The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008 remake

It's Klaa - 2

I had only seen the 1951 version of sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" once when I watched the remake, but it left an impression on me as it wasn't just sci-fi nonsense, it had a message about mankind and peace. I've also only watched the 2008 remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" once and it also left an impression on me as being inferior in nearly every way. Yes this remake which features Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly is full of special effects and action but they end up replacing the thoughtful dialogue which made the original work giving this a feel of a disaster movie and there's not an ounce of subtlety to the message it bangs across.

Suddenly plucked from her normal life and put on a helicopter with several scientists, Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind) finds herself part of a team put together to deal with an alien spacecraft of sorts heading for New York City. Having set down in Central Park, the spacecraft, a gigantic sphere, releases Klaatu (Keanu Reeves - The Lake House) an alien in human form on a mission to save the world except the political and military authorities lead by Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates - P.S. I Love You) see him as a threat and plan to interrogate him. Showing him compassion Dr. Benson helps him escape and along with her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness) finds herself ferrying Klaatu around as she discovers exactly what he means by "saving the earth"!

Keanu Reeves as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still

Storyline wise "The Day the Earth Stood Still" starts out quite well, there's a bit of intrigue about things especially when we watch the collective of scientists aboard a helicopter trying to work out why they were plucked from their lives. And the intrigue continues as this version stays pretty close to the original with Klaatu being shot and so fourth whilst giving it a few new twists to make it more modern. All of which is great, the way the original movie built the story was good and so is the remake.

The trouble is that whilst it manages to build a level of intrigue it then wastes it all as it favours delivering special effects and action over story telling. It shouldn't be a surprise as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" has been remade for modern audiences which favour big action and big effects over compelling stories and even alludes to this on the DVD cover with "Epic action and mind-blowing effects rock the planet in this thrilling reinvention of the 1950s classic". But what it does is turn it into almost a disaster movie as we watch buildings being destroyed and various chase scenes. And whilst many mainstream audiences will be wowed by what has to be said are some stunning special effects it bored me because it ends up diluting what "The Day the Earth Stood Still" should be about.

Talking of which the message of this new "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is not about world peace but about mankind destroying their planet. Yes it's another modern movie which attempts to deliver a message firstly about mankind's incompetence when it comes to global warming and secondly that unless we all change are attitudes then we can kiss this planet goodbye. But it is so unsubtle it's ridiculous and almost sickening in the way it tries to ram the message down are throats. Don't get me wrong, global warming is an important issue but a little intelligence and subtlety in the way that message is delivered would have been much appreciated.

The annoying thing is in-between the heavy handed preaching, special effects and actions "The Day the Earth Stood Still" still has those elements which make a clever movie. The logic which Klaatu expels as to why mankind needs to be wiped out in order to save the planet actually makes sense, as do other moments. It's just that the intelligent side of the movie is lost as it favours those mainstream elements.

As for the acting well Keanu Reeves is well cast as Klaatu the alien visitor, he conveys the emotionless, coldness of Klaatu brilliantly as well as looking believable in the various action scenes. Jennifer Connelly is pleasant enough as scientist Helen Benson and Kathy Bates is more than adequate as the Presidents representative Regina Jackson. But sadly Jaden Smith, who really shone in "The Pursuit of Happyness" ends up as just annoying as Helen's stepson Jacob Benson. Maybe he was meant to be, but it means you struggle to warm to a character which by the end of the movie you should have.

What this all boils down to is that compared to the original the 2008 version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is inferior as it ends up favouring special effects and action over story. But in doing so it's a movie which will appeal to modern audiences who seem to thrive on action and effect over story telling and I am sure some will find the message about global warming and world destruction very noble even if it is handled as subtly as a brick.