Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

I havn't been using this blog much, so I thought I'd start to randomly drop some thoughts here.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

The Movie

So I was at the movies, and I saw tDtESS. Since I love science fiction, and really crave good science fiction, I couldn't stay away.

It does have some good points; I actually think there was two or three really cool things in there. Keanu Reeves acting was actually very appropriate, especially in the beginning. The "they cleared the highway for us" thing was cool. Little things like that.

Yet the film quickly dives into inanity and insanity. Flying towards the thing that is gonna blow you up? Please. It was just an excuse to get Jennifer in a biohazard suit up close to the thing. Couldn't that have been done much easier by having the object obviously stop/manouver earlier, showing it was a guided entity? Why the meaningless scare of "it's an asteroid, woo".

Another "dramatic" problem I had with the movie is that it totally squandered the wonderful opportunity to update the few flaws the original had. Coz the original, while quaint and a damn good film, really suffered in some cases due to it's low-techness (i.e. lack of f/x technology at the time).

For example, in the original, Helen is told by Klatuu to say "Klatuu Barada Nikto" if anything happens to him. Not 30 seconds later, they are chased out of the car and Klatuu gets shot. Not five minutes later, Helen is approaching Gort, and after a little bit of scare, delivers the line!

This part of the film would be a huge opportunity to introduce some drama. First of all, prolong the time vastly between the declaration of "if something happens to me, say K-B-N" until something actually does happen. The original film it is almost comical in the shortness of time between these two events. There would be ample opportunity for "stuff" to happen between these two times.

Secondly, another huge opportunity lost was that what if the military was trying to stop Helen from getting in Gort's way. We could have had almost a King-Kong style scene where GORT would mayhem lots of things, blow up parts of NYC and do whatnot, until Helen climbs up on some building to get in his eye-height and microseconds before being blasted to molecules able to deliver the "Klatuu Barada Nikto" line, Gort immediately ceasing hostilities and going to pick up his master, to do the whole "resurrection" bit they completely forgot about in the new movie.

Listening to David Stripinis vex lyrically (not!) about it on the VFX Show is fun.

The Effects

The film had approximately two really good effects, both relating to the particle-destruction bit. Fantastic stuff.... but the rest made me pretty much bang my head against the wall.

First of all, most annoying of all to me, was the lack of a sense of "exposure" in the effects. A glowy sphere was exactly the same amount of "glowyness" when hovering in the pitch black midnight between some trees, or when shot in blazing desert sunlight hovering over the pyramids!!!!

Anyone who has actually photographed or filmed a glowing object understands the vast dynamic range of outdoor ligting, and that a thing that is a blazing glow at midnight, might actually not show up as a lightsource at all in sunlight!

The same issue existed with Gort, his "eye beam" having the exact same anamorphic lens flare streak disregarding if it was midninght, outdoors, or indoors in a bunker. As a matter of fact, most of the Gort CGI, most of all the outdoor shots, looked very poor, and the animation was way to simplistic, in my opinion.

Other more "incidental" CGI looked fine, so why the problems with the big Hero character? I can only imagine someone actually wanted him to look and move like that. Wierd :/

But honestly I think the "lack of exposure" is what bugs me most. And this is not only tDtESS that is at fault. I can actually only think of a handful of films not at fault here. I.e. Transformers and Iron Man come to mind as "correct" in this regard.

And in contrast, we have major offenders of the low-dynamic-range look like anything "Lord of the Rings", which just looks painterly unrealistic with all the sky replacement and "we can see everything in the shadows" look.

Alas, I ramble. But rambling is fun, sometimes. :)