The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

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What strikes me the most about this movie is that it is a remake. Particularly i remember the negative response that it got when it was announced:

“Doesn’t Hollywood have any original ideas?”
“Why can’t they try something different?”
“Why is this being made? The ORIGINAL is BETTER!

etc etc etc

This continues today, with any remake or reboot more or less getting the same response. I find it mostly curious because it highlights the double standards present within the movie going public that is apparently sick of retreading old ground but still going to see a movie that is so similar to a previous entry in its own series that it is arguably a remake, and doing so enough times to make it become the biggest movie of all time (hint hint, nudge nudge)*.

Now that i got the obligatory ruffling of feathers out of the way, remakes don’t bother me on principle as long as they’re revisiting the concept in an interesting way. As adaptation can yield interesting results with older material, which segways us to the movie at hand!

 

THE STORY

Aliens descend on planet earth, and pose the age old question: “Do they come in peace?”

 

THE GOOD

8 years ago it was the running joke that Keanu Reeves had finally found the perfect part for himself playing the awkward, emotionless, and alien Klaatu. That’s because he indeed found the perfect part for himself in playing the awkward, emotionless, and alien Klaatu. I remember everyone hating Keanu, groaning whenever a new movie of his comes out and 2008 was i’d say the tail end of everyone hating on him before forgetting he existed, that is until John Wick came out and now all the years of jokes and groans have been forgotten it seems.

As for the rest of the cast Jennifer Connelly is as usual quite lovely in her part of concerned scientist and mother, also special mention must be made for Jaden Smith. He’s perfect as a whiny, entilted, spoiled, difficult, and insufferable brat, and he should’ve done more of those roles while he was still young enough to be all of those things.

As for the story, this is where the movie differentiates itself from the original and becomes a worthwhile remake. 8 years on it’s message of environmental destruction and urging that we are heading towards our own destruction due to it is still relevant in the year 2016. In fact, it’s arguable that it is even more relevant as the ignoring of the issue of climate change was seemingly heighten under our previous Prime Minister, the Kyoto Protocol was laughed out of meaning, and the recent Paris Climate Conference made for some depressing news tidbits.

Scott Derrickson and his editor Wayne Wahrman are also worth mentioning in their ability to craft memorable action and suspense sequences. Klaatu’s arrival and subsequent breakout make clever use of sound and special effects, and show a great deal of welcome sophistication. Their hard work also makes the GORT present in this version a far more intimidating and credible threat to the planet than the man in the tinfoil costume of the original.

 

THE BAD

Nothing sticks out as being overly offensive in The Day the Earth Stood Still. There are some scenes and jumps in logic thrown in for seemingly the express purpose of giving the audience explosions to look at; like the army’s drone attacks against GORT that come almost out of nowhere and shift the tone of the film from thoughtful sci-fi to typical blockbuster, or when Klaatu blows up a couple of helicopters while walking away from said explosion (possibly in slow motion i don’t quite remember). Overall though this is a fairly small matter, and don’t damage the film overall.

Another nitpick is the gross product placement that has thankfully gone away since the mid 00’s. Remember the Mountain Dew machine in Transformers, or Will Smith’s sneakers in I Robot? Now advertisers have clued into the fact that they have to be more insidious with their shameless plugs.

I’ve also heard criticisms leveled at how the Klaatu here isn’t immediately altruistic and makes up his mind that humanity isn’t worth saving upon getting shot on arrival. While the argument can be made that an advanced society would be more altruistic than a primitive one, and keeping Klaatu’s character closer to the original is truer to the message the movie it’s peddling. I will have to object to that notion on the grounds that he was shot upon trying to make peaceful contact and after that incident he prevented GORT from killing everyone in the vicinity. Klaatu is also characterised as a reasonable person, and acting like a reasonable person he seeks out and is open to new information as it might change his already made up mind.

This i feel makes him a far more rounded and interesting character than the one we had in the original, which i will admit to have only watched once and many years ago.

 

THE UGLY

I believe The Day the Earth Stood Still serves as an example of how to do a remake properly. It updates its premise, fleshes out its characters appropriately, and modernises its presentation enough to remain relevant to audiences some years after it was completed. It’s no masterpiece but it was and remains a decent enough experience and is worth a look for the curious or the bored.

 

3 stars

OUT OF FIVE

 
*don’t start with that there are only 7 stories defense. I know. I know all about that. Yes the details make the plot. Yes it’s a suitable defense. But it’s still funny that people complain about there being nothing original and then go to see a film that is plot wise very unoriginal “in it’s own franchise”.

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