EDITORIALS

Re-Imagining of Day the Earth Stood Still Channeling The Matrix?

by
March 22, 2008
Source: MTV

Neo

The Day the Earth Stood Still was a Cold War-era science fiction film of 1951 that offered timely commentary on the state of the world. A visit from a humanoid alien warns the leaders of Earth not to take their fighting into space and abandon such warfare, lest being destroyed by the rest of the peace-minded cosmos. That message is slightly less topical nowadays, so director Scott Derrickson's upcoming re-imagining of the 57-year old film will contain a different cautioning, and the messenger will be Keanu Reeves.

This won't exactly be a leap for Reeves, who most of us know played Neo, aka "The One", in the groundbreaking sci-fi series The Matrix. Neo was a messenger of a different sort, battling and educating the mechanical masses about humankind and its unwavering pursuit to be free and live. Now, Reeves will play the alien, Klaatu, who imparts an appropriate warning for today, but in the same monotone, baritone voice we've come to love. In the original film, Klaatu ends his message to Earth by saying, "The decision rests with you." Interestingly, Reeves ends the original Matrix by similarly saying, "Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you." Funny.

KlaatuReeves recently spoke to MTV and explained, "The first one was borne out of the Cold War and nuclear d├ętente. Klaatu came and was saying cease and desist with your violence. If you can't do it yourselves we're going to do it. That was the film of that day. The version I was just working on, instead of being man against man, it's more about man against nature. My Klaatu says that if the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the earth survives. I'm a friend to the earth."

Thankfully, it sounds like this isn't just going to be about hitting us over the head about "going green" and the like. (Although Klaatu telling the world's people to recycle or die would be rather funny.) The focus will more be about "what we are doing and who we are as a species… We're trying to reach beyond the idea of [just] environmentalism."

A broader scope is a good angle, but it sounds a lot like messages we've already heard (e.g. humans are destined to destroy themselves; humans are a parasite on the planet; etc). In fact, Reeves nemesis in the original Matrix held the motivating belief that "human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet."

I certainly don't mean to say that everything Derrickson intends has already been done. But it is hard to ignore the scent of familiarity here, especially with Reeves' involvement. The original film was so timely and powerful that in 1995 it was put into the National Film Registry due to being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". 50 years later and a whole host of new problems facing the planet, can we expect something equally profound here? That's a high bar.

We'll see what writer David Scarpa has in store for us come December 12th of this year. Jennifer Connelly and Kathy Bates will join Reeves in the flick, along with Will Smith's son, Jaden Smith. No word on who will play the Gort, Klaatu's all-powerful robot companion. However, we do know that Gort will get a sever make-over, considering effects in advances and technology over the last 50 years.

What are you thoughts on the new direction that this remake is taking?

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  • Keith
    First off, I think I must have missed an update or something, because last I heard this was coming out May 9th, but now its set for release in December. odd. I like the direction, although it does indeed seem a bit dated and overused, especially over the last decade. I never saw the original, and so I don't know the tone of the film, but if it is made quite serious and forgives itself of throwing in a joke every other second, a la Transformers and Jumper, it should be good.
  • you're right, Keith, about the original May 9 date. however it seems most outlets are showing the Dec 12 date. not sure why it changed.
  • Oh, gag me. My expectation on this one being anything even remotely decent just dropped to zero. Like some alien race who's been monitoring us looked at everything going on down here over the past 20 years and thought "woah (no pun), we'd better step in because the human race is on the verge of extinction due to pollution." I could buy into the "let's get along" thing, but this? Give me a break. Vic
  • Chris
    And the award for the most obvious update goes to... Seriously, I knew how they were approaching this once I read in the trade papers that Klaatu would be a "friend of the Earth".
  • hmmm not sure what to think of this yet. Sounds like it could be a let down. Although I did like Derrickson's direction in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". I think it will all come down to the story written by David Scarpa. Really hope this isn't a huge pile of crap.
  • cornholio_by_the_sea
    beeing of the generation that saw the original and was thrilled with it, I have to voice complaint over the change of mesage here...why would an alien race care if we destroy ourselves??? but being the ever destructive race that we unfortunately are, it would make far more sense to keep the original warning..."you start screwing around out here, we're gonna clean your clock...permanently!" this carries the most realistic weight....IMHO....still, I will have to see it just to make the comparison....
  • For everyone questioning - the date was originally May, but since it's filming right now in Vancouver, they moved it to December. The December date is correct, the May date is NOT. It is coming out on December 12th officially.
  • Curtis
    i never watched the original and don't know anything about it besides what i read up top, its sounds like it could be interesting.
  • Pete Malan
    I have seen the original and continue to view it once a year. I find the film timly. I have often wondered what a good remake of this remarkable movie would consist of, who would be the lead etc. To be sure, there are moments that have to be changed like, Gort moving unnoticed thru the streets of Washington DC to pick up his pal and then taking him back to the ship again unnoticed. Or the doctors smoking cigeretts like crazy. As for Keanu Reeves, I hope for his sake that he's about 6 foot 6, he has big shoes to fill. Michael Rennie was a commanding presense and he owned the screen when he was on it. Since the film was about our desire to destroy ourselves and bring that state of mind into outer space, I find the concept of some extra terrestrials wanting us to go green or else revolting. Who is making this picture, Green Piece? Now, more then ever, we need a greater power to warn us to get our act together. The opening of The Day the Earth Stood Still was and continues for me to be one of the best parts of the film. Just imagine what would really happen if a space ship from another world were to try to land in Washington DC. I wish them luck. The film should be relesed a year from now, at Easter since Klaatu was reserected as was Christ, it would be timely.
  • jason_md2020
    Wow. Wouldn't be suprised if Reeves drops out as Klaatu and they replace him with Al Gore!
  • John
    This story line follows more closely Ray Bradbury's chapter 2 of The Day the Earth Stood Still: the Next Day. His story was more about the environment. It will be interesting to see how they handle this twist in the plot.
  • stratmusic
    This was a great old sci-fi movie, I just hope they do a better job with this one, as compared to "War of the Worlds", which was mediocre at best.
  • Scott
    Don't make the message about Global Warming. It will look stupid. Global warming is about the Sun not man. Don't ruin the chance to make a classic movie better than the original. What's bad is that this is so predictable... Hollwood has lost its ability to surprise audiances. The Left just doesn't think... they emote. Scott NASA Atmospheric Researcher.
  • john
    Having all energy devices stop working worldwide for an hour might be just what we all need right now.... so we can pull our collective heads ouf of our ....... and wake up!
  • Reidar Hansen
    The original was great and as a kid of seven or eight I was in awe of Gort. I loved the original and think the message would be most appropriate today in light of certain factions in our government wanting to start a nuclear holocost. Being most frustrated by our inability as a species to realize that we may be our own undoing due to war, famine, greed, and destruction of the environment, the idea of someone from another planet coming down and telling us to shape up or be "reduced to a burned out cinder" sees odly appealing. I agree... stay away from the single message of destroying the environment...
  • Gary
    As real fan of the original TDTESS, I visited two years ago the house used in the movie as Professor Barnhart's. It's still standing at 1609 N. 17th in Washington, DC. Looks just like it did in the movie. Also for real fans, Klaatu's ship landed in the southwest portion of The Elipse in front of the White House. The ball fields are gone but the grassy area is still there.
  • Jeff
    I don't have all the facts about the TDTESS remake at this point (and obviously won't until 12/12/08), so I won't pass final judgment on the plot yet, but I have doubts about whether a remake was a good idea. I know it's just entertainment, and I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan, so I'll probably go see it anyways, just to pay my respects to the original and the genre. The trailer does a good job of bringing up more questions than answers. Some of the scenes in trailer #1 have a definite grey goo attack feel about them. Is that the (revised) warning? Maybe Klaatu is an ambassador for some intelligent GIA-like grey goo that has been with us on Earth all along? Maybe this grey goo/sphere has made it's presence known only because humanity has screwed Earth and it's oceans up to the point that some original intelligent design for Earth has been compromised? I sincerely hope that's not the plot!! It would be much more believable if the aliens regarded us as insignificant specs and surgically wiped us from the planet the same way we cut mold from cheese. I'm not sure how Gort fits in with this remake yet, but metal robots with death rays are SO not believably part of any advanced alien intelligence depicted in modern sci-fi any more. Gort would be far better suited for a Terminator style plot. I hope the story takes a more Kurzweilian approach to the plot, but I doubt it would be any more entertaining than a documentary in that case. The general viewing public still needs copious amounts of destruction and robots with death rays to be entertained. I'll stay tuned for more information on this film based on it's title, but not with baited breath.

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