The original story was a cautionary tale about humans spreading violence. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) comes down to Earth to tell us that there are many civilizations in space and the Earth is just one among many. If Humans are going to spread their violent ways out into space, the “policemen” like Gort will not allow that. As a show of power Klaatu stops all technology everywhere on the planet all at once, except for plane in flight and hospitals — nice aliens. The Earth hears the message and Klaatu leaves. Oh, and Helen gets to say that classic line “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”
So the new version should have similar theme, similar characters, bad military, they shoot the alien, Gort kicks butt, Klaatu runs away, meets people, demonstrates power, and then leaves. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, Helen gets to say that classic line “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”. So if that is what is expected of this remake, how did we fare?
Instead of an anti-war and anti-nuclear theme we get an environmental message. Klaatu says the life is too precious to allow the destruction of the Earth by a single species. They plan to eradicate the humans and restore balance in the Force, no Matrix, no… nature. This update works. The old story line wouldn’t let story be contemporary. It’s not nice to fool with mother nature.
What’s next on the checklist? Just like in the original Klaatu shows up and is confronted by the military and local police. Instead of Washington D.C they are in Central Park and want to talk to the U.N. Some trigger-happy yahoo shoots the scary alien.
Before you get this point in the story there is a pretty good back story about previous visits back in 1928 and we meet Helen. Helen is snatched up by the military to come try to figure out the impending alien visitation. This part of the movie was completely new and I liked the update. The basic idea is that the aliens had abducted a Himalayan explorer (Keanu Reeves) and had used his DNA to make a body for Klaatu. This was a nice touch and answered why the alien looked human.
So after Klaatu is shot we get to meet Gort. In this version Klaatu done not call him Gort. That name is given to him later by the military as an acronym GORT. GORT is about 30 foot tall and can control technology or neutralize it. No heat vision this time. He is about to squish Helen when Klaatu says something unintelligible and GORT stops. If he said “Klaatu barada nikto”, I did not hear it an my audience did not react. He could have said it at this point for a nice nod back to the original.
Instead of rescuing Klaatu, GORT goes into Standby Mode. Klaatu is scooped up by Kathy Bates who takes him to a small cabin in the woods and forces him to finish his great novel — wait wrong movie. Anyway, Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) is in charge (of the country) while the President and Vice President are in hiding. She orders a doctor to remove the bullet. After a scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing, Keanu Reeves shows up and starts talking stilted English. Jackson decides that this is a good time to go Guantanamo on the scary alien. Klaatu does not like this and decides to go to McDonald’s instead.
After seeing the Big Mac, Klaatu decides that the earth cannot be saved. All these spheres start appearing around the earth as if they had been buried under ground and in the oceans. They are collecting species and taking them off into space.
Meanwhile the military decide that they do not want GORT hanging around in Central Park because of all the crime and all. So they take him off into the country and put him in a really deep hole. GORT is still in Standby Mode during this — trying to save his battery for the latter part of the movie.
Once Klaatu sends off the little “arks” it is time to destroy the earth. GORT and these globes turn into little silicon bugs that start eating all technology and human flesh. They seem so leave trees and other animal life alone. As they eat they multiply. Next thing you know you have a swarm like from the Michael Crichton book Prey flying around eating everything. There are several particle effect where the swarm eats a semi and Giants Stadium.
Klaatu finally sees what the guy from McDonald’s was trying to say and decides to stop the silicon bugs but only after they have ravaged New York City. Klaatu stops the swarm and then leaves. Just before he goes, he leaves a little parting gift by neutralizing all technology everywhere. The power is out everywhere around the world but unlike the original movie, the power does not come back on. So see what happened after that you will have to read Last Light by Terri Blackstock. And so ends the movie.
Overall I liked the story and how it was updated 57 years later. The special effects were not that great. There were too many raining scenes that did not need to be raining. I’m tired of movie makers using rain to hide the little strings on their models. This new version was brutal about the destruction of human life. They must have been going after the “Day After Tomorrow” crowd.
I doubt the movie will be a commercial success. It was too techie and preachie for most audiences. I thing it will have a minor following when it comes to DVD but not it is not “Independence Day”.