The Day the Earth Stood Still opens Friday throughout the Triangle

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remake of Robert Wise’s 1951 Cold War-era classic, but this time out the relevant zeitgeist is the eco-dread that fueled blockbusters like Wall-E and Quantum of Solace. This go-round, instead of waging war against mankind’s penchant for self-destruction via nuclear weaponry, alien emissary Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and his metallic bodyguard Gort visit Earth to wage war against mankind’s penchant for self-destruction via global warming. Along the way, Klaatu befriends widow Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly, perfectly cast since her affect resembles that of a pod person) and her obnoxious stepson (Jaden Smith, Will’s son), who together race to save the world from some really bad CGI.

The entire spectacle could be easily confused with some ghastly, Roland Emmerich-produced hybrid of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrowonly more skilled at product placement than plot development. For example, when Klaatu brings a police officer back to life mere minutes after declaring that mankind’s full-scale extermination is imminent and unavoidable, the illogic is so rank that even the script feels compelled to acknowledge it. Director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) lumbers from one dull, inconsequential scene after another, alternating between Reeves and Connelly staring glumly at each other and the military/ government movie archetypes trying to figure out how to gut Gort, including an embarrassed (at least I hope so) Kathy Bates slumming as the obligatory feckless Secretary of Defense.

Klaatu’s omnipotent alien overseers fill a space ark full of animals in preparation for some Old Testament-style housecleaning that eventually comes in the form of a plague of robotic locusts. Meanwhile, Reeves again assumes the messianic Neo role, this time as a part-human demigod who, over the course of the film, raises the dead, walks on water and sacrifices his physical life to save man from his sins. Maybe this explains why a purported blockbuster like The Day the Earth Stood Still is being released into theaters during Christmastime instead of the summer movie season. Either way, it is a big lump of coal.