The Screening Room
day earth stood still 2008
This is the reason why remakes shouldn't be made.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is now available on Blu-ray.

We should've known better than to hand over the reigns of Robert Wise's 1951 classic to a new generation. We were warned that remaking classics is risky business, especially casting Keanu Reeves in role of Klaatu. We thought we were so much smarter than the previous generation. We thought we'd send home a powerful message of Earth's responsibility to take care of itself. Did we listen, 20th Century Fox? No, because we thought we could do a better job. We failed, and now Earth audiences have seen this 2008 remake and have been obliterated by particle generators and overly serious bad acting.

The original film was very much a tale of its time, yet its solid direction, solid acting and powerful message still resonates today. Getting past the goofy dialogue of "Gee, Mister," Wise's film still works. The new 2008 version reminds the audience of today's smugness in filmmaking and reliance on visual effects.

The beauty of the original film was its reliance on story. The visual effects came secondary as a way to move the story along. It wasn't the other way around. The visual effects in the 2008 remake are spectacular (supervised by the fine Jeffrey Okun), but they overwhelm what little story there is. It's almost as if the filmmakers thought they were smarter than Wise and his production team.

Imagine the story meetings:

"We'll make GORT bigger and have no personality!"

"We'll use the original's idea of a single mother raising a child against overwhelming galactic odds, and we'll cast Will Smith's kid in it! Wow, we're being topical and hip!"

"We'll cast Keanu Reeves as Klaatu! He's even more robotic than GORT!"

"We'll suck out any humor, any humanity, any warmth that was in the original and make this a lifeless movie!"

"Green screen...green screen in every scene!"

"And we'll bombard the audience with super visual effects and maybe they'll overlook our story and acting flaws!"

Green light!

Remakes have been with us since cinema's early days. There have been some horrific ones, and even the masters like Cecil B. DeMille remade their own films. There's nothing wrong with remaking older movies as long as there's a compelling reason to do so. A remake should be superior to the original. If not, then don't bother. 

This movie is lifeless. It seems longer than it really is. The cast is given a script so serious that one wonders if it was actually developed by independent filmmakers. No one cracks a smile. No one seems to be mystified that an alien light sphere has landed in the middle of Central Park (aliens never seem to land in, say, Bolivia). It's as if the filmmakers borrowed from every cliche in the bad science fiction book. Have scientists walk around in special environmental suits, and have the military be a bunch of buffoons in the face of an extraterrestrial enemy.

Keanu Reeves is so stoic, so wooden that he could've played GORT. Why is that the original GORT had personality, even for being a robot? He was fun! Back to Keanu. He's always been sort of an anomaly. Sometimes I admit I've enjoyed his one-dimensional acting style. He seemed right in the first "Matrix" movie before that franchise took a nosedive. He was even tolerable in "Point Break" and "Speed." Yet his extremely limited range shows here in this movie. He's completely without emotion, even when he has an epiphany in the final act. "Whoa, humans are worth saving."

The relationship between Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith is unbelievable. There is no chemistry at all. Their backstory is devoid of any depth. He's a brat (in the movie, not in real life I'm sure), and illicit no reaction from the audience. Connelly runs around trying to look like a scientist, but I believed that as much as I believed Denise Richards in "The World is Not Enough."

Much of the original movie's ideas are thrown out. There is no GORT kidnapping a screaming Jennifer Connelly and we never go inside the alien sphere. I'm sure if the filmmakers had a chance, and had GORT kidnapped Connelly, she would've beaten the metal crap out of him and escaped. It might've been exciting. GORT goes around destroying everything he sees. That wasn't his purpose in the original. He was a space cop who only defended himself when necessary. The poor robot has been reduced to a walking digital effect.

Klaatu basically walks around doing nothing. The original Klaatu had a purpose. Warn humans of their impending doom if they threaten the rest of the galaxy. Reeves' Klaatu seems bent on destroying the Earthlings. It isn't until a revelation of some very bad acting by Smith and Connelly that he realizes humans are worth saving. Too little, too late, and I still didn't buy it.         

The Blu-ray (a Blu-ray of the original 1951 version and "digital copy" are included) is sharp and natural looking. The movie has a dark overcast pall over it, with brightness and sharper details coming from the visual effects. Everything looks spectacular, so even if the movie doesn't hold up, the picture does.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent with a lot of pop. During Klaatu's lie detector test, the electrical sound effects will actually give the viewer a bit of a jolt from their seat. The soundtrack is layered with traditional science fiction sound effects of booms, whooshing, flying particles, and zaps. This is worthy of a home theater sound demo disc if certain scenes are used.

This was a remake not worth doing.          

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse



Why oh why?

Director: Scott Derrickson  

Cast: Digital GORT, Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates 

Deleted scenes, "making of," "digital copy" and Blu-ray copy of the original film


Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent


Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)


April 7, 2009
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