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Day the Earth Stood Still

The 2008 sci-fi remake directed by Scott Derrickson.

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Who Greenlit This Thing?

  • Nov 17, 2009
The original 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is without question one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.  I'm not usually opposed to a remake of a film.  I believe in letting remakes stand on their own two feet without having to be compared to the original.  Yet for whatever reason even when viewing movies through this kind of lens remakes are almost never good.  Not because they don't measure up to the creations they're trying to recreate, but usually because they're just bad movies.  In the case of the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still... it tries too hard to outdo the original while also trying a little too hard to be something different.  Purist of the original film are going to be disappointed.  None of this, "It's okay," crap.  You're going to hate it.  I've often lampooned myself for going to see it.  I felt so bad after seeing this movie... I wanted to kick my own ass.  The movie is that bad.

Keanu Reeves stars in this remake in a role that's just perfect for him.  Klaatu.  He has absolutely no emotion whatsoever and that's why Keanu Reeves works here.  That sort of robotic feel and the way Reeves speaks just works out well for him in this particular role.  The movie begins, however, with a man who discovers a sphere in 1928.  He then collapses and when he comes to finds a scar on his hand.  Shortly after that the movie jumps to Jennifer Connely who plays Helen Bensen.  She takes care of a kid named Jacob (Jaden Smith).  When it's discovered something is headed for Earth, the government comes to get her to formulate a plan for survivial.  It turns out to be nothing, however.  It's just a giant orb that lands in Central Park.  Inside is a lifeform no one knows anything about.  Being the people who hastily jump to conclusions that we are, the humans shoot the lifeform before anything can happen.  It's a hasty decision and what ends up happening is they have to take him in.  It is here that we finally get to see Klaatu.  And yes, Gort is in this but he doesn't seem to have much of a purpose other than to stand there and look cool.  He's a behemeth.

In spite of all this, one thing is persistent... why exactly has Klaatu come to Earth in the first place?  What we discover is that he's come because he's to observe the human race to see if the planet is worth saving.  Despite that, he still has to meet up with some guy for confirmation.  The movie plays on the whole, "We don't have to fear the unknown" and shows us how bad we all really are.  Unfortunately, it doesn't do a whole lot to really express what it is Klaatu is on Earth for.  There are only a few brief seconds of him actually observing the human race.  This inludes a scene where a man takes a guy's bus ticket while he's in the midst of having a heart attack (a scene that probably wasn't supposed to be funny but was anyway) and a scene where Helen Benson finds Klaatu beaten up.  These moment are mere flashes and yet they're supposed to represent the entire theme of the film.  And even in spite of Klaatu supposed to be the one to observe the human race, he still has to meet up with another alien to hear from him first.  It makes... little sense.  And the other Alien even says that he loves the humans but that Klaatu should go ahead and wipe out the human race anyway... and he's going to stay.  All of these things come off as though the screenwriters and director just wanted to put together a movie, but no one bothered to check to make sure the script makes much of any sense or, for that matter, that it was concerete.  These couple of plot holes aren't all that make the movie less than worthwhile.  It has other things that don't make much sense.

One of the biggest hits against the film has got to be it's use of character development.  You have Helen and Jacob... a mother and son who don't get along very well but the movie hardly touches upon why their relationship is so strained in the first place.  It makes little references, but it hardly tells anything.  Another big character development mess up is Jacob's relationship with Klaatu.  He begins hating him but the film throws in a really quick 180 to where he loves him so suddenly, but there's hardly anything that brings about this particular change in character.  It's another one of those quick flashes where something DOES happen, but it hardly makes any sense as to why.  If there was any place where The Day The Earth Stood Still hits a low point, it's definitely the character development.

The only real redeeming moment for the movie are the special effects.  Some of which are quite impressive... but all that glitters isn't gold.  I can't really think of too many movies right off the bat that people loved for their special effects alone.  The Day The Earth Stood Still has some cool effects... the problem is that the screenplay doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the long run.  It just feels rushed and non-sensical.  The movie's climax really leaves you with an empty feeling because once again it's an awkward shift in plot and character that the movie hardly sees fit to explain a whole lot about.  It's stuff like this that just doesn't make the movie that much fun to watch.  It's not so much that it's cheesy or anything like that as it is that it lacks a lot of heart and emotion.  Many of the performances aren't much at all to write home about.  The only reason we can praise Keanu Reeves for his effort here, is because his character doesn't call for any emotion whatsoever.  Klaatu is supposed to be devoid of emotion.  Yet for whatever reason none of the other characters really have any emotion either.  Even with Kathy Bates in the cast, the movie rarely comes alive.  As a result many of the characters we meet are just too unbelievable. 

I rarely leave a movie theater with a very empty feeling, but I did leave The Day the Earth Stood Still with that kind of feeling.  It has a few amazing special effects but it's very rare that a film doesn't have some other redeeming quality.   Here you're getting some good special effects (the majority of which don't come out until the very end of the film) but aside from that there isn't much to write home about with The Day the Earth Stood Still.  

As I said at the beginning, I'm more about viewing the film on its own terms.  On the other hand, for those who loved the original I must tell you that not only will you be disappointed but you're going to wonder if the guys behind this even saw the original--or even heard of it.  You'll watch the movie and say, "Some of the characters have the same name," but that is, quite literally, where the similarities end.  As I said, however, even as a stand alone film, The Day the Earth Stood Still just doesn't have a lot that really draws you in.  

Often times I complain about a movie being too long and being a bit slow paced.  It's quite the opposite here.  The Day the Earth Stood Still isn't too long, but it moves far too quickly for what it wants to convey.  I already talked about missteps in character development, but more importantly is that the movie pushes its plot at such a rapid pace it neglects to fill in some holes and at other times the viewer can feel like they've been left behind.  Certain things happen and you wonder if you missed it--such as those awkward shifts in character.  In truth you probably missed very little; the moments were just played out so quickly that if you blinked you literally missed them.

It's hard to recommend The Day the Earth Stood Still.  The script is sloppy, the acting less than worthwhile and the story doesn't accomplish much.  There are too many awkward shifts in character and for some reason the point of the film is played out in such a way that when it comes out they're in quick flashes that you actually wonder if these moments were actually important at all.  There's just not much focus.

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November 22, 2009
Agreed with your take on the original. It's a landmark flick in science fiction, if not all of film. The remake? Erm ... I enjoyed it as a basic popcorn flick up until the last 20 minutes or so. It doesn't really hold a candle to the original -- except in inspiration -- but the ending was absurd.
November 18, 2009
I pretty much would give the remake a 2 but when I reviewed this film, I reviewed the 2-disc dvd release that included the original movie in a nice affordable package for $ 19.99. I gave the dvd release a 3, and looked at this as an extra special feature. Sounds silly, but sometimes I do review the actual dvd release itself. Nice review. This is another of those times that you went negative, but truth be told, Transformers 2 is still worst! LOL
November 17, 2009
Very well stated on all counts. When I was leaving the theatre after seeing this film last December I turned to the guy next to me and said "Give me the original." He nodded his head in agreement. Now I am not a big sci-fi fan but the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" has always been my favorite. The remake was a major disappointment.
November 17, 2009
I love the original a whole lot too. I can't say that didn't play into my disappointment of this one a little bit, but in my mind the original Day the Earth Stood Still was one of the greatest Science Fiction films I'd ever seen.
More The Day the Earth Stood Still ... reviews
review by . December 13, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
As someone who has yet to see the original The Day The Earth Stood Still, I thought that the remake was a pretty decent movie.  It was suspenseful and I literally had chills going down my spine throughout most of it.  The special effects were impressive.      Jennifer Connelly played the character of Helen Benson beautifully, and the matching of Keanu Reeves to his character Klaatu was a match made in heaven.  If lifeless, emotionless alien was what he was going …
review by . February 27, 2011
posted in SF Signal
Where to begin? As one of the most vocal critics of the concept of 'remakes', I felt that it was only fair to the new version of TDTESS, and to everyone else who's put up with my incessant reminders to watch the original, to actually watch the remake itself. My opinions hold no water if I take the stance of refusing to watch the remake on the grounds that it is such an affront to the original, to serious fans of science fiction film and etc., etc. I almost did fall into that trap: the …
review by . February 25, 2011
This remake of a classic SF movie (which I can’t comment on since I’ve never seen it) completely blows. Fundamentalist aliens come to earth to play God and vanquish humanity for its sin against the earth with grey goo. I don’t have per se a problem with aliens trying to kill humanity because of their ideology (as a plot device), but the movie tries to sell it as if the aliens have the higher moral ground, which I found dubious to say the least. Any culture that accepts mass murder …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This is not the worst movie I have ever seen, but it was bad enough for me to remember that it was bad. For the kind of story that it is, the movie could have been a whole lot more compelling or chilling, but it wasn't. It was a flat movie with bad cgi and bad acting.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Boring, boring, boring, I think I feel asleep twice during the film which never happens to me. Skip at all costs and save yourself 2+ hours.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I rarely leave a movie theater with a very empty feeling, but I did leave The Day the Earth Stood Still with that kind of feeling. It has a few amazing special effects but it's very rare that a film doesn't have some other redeeming quality. Here you're getting some good special effects (the majority of which don't come out until the very end of the film) but aside from that there isn't much to write home about with The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I love end of the world style films and this one was good one. Sure, it flopped but I liked it
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
not what i expected at all. i didnt even want to sit through the whole thing in the theater, it was slow, boring, and very predictiable.
review by . April 10, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
decimation scene
Remakes are a dime-a-dozen as I've said before. I do have to acknowledge that sometimes, a remake may be necessary to cater to a new generation. It has been some years ago since last I saw Robert Wise's 1951 original and I have to admit I didn't re-watch it before exposing myself to this 2008 remake helmed by Scott Derrickson. Many have considered the 1951 original film to be a true masterpiece, and belongs in the ranks of the most celebrated motion pictures ever made with "The Godfather", "Citizen …
review by . December 15, 2008
Ok. I love Keanu Reeves. I love Jennifer Connelly. I did not, however, love the remake of this movie. My boyfriend and I went to see it in the theater on Friday evening, and I expected The Day the Earth Stood Still to be full of action and suspense. Instead, I caught myself yawning and struggling to keep my eyes open! How sad.     In my opinion, they were trying to get just the basic plot of the story covered in the movie. They didn't take the time to really show how Klaatu was …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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The Day the Earth Stood Still is a 2008 American science fiction film, a remake of the 1951 film of the same name. Directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, the film updates the Cold War theme of nuclear warfare to the contemporary issue of humankind's environmental damage to the planet. It was released on a rollout schedule beginning December 12, 2008, screening in both conventional theaters and IMAX screens.

In 1928, a mountaineer (Keanu Reeves) encounters a glowing sphere while on an expedition in the snowy mountains of India. He then finds himself awakening after a sudden loss of consciousness, with the sphere now gone and a scar on his hand. In the present day, Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), a Princeton professor, and other scientists are hastily assembled by the government in order to formulate a survival plan when it is feared that a large unknown object with a speed of 3x107m/s is on a crash course to the Earth, due to impact Manhattan in just over an hour. Nothing can be done about it because a vital military satellite has been disabled. However, the object is a large spherical biological spaceship, which slows down and lands gently in Central Park. A being (taking on the appearance of the man from the opening scene of the film) named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) emerges from the sphere while accompanied by a large robot. Klaatu, a representative of a group of alien races, has come to assess whether humanity can reverse the ...

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Director: Scott Derrickson
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Release Date: April 7, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: David Scarpa, Edmund H. North
DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
Runtime: 104 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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