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Day the Earth Stood Still

The 2008 sci-fi remake directed by Scott Derrickson.

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Unnecessary Remake; A pseudo-Sci-Fi action film That Never Realizes its Potential

  • Apr 10, 2009

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 Kane" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". Such masterpieces shouldn't be tainted by a mediocre remake, the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" came at the right time, when the world was under the shadow of the cold war and feared nuclear holocaust. Let's admit it, Wise's cold war analogy is a little dated due to current events, any revisit to the material would prove unnecessary (or is it?). This 2008 remake is NOT as engaging and compelling as Wise's original film, and will not attain "classic" status but thankfully it doesn't hurt the original's legacy and its message may also be significant.

An alien object is detected in a collision course to Earth--impact point; Manhattan. Fearing that this event would trigger a great disaster, the U.S. government enlists the services of scientists to help with the aftermath. Astro-biologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is among them although she doesn't really deal with this type of matters. However, rather than the object causing destruction, a strange sphere simply lands in Central Park and a mysterious figure emerges, who is then shot by a trigger happy soldier. Spirited away by the military, the figure slowly metamorphoses into a human being or at least something that resembles one. Calling himself "Klatau", this alien being presents himself as a harbinger of destruction. What can the human race do to avoid extinction when all the United States military power is powerless against Klaatu and his gigantic robot?

The Earth is one of the few planets that can support complex life forms according to Klaatu and humans are slowly killing it. The film has strong elements of social commentary, ecological misconduct, human flaws that may lead to our destruction. The screenplay by David Scarpa replaces Wise's cold war analogy with something more related to our present time; humanity's arrogance in the way we see ourselves that we own this planet. The film does express a lot of thought-provoking ideas and a few collective truths as it possibly could. I rather thought that the U.S. being portrayed as the sole super-power and appoints itself as the representative of humanity as nicely executed, especially in the persona of the Defense secretary played by Kathy Bates. You see other leaders expressing their displeasure on this action and the fact that Klaatu was refused an audience with the U.N., it gives exposition that dialogue is sometimes the best solution and not the "fist-first approach". Unfortunately, the film seems to stop short in this exposition and settles for some perfunctory elements to take hold such as love, change and compassion that it almost wallowed with overused sentimentality. People change when in the brink of destruction would be the film's main theme; and Klaatu is here to save this planet, which means bad news to the humanity. "If the Earth dies, you die. If the Earth survives, you die". I know it's not supposed to be a "message" film, but it was obviously trying to provoke a reaction from the viewer. Sadly the way it got this message across isn't as engaging or enthralling in its narrative--that it felt like a simple device.

The direction by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) is decent and allows certain mind-boggling ideas to surface while not really holding back on the action. The film does feature a grand display of America's military might and once Klaatu escapes the clutches of the military, we become privy to a display of CGI effects, that revolves around another chase film. The special effects are quite good; as we witness landscapes and architecture decimated. The giant robot is a welcome change from the rubber-suited one in the original. The "GORT" (Genetically Organized Robotic Technology) metallic robot stands 50 feet tall and looks very menacing. The giant orbs looked impressive as seen in its trailers. The menace of the metallic insects feel a little forced, and we have seen this gimmick many times before.

Much of the film's burden would fall on Jennifer Connelly and I thought she performed admirably, then again, I've always been a sucker for her eyes. Helen's step-child is just so annoying and his character should have been left out. Kathy Bates' character has that bomb ‘em, "shoot first ask questions later attitude" and her character is knotty. I thought she should have been played more than as a simple plot device to set up the perfunctory obstacles. Keanu Reeves is his usual emotionless self, but this time this role suits him as the single-minded "Klaatu". I think Reeves is more a physical actor than an emotional one, well, this role is tailor-made for his "robotic" acting.

I think it would be unfair to compare it to the original but it does feel somewhat unnecessary for Hollywood to step into this "hallowed" area of the original. It is a very commercial film and Derrickson's direction played it a little too safe, I guess to avoid angering the audience with its supposed commentary. It opts for a grand display of special effects than a plot that would really get under the skin of its audience. It missed some real thought-provoking potential by not exploring the concept of meeting a being from another planet. The original was a benchmark in filmmaking, and even promoted international understanding. This version won't even make a dent on its legacy but it is entertaining enough. It was better than I expected, but it just couldn't connect emotionally and will disappoint a lot of folks.

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a pseudo sci-fi action flick that offers nothing special but it would have been worse if Bret Rattner was at its helm. I do give this dvd release a weak recommendation given that you can get the original film with its 2-disc release (if you don't already own it) but this 2008 version gets a "Rent it" verdict. [3- Stars]

decimation scene giant orb Gort held captive Jennifer and Keanu Klaatu with the ORB 2-Disc dvd

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October 25, 2010
I kinda liked this one
October 25, 2010
it was alright but unnecessary. They could've made it more complex and gotten rid of the boy.
March 05, 2010
While this movie isn't as political inclined as the 1951 original it is a statement to how we should treat our planet and that makes it a worthy film in my book. Good review as always my friend.
March 06, 2010
Thanks, Lopez.
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 . 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 …
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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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