April 12, 2009
Review - " The Day the Earth Stood Still " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
Dr. Helen Benson, a gorgeous scientist who's raising her deceased husband's son on her own, is the first human to reach
Klaatu and the two instantly bond. This isn't a love at first sight thing – Derrickson wisely didn't go there with the story – but
she does feel empathy for this stranger to our planet, and he seems to sense she's on his side.
After Secretary of Defense Jackson (played by Kathy Bates) makes it clear America's leaders want to do a little probing in
secret on the unwilling Klaatu, Helen helps him escape and quickly learns the real reason he's come to Earth. With only a
short time remaining before humans become extinct, Helen must convince Klaatu we aren't inherently bad. We can change
and we are capable of, when push comes to shove, learning from our mistakes.
Keanu Reeves makes a good alien. Reeves hasn't fit a role this perfectly since his Matrix days. Playing an emotionless,
logical creature from space, Reeves is completely believable and his performance is on par with Michael Rennie's Klaatu.
Jennifer Connelly is more that just a pretty face as one of the most highly regarded scientists America has to offer. Since
Klaatu's completely detached, Connelly has to carry the emotional load and this Oscar-winner's strong enough to handle the
The original film was all about how humans are going to bring about our own destruction by fighting amongst each other,
with aggressions between warring countries ultimately causing humans to be wiped out. This time around Klaatu's visit is due
to our mistreatment of the environment. Klaatu can't allow us to damage the Earth to the point it is no longer usable. We
aren't the only life forms in the solar system and Earth isn't really our property. Apparently we're really poor renters and
evicting us is the only way Earth can survive.
Derrickson and Scarpa did a decent job of setting up the story in the film's first half hour. The ship's arrival and the meetings
between Klaatu, government officials, doctors and scientists are well played out. It's when the film gets into Helen's
relationship with her stepson, Jacob, and the subsequent interaction between Klaatu and Jacob that things go south. The
Jacob character is extremely annoying and unnecessary. Everything he does is predictable, and unfortunately he's featured
a great deal in the second half of the movie. Concentrating on just Klaatu and Helen would have alleviated the irritation of
having to watch a paint-by-numbers child character carry forth the story.Derrickson's decision to go with a unique spaceship
rather than the classic round disc pays off big time. I also enjoyed the fact Derrickson decided to reuse the design of the
original GORT. The technology behind this GORT flew right over my head, but that didn't really matter. He's the mechanism
that'll bring about the end of civilization and that's really all I needed to understand. The science behind how he does it
wasn't that important to me.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is the second film released in
2008 involving the killing of humans in order to save the
environment. M Night Shyamalan's The Happening had a
similar message and of the two, The Day the Earth Stood Still
is infinitely more entertaining. At least in this film we can see
what's killing off the population of New Jersey and New York
(the special effects in The Day the Earth Stood Still are miles
above Shyamalan's The Happening effect sequences). But
unfortunately, as with Shyamalan's The Happening, The Day
the Earth Stood Still fails to pack a punch. After wagging its
finger at the audience, The Day the Earth Stood Still just sort
of slinks off into the sunset.
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The Day The Earth Stood Still
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith
Granted, the original The Day the Earth Stood Still has funky effects in
comparison to today's advances in computer animated graphics. And yes, the
acting comes across as stilted in the 1951 sci-fi film directed by Robert Wise.
But, again, that's only in comparison with contemporary standards. However,
you can't argue that the message in the '51 film isn't still relevant. So why did it
need to be remade? That's a good question and one that's not really
answered even after watching director Scott Derrickson's 2008 remake.
Where the original film relied on dialogue to get the point across, this new
version of The Day the Earth Stood Still leans heavily on large action set
pieces. There's a batch of quieter moments in this '08 sci-fi film, but they're the
exception rather than the rule.
Klaatu and his extraterrestrial sphere gently touch down in Central Park and of
course the first thing we do by way of a greeting is to open fire and wound him.
GORT, a huge metallic creature with a slit where eyes would be found on a
human, emerges from the globe and quickly puts an end to our attack by
emitting an irritating sound and some sort of electronic signal that makes
weapons cease to work.