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The Day the Earth Stood Still Review

December 15, 2008

I planned on reviewing the remake on Friday night but I didn’t end up actually seeing the movie until late Saturday night, hence my canning it until today.

The reasons aren’t important, but mostly it’s because I rented King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters instead of going Friday night. I might take a look at that movie sometime in the future because the narrative and editing in the movie are great.

On to the review portion of this piece.

195os: The original movie (I think I’ll acronym it down to DESS) came out in 1951. It was the first science fiction movie that found a mainstream audience. Not exactly the low budget B-movie quality like Them!. 

The 50s Dess took on the task of showing two different sides of humanity. The government-controlled, fear-filled, and media deluge that was represented the wrongness and inherent violence of human nature and the every day citizen who are generally nice and caring but prone to giving into the fears given by the media. 

Of course, the loving side wins over the alien, Klaatu, and ensures the survival of Earth. The end of the movie moralizes some but all in all its a good movie. The characters are compelling (if not for their 50s cheesy gosh-golly-gewillicker  attitudes), the actors are good, and the production value is decent. 

It’s easy to see why sci-fi fans and nerds in general hold on to the 50s Dess with such reverence considering that it made it okay, mainstream wise, to enjoy such films. Hence the revered line, “Klaatu Barada Nikto.”

2008: First I’ll present the good, followed by the bad, and conclude with my thoughts on the film as a whole.

2008s Dess actually has some decent actors and acting. Kathy Bates as the Secretary of Defense (a bewildering choice in my mind but she makes it work), Jennifer Connelly (not sure how you spell her name, the actress from Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe), Will Smith’s Kid as a brat, surprisingly Keanu Reeves puts up a good performance (more on that in the bad), and many extras that make it worthwhile.

The throw backs are great. The Alien introduction scene (while highly stylized) was a good reminder of the 50s Dess. 

There’s a scene with John Cleese that reminds of the chalk board.

The robot while different does similar things. 

The updated of version of the plot works. I was afraid that they would significantly change the plot too much and the remake would be too far from the original but the main elements coupled with the throwbacks really make the new one work. 

The bad:

Keanu Reeves’ non-acting actually works in this film but other than that he is not a good actor. 

I didn’t hear the classic line but my friend swears that in the alien intro scene Klaatu says it to the robot. If he did, okay. If he didn’t then this movie loses points for that alone. 

Personally, I didn’t like that they changed Klaatu from human-like to completely alien. I suppose it makes more sense but I had more fun with the 50s version. It gave more weight to his eventual understanding of humans. The Reeves version seems to cold and calculating (along with Reeves inability to emote) that takes away from his realizations about humanity at the end. 

Essentially, the various other characters begging Klaatu to let them live because they could change was eh in my mind.

This part is bad from a marketing standpoint but I cracked up in the theater. There’s a scene where Connelly’s character is freed from government arrest and they give her back her things. A close up of her looking at her phone (clearly seeing the LG label) and immediately followed by a close up of her looking at her watch which says CITIZEN on it. I don’t think I’ve seen more blatant product placement in any other movie. It was hilarious, and a little sad. 

Does it make sense to anyone as to why the only governmental figure(this isn’t a scientist, soldier or FBI member) with direct contact with Klaatu is the secretary of Defense. It didn’t make sense in the 50s and it doesn’t make sense today. The movie pulls it off decently but still.

The Earth never stands still in the movie. In the original Dess there’s a scene where Klaatu makes every thing stop working (except hospitals, planes, and anything that if it stopped working would immediately hurt or kill someone). Vehicles, electronic goods, etc are stopped cold. Literally everything just stopped moving and people were looking around trying to figure it out. 

In the 2008 version that never happens. Everything keeps moving and constantly. Sure there’s a scene where the power goes out but it doesn’t have the same effect. There’s still action going on that takes away from the feeling of a pause in life and time. 

My conclusions:

The throwbacks were great and the acting was good. The problems that I had with movie are mostly based around what happened in the 50s one. Except the standing still thing, you can’t name a movie The Day the Earth Stood Still and not have that happen, it’s not like this movie is particularly deep so you can’t justify by saying that some sort of metaphor is going on here, there isn’t.

Will Smith’s kid plays a dick of a kid in the movie and I honestly never felt myself feel sympathy or empathy for the kid his situation. 

I would rate this movie higher if was in no way related to the original. It’s not a bad movie if you take away the frame of the 1950s version. However, because of the original this film, while a nice adaptation loses somethings in the update that take away and reduce many of the poignant moments of the original that made it not just a quaint cult classic but a good movie.

It’s about 2.5 out of 5 for me.

Scyo.

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