerates, my first assumption isn't going to be that it's a big meteor about to have a devastating impact on Earth. I would assume that some intelligence is guiding it. But lets go back to the meteor scenario. Having determined that Ground Zero is going to be New York City, my next move is not going to be to round up the leading scientists of the day (all of whom seem to be the same age) and ship them to where the meteor is about to impact. Wouldn't it be a better idea to get them as far away as possible to deal with the resulting crisis in relative safety? And this is just the first 10 minutes...

And Gort apparently is now an acronym for Genetically Organized Robotic Technology... I know. I said "Huh?!" too.

I could go on, but there's just too much. I will touch on something that I found a little irksome. I mentioned Jaden Smith playing the kid. I'll admit that when I saw the trailer, I thought "Cool, Jennifer Connelly has a bi-racial kid in this version". She does not. They go to great lengths to explain that the boy is a product of a previous marriage between Connelly's deceased husband and his previously deceased wife, presumably both African American. Connelly is merely the step mother, which gives the kid an excuse to behave badly toward her. I'm probably wrong but I kept thinking cop-out. Why couldn't he have been her kid? The separation anxiety from the death of one parent should have been enough to explain the kid's behaviour. I mean c'mon guys, you just elected a bi-racial President...

There is a plus side to this Movie.

The studio released a 2 disc special edition of the Original as a tie in.

It's on sale at HMV and costs less than 2 tickets to the remake.

I heartily recommend it.

Klaatu Barada Nicto...Big Time!
What the Dickens?!

Tis the season, as they say. No, not baseball season. I mean the Festive Season and all that stuff. Virgin Birth, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, you know...Stressmas...

Yes, Christmas comes but once a year, thank Christ...

Don’t get your undergarments in a tizzy.

It stopped being a religious celebration a while ago. Let’s face it, if Christmas actually had anything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, it would be happening in May or June when he was actually born, depending whether you believe the historians or the astronomers. The ironic part is that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on what was an ancient Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia. But then you already knew that. Besides, if we’re really celebrating Jesus’ birthday, how come he’s not the one getting the presents?

Christmas is about swag and bad television and movies to sell swag, and swag apps.

Celebration of Christmas actually wasn’t all that big a deal until the Victorian era. If Cromwell and the Puritans had had their way, way back when, it would have been scrapped altogether (Pagan Celebration and all that).

And I blame Dickens.

You know, Charles Dickens. What's wrong with Christmas leads right back to Ol' Boz's doorstep.

So the story goes that Charles Dickens was in financial debt and wrote what he considered to be a low grade potboiler ghost story and gave it the sarcastic title of “A Christmas Carol.” (“A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” is the full title, which just makes it worse if you ask me, and nobody did.)

You all know the story. Ebenezer Scrooge, really cheap bastard, gets redeemed by his equally cheap bastard dead partner and friends just in time for Christmas. God bless us, every one. There have been a couple of hundred different adaptations of it. Every sitcom and cartoon has done a variation on it.

Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was an immediate hit. It touched all kinds of nerves, and that has a lot to do with Charles Dickens’ talent as a writer. He was the master of the guilt trip. Hell, his entire body of work is pretty much based on it. Anybody read Oliver Twist?

In “A Christmas Carol” Dickens tells his, by this point in his career, worldwide audience that they don’t do Christmas right. “You’re not happy enough. You’re not singing and dancing enough, and more to the point you’re not being generous enough. You’re not GIVING enough” is essentially what he’s saying. And, apparently, the general public thought he was right.

Ever since, retailers everywhere have owed him a percentage.

I hear a chorus of you crying, “No, Michael, you’re missing the point of the story! It’s about the joy of family and helping your fellow man.”

To which I respond, quite simply, “Horse Radishes”

“The Spirit of Christmas” didn’t exist as a phrase or a concept before Charles Dickens foisted it upon an unsuspecting world, but we’ve been dogged by it ever since. This concept also served to make Christmas a competition. Think about your own family. Who among us hasn’t had that fleeting moment of resentment when somebody gets what we perceive as a better present than we did. Can I get a show of hands?

You may say I’m a cynic (and you’re probably right) but I’m not the only one. Based on the success of “A Christmas Carol”, over the next bunch of years, Dickens wrote a new “Christmas Book” or story pretty much every year. And they usually made scads of money, not as much as the original, but enough. He also toured with “Carol,” and his one-man performances became legendary and are recreated to this day. They still make a lot of money.

So, when you’re at home with the family and the annual fight breaks out, or you don’t get what you were expecting, or you are depressed because you can’t afford to get something for everyone, or you’re just not feeling in the Christmas spirit, remember to give credit where credit is due. Blame Charles Dickens!

But don’t blame Jesus. It isn’t even really his birthday