There were titters and guffaws in the Capetonian audience watching The Day the Earth Stood Still when it realised that an interstellar body with enough speed and size to anihilate the entire planet was heading for a direct impact with Manhattan Island. All 23 square miles of it. So here’s another little tip for Hollywood’s cognoscienti; out here in the Rest of the World plc – where, incidentally, we make up more than a fraction of the revenues your product will score over the course its lifetime – we’re actually a little bored of seeing New York or Los Angeles getting blasted. It’s been done. To death.
Anyway. Fortunately – and without giving away too much of the plot – this particular incident is not at all happenstance. Aliens are coming, and they have a specific purpose; they want to save the dying Earth. Curiously though, they’ve decided to do this not by providing us Earthlings with clean green fuel technologies, empathetic mind-reading skills or remarkable healing powers. No, they’re going to kill us all. And they’re going to do it with a lot of CGI, some gaping plot holes and a complete absence of anything vaguely emotionally authentic.
Filmed at the Vancouver Film Studios, TDTESS features a pretty stellar cast. Jennifer Connolly is nice, Keanu is always a bit wooden, so he’s well enough cast as the alien Klaatu – though Kathy Bates is an odd choice for the Secretary of Defense. (then again, she reminds me of a lumpier Sarah Palin, who was an odd choice for anything at all really.) But the inclusion of Jaden Smith is the most jarring – it’s a flagrantly pornographic application of celebrity-by-inheritance and there is absolutely no reason for him to be in this movie beyond the fact that he’s Will and Jada’s kid and his presence will probably give the film a tad more talk time than it actually deserves. (Bear with me for a moment and imagine the child character re-written as a snarly, passive aggressive, near-adult teenager as played by Thora Birch, and you’ll instantly recognise both the lost opportunity and the utter travesty of casting-as-marketing.)
I also read somewhere that on the date of the film’s release, the Deep Space Communications Network at Cape Canaveral transmitted the film to Alpha Centauri. OMG! That’s so unbelievably reckless and scary. Those aliens really are going to think we’re a brash and culturally-deficient lot, and really not worth saving at all.