The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: December 12th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Scott Derrickson Actors: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, Robert Knepper, James Hong, Sunita Prasad

 


 

A

good doctor’s mission to convince an alien from another universe to save Earth from annihilation pales in comparison to the monumental task this remake will have in appealing to audiences with an appreciation for story, character development, or the original 1951 movie. Focusing too heavily on the alien landing and subsequent military mishandling of the encounter, the brunt of the protagonist’s dire task takes place in the blink of an eye – with virtually no emotional involvement required by the viewer (or the judgmental spaceman, for that matter). “The Day the Earth Stood Still” probably won’t make anyone believe the world is worth saving, but it certainly cements the notion that this film is not.

When a giant, otherworldly sphere lands in Manhattan, Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and several other leading scientists are brought in to investigate. What they discover is that a humanoid alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and his gargantuan guardian robot G.O.R.T. (Genetically Organized Robotic Technology, as he’s called by the army), have come to save the Earth from itself – by eradicating mankind. Now it is up to Helen to prove to Klaatu that the human species deserves one last chance…

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is excruciatingly preachy (or perhaps merely an inconvenient truth) with a message about saving the planet from the violent and destructive nature of people. It’s never more apparent than when shots are immediately fired at Klaatu’s extraterrestrial entrance as he extends a welcoming hand to scientist Benson (we need a medic with experience in alien surgery!). The military involvement is shown entirely in a negative light, working quickly to destroy the hulking G.O.R.T. automaton to inadvertently bring about a speedier global execution. It’s a good thing that an annoying, nagging child and his pouting mother are enough to demonstrate apt worth in an entire population – and that alien invaders are easily convinced (or manipulated).

Of all of the overlong films opening this season, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” could have actually used more time. Or, at least, it could have better focused its precious minutes on properly detailing characters and crafting a sensible plot. The story moves very quickly, but several scenes are wasted on flaunting special effects that don’t add much to a laggard science-fiction bore – especially in this day and age when highly impressive CG is abundant.

It’s understandable what director Scott Derrickson and his fellow filmmakers saw in the original that was in need of updating (or what exhibited the potential for advancement): the visuals. And indeed, the computer animation and picture quality is significantly cleaner and more impressive than the low-budget, man-in-a-foam-suit costuming of the 1951 classic. But there simply isn’t much room for improvement on the story, primarily since the message of the project remains the same. And G.O.R.T. is something of a failure in design, as his revision turns him into an insect-like nano-machine swarm, which is far less amusing than before and a mostly inscrutable sci-fi concept. Fortunately, Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as an alien trying to act like a human, which is fitting since most viewers will assume he’s barely acting at all.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10