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Day the Earth Stood Still

The 2008 sci-fi remake directed by Scott Derrickson.

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Do yourself a favor: rent the original instead

  • Jul 17, 2009
  • by
A gigantic flying object is headed straight for Central Park at speeds guaranteed to destroy all life on Earth. There's only a slim chance of stopping it, so what does the American military industrial complex do? Gather all of the world's best scientists and put them in a helicopter hovering right next to the predicted site of impact, so they can cross their fingers and pray, hoping for the object to slow down.

The opening scene of this silly science fiction affair -- where Keanu Reeves in an apparently fake beard with clear skin and no signs of having weathered anything wanders through an obviously fake Antarctic blizzard -- made it clear that this wouldn't best the original through convincing realism or special effects. This impression was confirmed later as a poorly animated CGI snake wiggled (it couldn't manage a slither) its way towards a shining globe.

The story didn't fare any better as American military bluster and incompetence (channeled by the odd choice of Kathy Bates as a paranoid US secretary of defense) met with vague and unemotional incomprehension and disappointment on the part of Reeves as Klaatu. The screenplay includes some pretty bizarre elements, that could almost pass for surreal if the film didn't seem to want to be taken so seriously.

Some have complained about the acting - but as far as I can tell the actors did the best they could with a plodding and silly script. Keanu Reeves was doing a slightly more wooden version of the wooden actor he plays in almost everything he's ever been in apart from his finer moments (in, of course, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and The Matrix) - but that's what the script called for. Jennifer Connolly did the best you can do with horribly written part - the beautiful astrobiologist who is also a struggling single mother to a stepson played by Will Smith's kid. Will Smith's kid, Jaden, did as well as he could with an enormously overwritten and unnecessary role for which it's pretty clear his dad called in a favor with the producer. The kid's got a decent screen presence but only a modest emotional range - he doesn't yet have anything like the acting chops of other young screen stars like Dakota Fanning. (So why, on the brink of global disaster and with the clock ticking did the main characters have to spend several important minutes working through this kid's emotional rollercoaster hangups? Why were the ostensibly tender reconciliatory moments between a woman and her stepson, that were supposed to convince Klaatu that humanity was worth saving, written so full of cliches and so completely unmoving?)

The CGI work was only a notch up from the really bad B-movies that are increasingly showing up on cable. For a hint at how to do this kind of disaster movie right check out Knowing. It had a lot of goofy elements thrown in there as well, and was downright silly in a number of spots, but the atmosphere was creepy, the script was, well, much smarter than this one, and in spite of everything it was a lot of fun to watch, and not quite so heavyhanded with its message. I'm sorry, but this one was just painful and boring. Do yourself a favor and rent the much more enjoyable original film instead.

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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 …
review by . November 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … 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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