When an alien spacecraft touches down in Manhattan's Central Park, the people of Earth hold their breath as they wait to see what will emerge. Confusion reigns when a humanoid figure calling itself Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) makes its way out of the ship, flanked by a formidable looking robotic sentinel called Gort. Shot and captured by the authorities, Klaatu manages to prevent Gort from laying waste to humanity, opting instead to reason with his captors. Helped to escape by concerned scientist Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), Klaatu reveals his grave reasons for visiting Earth. As the world stands on the brink of destruction, it's up to Helen to convince the alien that the people of Earth can change before we are wiped off the face of the planet.
Based on the revered and hugely influential 1951 science fiction classic of the same name, this updated version may not be in the same league as it progenitor but it's far from being the disaster that many expected.
While the original was very much the product of the widespread fear engendered by the dawn of the nuclear age, this new version instead taps into our environmental worries. Much as Arnold Schwarzenegger was the ideal man to play an emotionless robot from the future in The Terminator, Reeves is perfect as the expressionless alien who stands between us and environmental Armageddon, his lack of range adding to the impassive, disconnected attitude of the character.
While the original was relatively light on special effects, The Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson ups the visual ante with some impressive scenes of worldwide destruction. Although purists may long for the quieter charms of the original, this new version mixes spectacular visuals with a sincere ecological message, managing to be both entertaining and relevant.