Having seen the original, then the trailer for the remake, I came in with low expectations. I recommend you do the same. It got 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, which seemed a bit harsh after watching it. Then I remembered Rotten Tomatoes lists the percentage of critics who recommend the film. This is not a critic’s choice. I’m not sure this is even an average moviegoer’s choice. It’s simply better than we expected, which may say more about our expectations than the film.
The original is an absolute sci-fi classic. It was very easy to improve on the circa-1950 effects, and they did. However, even though this is billed as an IMAX movie, they don’t have any IMAX scenes; they just reformatted it for the bigger screen.
And even though the f/x are much better1, they don’t make up for the changes to the characters’ personalities. The boy, played by Jayden Smith, went from likable to slappable. As for the alien visitor Klaatu, played by Keanu Reeves, well, they removed his personality altogether. To quote Ebert:
He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.
The acting is fine throughout (assuming Smith and Reeves were told to act annoying and wooden, respectively), but solid performances and nice effects can’t save it from bad characterization and plot holes. One of the dangers of making a film more realistic and up to date is that it invites more scrutinizing; unless you’re really thorough, the audience can see the holes better. These guys weren’t so thorough.
Again, the original is a true classic, currently #197 on the IMDB Top 250. For the $17 I spent on the IMAX ticket (plus gas), I could have bought a copy of the original on Blu-ray. I suggest you do that instead.
- For instance, you can’t see wires holding Gort’s arms up [↩]