MOVIE REVIEW- The Day the Earth Stood Still -

Movie Review- The Day the Earth Stood Still

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  • Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, James Hong,
  • Written By: David Scarpa (based on 1951 original by Edmund H. North)
  • Directed By: Scott Derrickson
  • Distributor: 20th Century Fox
  • Series:

MOVIE REVIEW- The Day the Earth Stood Still

The re-interpreting of a science fiction classic

By Josh Gordon     December 11, 2008

Keanu Reeves stars in 20th Century Fox's THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL(2008).
© Gordon


Remaking a Classic
What surprised me most in the preceeding months before Scott Derrickson’s remake of the 1951’s classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” hit the screens is how few people have seen the original. Director Robert Wise’s (The Sound of Music, The Haunting) original forever changed science fiction. The way we currently view many sci-fi givens - the spaceships, the robots, alien beings, alien technology and even the music were crafted in cement by this unusually literate and intelligent film. While bringing up the remake in conversation, most people I’ve spoken to - even fans of the genre have not experienced this genuinely thrilling motion picture.
One of the reasons the original is so powerful is that as the cold war got under way in the 1950s, most sci-fi films of the era were stood as a metaphor for the threat of communism. DTESS, uniquely and fearlessly, looked at the threat of mankind itself. It’s one of the first serious films to address our ability to destroy ourselves.
Same Story, Different Day
Aside from a predictable ecological bent, the story remains essentially the same; Humankind’s destructive nature becomes so much of a threat that an intergalactic emissary by the name of Klaatu (a surprisingly effective Keanu Reeves in the remake, Michael Rennie in the original) comes to earth with a grave message: Your destructive ways are now endangering more than your own species, change or we will destroy you.
Overbearing Sub-Plot
While entertaining, and at times fantastic, the remake loses too much of its initial steam to become completely successful. Midway though the movie the plot gets bogged down in a mother/son story between scientist Dr. Helen Benson (the gorgeous but sadly Hollywood thin Jennifer Connelly) and her step-son Jacob (a competent Jaden Smith) which serves as a parallel for the larger story of the film. While the attempt to deliver character and story depth is admirable, it’s inefficiently executed and feels overly repetitious.
In a twist from the original, Jaden Smith’s character initially doesn’t like or trust Klaatu and thinks he should be killed. I really enjoyed watching the typical cliché, that children are always more astute and aware than their grown up counterparts, get ignored but it’s a breath of fresh air that grows a little stale as the film moves forward.
Keanu is a Klaatu for the New Millennium
Keanu Reeves turns in a surprisingly dark, interesting and successful performance as Klaatu, a role so supremely owned by Michael Rennie that it alone makes a remake seem absurd. Reeves overcomes the shadow of the original performance to create the impression of a being truly getting used to being in someone else’s skin and imbues Klaatu himself with a darker, colder, less emotional center than Rennie’s more human-like interpretation.
An Abrupt Change of Heart
In the original you get the sense that Klaatu is slowly and over time taking in the good he sees in human nature which ultimately informs his final decision while our new Klaatu seems to have unwaveringly made up his mind inside a McDonalds (in what is ironically one of the films best scenes), to destroy us until a late in the film sequence between Connelly and Smith at the gravesite of their deceased husband and father, respectively. This feels too abrupt to be organic and would have been better cooked to the slow boil that the original dishes out.
The Return of Gort!
One of the most iconic images of the original film is that of Klaatu’s bodyguard, the robot Gort. The initial appearance of Gort in the newer version will be a pure delight to any fan of the original. The remake’s Gort is just awesome and is purely a modern, but literal interpretation of the original that succeeds wonderfully.
Spoiler Alert
But that delight is greatly muted when Gort’s final appearance in the film is in the form of tiny bug-like nano robots that sweep across New Jersey like a swarm of miniature locusts and thus Gort is reduced to a common computerized special effect without any emotional wallop. I would have liked to have seen Gort himself laying waste to cities instead of the nebulous cloud we’re eventually given. This was probably, purely on a fan-based level, my biggest disappointment
End Spoiler Alert
Noble Entertainment
Particularly effective was what appeared to be a signaling of the end of the Bush era and the movie is surprisingly topical on that front. Images of a collapsing world economy are potent given that our own world economy troubles have occurred only in the last month or so. And sadly, the remake also hits home that in almost 60 years, the message is still relevant.
Ultimately Derrickson’s The Day the Earth Stood Still is an entertaining popcorn flick with noble Intentions and you can surely say that many films do much worse than that.
Like the recent remake “I Am Legend” TDTESS starts out so good that a conclusion of “entertaining” is, at final glance, a disappointment.
While I don’t think this film ends as poorly as I Am Legend (which was a disaster), it doesn’t live up to its opening promise as a message movie in the form of great entertainment, which is one of the reasons the original remains as good as it does to this day.


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violator14 12/11/2008 9:07:47 AM

To be honest... Im just dying to see the damn Wolverine Trailer!!!

lazerman 12/11/2008 2:13:14 PM

I am SO with You Violator, but atthe same time, i loved the original and look forward to seeing this remake, but so far, my expectations have gotten quite low. . .

Wiseguy 12/11/2008 2:22:34 PM

Ditto, I found it funny that a commercial of the film is boasting about the Wolverine trailer. But that's just an added incentive, I was going to see this film regardless. From the commercials you get the impression that it's a message film about pollution and so on, the political commentary usually turns me off but I'm putting that aside. Big Keanu fan and the trailer plain looks really good. C seems a bit disappointing but I'll judge for myself tomorrow.

almostunbiased 12/11/2008 2:27:04 PM

Me too.  Can't wait for Wolverine, but I probably won't have time to see this movie this weekend.

raa2001 12/12/2008 3:13:33 AM

Well i just got back from seeing this movie and I agree with this review.  Also the Wolverine trailer was a big plus, but I'm sure it'll be online soon.

violator14 12/12/2008 9:49:33 AM

ey raa..... tell us about the wolvie trailer yo!

sportwarrior 12/12/2008 11:55:37 AM

Saw this one last night...  The Wolverine trailer was completely BA.  Can't wait for that one.  As for the movie, it was ok.  Not terrible, not great.  I'd probably give it a C /B- as well.  I can't complain about watching Jennifer Connely for 2 hours, though.  She was the first big screen crush I ever had ;-)

calhob 12/12/2008 1:15:56 PM


"Big Keanu fan..."? hahahahaha

I didn't think that was possible....except for Bill and Ted movies.... lol

myklspader 12/12/2008 2:09:08 PM

Just got back from seeing it and I have to agree with the review. The lack of characterization and whatnot led to me just feeling blah about what I saw. If they would have taken the time to allow Klaatu to speak to the UN and address the world that would have been time well spent to film and develop. 

The ending pissed me off, just that whole it ends and no resolution or anything, but that is the result of the above complaint I have.

And I am in the minority here but “X-Men Origin: Wolverine” looks OK at best, but it did not get my blood pumping at all. If anything it had me thinking about: how Logan does not know or at least acknowledge knowing Sabertooth in “X-Men” yet he knows him in this movie. To be honest it looks like shit right now to me, I will give it another preview before deciding to go or not. 

raa2001 12/13/2008 3:20:05 PM


I liked that they showed quite a bit of Gambit... he even throws cards!  The trailer didnt really have an "XMEN" feel to it at first but once they started showing more of the characters and their powers, it started to feel more like an XMEN movie.  It's only the first trailer and I'm sure as we get closer to the release they'll show even more and get us fanboys all hyped up. ; )

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