This is a remake of the 1951 classic of the same name.  So the question is, as it is with any remake, is why remake it?  Well, certainly the special effects in 1951 weren’t much.  A guy in a robot suit standing silent doesn’t quite cut it today.  However, the remake goes way overboard.

First, let’s look at the synopsis of the story (spoiler warning):  In 1928 one of the fancy balls of lights drops out of the sky and encounter Keanu as a mountain climber.  He touches the ball and it disappears, cut to 2008 and the balls are back.  So why did the ball first arrive in 1928?  It’s explained that the aliens needed a DNA sample and that the Keanu that we see in 2008 is actually a grown body for the main alien, Klaatu.

So Klaatu arrives and the soldiers shoot him, just like in the original.  But the difference is this:  In the 1951, Klaatu arrives and looks like a guy in a suit that will sell you Bibles or something.

In 2008, he arrives in a ball of light in the middle of Central Park, New York City, and it looks scary and foreboding.

Which one would you shoot at first?  As someone I was with at the movie pointed out, 1951 audiences might’ve been just as freaked out by the 1951 version, but I don’t agree.  The first looks like a couple of guys that are not very far from human.  The second is a giant ball of light the size of a city block.  This kind of undercuts the theme of “Man is a violent creature” by justifying the violence somewhat.  Hell, the light is so bright, whoever shot Klaatu might’ve not even been aiming at him.  In the 1951 version, it’s very clear the soldier shot Klaatu because, well, he might be a commie or something.

Anyhow, Klaatu is taken in and his shell kind of melts off leaving Keanu underneath.  The doctors call it some kind of placenta space suit.  Keanu looks as he did when he came out of the Matrix.  (Is that some kind of call back?  It’s sort of like the director is paying attention to unimportant details, while the important details fall by the wayside.  But I digress.)  One of the doctors is Jennifer Connelly.  She ends up sneaking a sample out.  When Kathy Bates arrives as the government tool that will probably take Klaatu off to be tortured, Jennifer Connelly helps the alien escape.

The rest of the movie is about Klaatu using his various alien powers and trying to decide whether the human race should live or die.  The problem is, the movie is constantly undermining itself.  Connelly helps Klaatu escape by switching what would be a drug to knock him unconscious, but Klaatu doesn’t need it and escapes anyway.  So what was the point of that?

And Klaatu has all these powers, but Jennifer Connelly has to drive him around.  He eventually meets up with another alien that’s been living on the Earth for 70 years, which I guess sort of explains the opening.  Anyhow, he reports that the humans are violent and dangerous, but that he loves them.  Klaatu is going to wipe out the humans, but the second alien is going to stay and doesn’t seem to worried about dying.  Again, nothing explained.

Later, Jennifer Connelly (who by the way, is very talented and hot as Hell) gets recaptured by the army and Cathy Bates.  Klaatu is left behind with the subplot, played by Will Smith’s son, Jaden.  The kid is the step son of Connelly, but he just looks disinterested for most of the film.  In a scene with Keanu, he’s walking through the woods and walking through the woods and suddenly is crossing a bridge.  The moment you see the bridge, however, you realize its probably just there so he can almost fall off it and Klaatu can save him.  And that’s exactly what happens.

Director, Scott Derrickson, whose previous movies include the Exorcism of Emily Rose and Hellraiser: Inferno, just doesn’t seem to know how to set a mood.  There’s no nuance.  No explanation of things that happen in the movie.  For instance, Klaatu kills a cop and then brings him back to life because the guy “didn’t mean him any harm”.  But then later in the movie, he uses his alien powers to blow up two helicopters, killing both crews.  And suddenly, the sample that Connelly stole earlier becomes crucial to heal Klaatu, the cop and others.  But if that stuff could heal, why didn’t it heal Klaatu when he was shot?  Why does he save Connelly and her step son, but not another character that drives them to the climatic scene?  At the end Klaatu speaks of a big sacrifice, but then we don’t see it.  Klaatu’s body is destroyed, but since its established he’s not human what does that mean?  Derrickson establishes visually the giant balls are like an arc, taking samples of all the animals before the humans get wiped out.  Then it gets explained two times.  Dude, we get it.

Of course, there’s lots of special effects with GORT the giant robot.  So if you don’t think so hard, the pacing should carry you through.  But seriously, most of the cool scenes are in the trailer.   There’s not even enough Keanu lines to say “Dude” after to make the movie funny.  It’s just kind of boring and you wish Jennifer Connelly’s acting was applied to a better movie.  Do yourself a favor and wait for cable or Netflix.  You’ll thank me.  I give it 4 kegs out of 10.