Because I love the Michael Rennie-Patricia Neal original, I tried to cut what I feared would be a disappointing remake some slack. How wrong I was. In the first movie, an alien comes to earth to warn us that our warlike ways, and advanced weapons, could threaten other civilizations, so unless we went straight, Rennie and his robot Gort would destroy the planet. (No libertarians, these aliens, though sound on the war question). Neal convinces Rennie that we can be peaceful, despite the Cold War military. The scenes of 1951 DC are wonderful, as are the script, the score, the actors, the direction, and the glorious black and white semi-documentary style.
In the 2008 version, a stonefaced Keanu Reeves comes to earth with his stonefaced robot, who ought to be called Gore, to wipe all traces of humanity off the planet unless we agree to go Green. Jennifer Connolly, who has shown telent elsewhere, has the Neal role. But to stop the wipe-out, humans must pay a small price: the permanent destruction of industrial civilization. She happily agrees, and we are shown scenes of oil wells, trains, etc. shutting down. That this Green baloney would mean the death of billions is unmentioned. Only two small bright spots: John Cleese is good in the Wise Scientist role played by Sam Jaffe in the original, and so is Kathy Bates, as the Madelyn Albrightesque defense secretary, though both are hindered by bad lines, like all the actors. The military is omniprescent and omnicompetent, and far more threatening than in the original, where it was bad enough.
Only one thing can save this movie, in a larger sense: drop the people who made it into the jungle for a year, where they can live close to the dirt, the bugs, and the weeds, without capitalism, industrialism, the division of labor, etc., and make a movie of that. Klaatu barada nikto.
UPDATE In the original, the alien believes in God; in the redo, he says that we don’t really die, because we are all recycled.9:08 am on December 16, 2008 Email Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.