Of Remakes and Revisionings

January 30, 2009


So, I saw the new “The Day the Earth Stood Still” today at the $2 theatre; it annoyed me just enough to impel me to rant about a particularly noxious subject: Sci-Fi Movie “Remakes”.

A couple of supposedly “remade” films had very little to do with the original films. It is quite annoying that Hollywood is so afraid of pursuing original intellectual properties that they have to vomit upon old classics to produce something relatively new.

Case in point, “The Invasion”was supposed to be a remake of the 50’s sci-fi classic The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In the original movie, a country doctor and his female divorcee love interest from a plant-like race of space pods that form emotionless duplicates of people; in the new movie, a New York psychologist and her doctor love interest from a space virus that takes over people, leaving them emotionless husks of their former selves. While there are certain similarities (invasion from space, emotionless husks, uninfected trying to stop it), it was such a radical departure in how the invasion worked that it honestly could have worked better with an original name.

At least The Invasion had the decency of a partial name change. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) could not even be bothered to do that. The original tale was a warning to not weaponize space; the new, Klaatu starts to destroy humanity because we are destroying the planet. The original Klaatu actively tries to solve the problem diplomatically and to figure out humanity; Keanu “I know Kung-Fu” Reeves almost immediately sets out to start the doomsday plot with minimal contact with real people. The original Gort was a robot that only started his rampage after Klaatu is (temporarily) killed and has an easy enough stop command that Helen can do it; the new Gort is named by the military and apparently has no real stop command. Bobby was the stereotypical 50’s kid; Jacob needed some corporal punishment, treating his step-mom (Helen) like dirt, betraying them to the military, and being an all-around jerk. Helen goes from widowed woman in a serious dating relationship to a widowed astrobiologist that is drug around by the forces that be: the government, her stepson, Klaatu. In fact, the only majorish character that wasn’t radically changed was Professor Barnhardt (he was a physicist and now an evolutionary biologist, but his specific occupation was not a big part of the character). The ending was the most dramatic part of all. The original ended with Klaatu warning humanity to not weaponize space or his people’s army of Gort-like robots would come and destroy us; the new is Gort permanently shutting down all technology on Earth with a massive EMP pulse without a word of warning. The original movie calls us to get along; the new, that only by subsistence farming (which we would be reduced to doing if we lost all our tech) is the only way to save the planet. The new movie had so little to do with the original that the creators should not have co-opted the original character names. They should have called it something else. Maybe stick something about The Day After Tomorrow in it. Then I would not have wasted my $2.

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