Kevin's Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still - In Its Own Way, An Accomplishment
by Kevin Powers
December 13, 2008
Let's be honest - Keanu Reeves headlining a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still certainly doesn't sound like the rebirth of a genre archetype. In fact, the mere idea of retreading this territory finds many a fan up in arms. Nevertheless, with its smart casting, savvy CGI and efficient pacing, Scott Derrickson's Day finds a home among other capable productions in its class. Whereas the original focused on violence, Derrickson adopts an environmental approach that neither furthers nor mitigates the source material's intentions. And that's the real accomplishment - carefully carrying the essence of Robert Wise's classic to the finish line without dropping and breaking it into a thousand regrettable pieces.
While Reeves' abilities can often be described as wooden, he makes a perfect Klaatu - emotionless, plain-faced, with a shell of a personality. And even though one of his greatest moments was all the way back in 1991's Point Break when he shot his gun in the air and screamed "AHHHHH!", Reeves manages to deliver the alien's message with an enviable degree of detachment. His range is short, but in the right role it works. Jennifer Connelly as the scientist Helen Benson who befriends (or, more appropriately, spends time with) Klaatu is equally cast; her worried antics and "I'm the only one that can reach him" approach is a near carbon-copy of her role as Betty Ross in 2003's Hulk.
It's a pleasure to see Kathy Bates, as well, even if she did play an out-of-her-league politico. I can't really say the same for Jaden Smith, who plays Jacob, Helen's adopted son. Aside from the annoying adolescent acting-out trying to get Klaatu caught, I can't shake the idea that some of his scenes are embellished because he's Will Smith's son. All of the kid's emoting and extended lines have a nepotistic taint to it. Call me crazy.
As the original and remake go, Klaatu comes to earth via a massive swirling orb. As humans don't know what to do in this type of situation, the military is called out in full force. Klaatu is eventually taken to a holding facility for observation and questioning, at which time he reveals that he represents a group of civilizations, and that Earth shouldn't be considered human's domain. We soon learn Klaatu and those he represents feel humans are a detriment to the planet. Guess what happens at that point?
The story is wholly predictable yet it surprisingly manages to hold your attention. And thankfully, Derrickson avoids any undue wandering or sequences that might make you think he's trying too hard. This temperament carries over into the director's use of CGI as well. Considering the apocalyptic nature of the tale, Derrickson could have had innumerable scenes of glossy, scaled destruction. As it stands, the special effects feel not only well-done, but well-placed. That goes for Gort as well, the towering sentinel of unmatched power. Dressed in a brushed gunmetal finish with a pulsing slit for an eye, the cosmic bodyguard's appearance is a nice update to the original rendering.
Considering the original film is 57 years old, I'd venture to say that much of the audience for Derrickson's take haven't seen it. So by itself, the remake is a fine sci-fi excursion that while predictable, still manages to be enjoyable and ever so thought provoking. Compared to the original - well, I won't go there like Alex already did. Derrickson obviously hasn't necessarily made another classic here, but at the same time I don't think he's committed any cardinal sins to the genre. To my mind, that's a fine accomplishment.
Reader Feedback - 31 Comments
this is a great review.
darrin on Dec 13, 2008
Nice review Kevin. I'm really looking forward to going to watch this movie. Liked what you said about Keanu Reeves - "While Reeves' abilities can often be described as wooden, he makes a perfect Klaatu - emotionless, plain-faced, with a shell of a personality." I always said he would be awesome as Klaatu.
TKaihea on Dec 13, 2008
It was a good review but it seems you liked it more than a 6/10.
Cody on Dec 13, 2008
I am so glad to read this review as I am going to see this tomorrow...also being one of those who saw it in the "old days" of the '50s....sorry to hear about the brat but that is more than likely the case these days...especially when it is the offspring of some established star...shame the talent isnt always there just because of the bloodline...no worries, I can live with the anoyance to see the update...
cornholio_by_the_sea on Dec 13, 2008
ScreenRant.com on Dec 13, 2008
Needed a better 3rd act. Aside from it, i thought the movie was enjoyable.
Darunia on Dec 13, 2008
Awesome review! Haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, but I'll give it a chance.
Will S. on Dec 13, 2008
good review, now wheres that wolverine trailer?
harrison on Dec 13, 2008
i wanted to punch the little brat in the face, annoying kid
yeah on Dec 13, 2008
I enjoyed the flick! It was pretty entertaining! 🙂
Spider on Dec 13, 2008
I thought it was 6/10 And i agree with the above but i will add one thing. The message of the whole movie doesnt seem to be completed at the end and i thought it could have been done better. If like in the original he demonstrated his power earlier on it would have allowed us to "change" As it is that isnt shown and doesnt really complete the movie.
Heckle on Dec 13, 2008
Not a great movie but good. I think they could have done a better job. But they certainly didn't do a bad job. I loved when Gort's "eye" was following around the government official in the Silo. One of my favorite parts of the movie.
Dan W on Dec 13, 2008
I thought casting Keanu Reeves was inspired. The part he was born to play! I'm not really interested in seeing this one, though. Too many Oscar contenders I need to get to once finals are done.
Lady Aerin on Dec 13, 2008
The movie was worse han I thought it would be....I was actually going to it with an open mind, but in the end, the movie wasn't able to transcend above the sum of it's (bad) parts (here there be spoilers) : 1. The CGI is the first thing you notice that is FAR from being complete....it looked more like pre-viz in After Effects than an actual finished product. I could actually see the layers of effects on the sphere. GORT was a COMPLETE dissapointment!!! IIt looked completely unfinished CGI. there was no texture to it at all....also, at more than one scene it was clearly visible that the actors were shot on green screen and later poorly pasted onto a background...the colors and lighting were poorly matched...even my wife noticed all of this and she is not the effect movies type. 2.GORT should've been a lot less of a homage to the 1951 movie than it was. It should've been something completly different altogather...the shape of it, I mean. the fact that it was the actual tool of destruction of the world and made of millions of all-eating insects, was not THAT creative. 3.Keanu was, again, not that good....but I guess some actors will still be acknowledged even though they are VERY POOR at acting (aka nick cage). 4.The structure was very fast moving into the oblivion scenario..rather than making Klaatu more aware that he would probably be attacked right off, he quickly thinks that we deserve annihilation...the only thing I liked was the decision to go for full destruction was chosen at a Mac'Donald's...that was hillariuos!!!! In general...that's it.....I have more to say but i'm writing this at work...so...gotta go work... cheeres.
israelidude on Dec 14, 2008
The review was great and I liked the movie.
Sebastian on Dec 14, 2008
Kevin i must say that this review was an excellent one. I would give this movie the same rating. You are so right about how Derrickson could have place many many scenes of destruction and chaos but he was conservative in that regard. Overall a good movie but not like i expected it to be.
big r on Dec 14, 2008
Kid ruined it for me.
Ryan on Dec 14, 2008
Awesome review! I liked the movie enough to see it twice. I hope they release a Gort action figure... or flashlight... 🙂
vanagwathiel on Dec 14, 2008
This is the best alien movie remake there is, right next to war of the worlds!=). I loved it 100%percent!!!=).
sean on Dec 14, 2008
As soon as you say "IN IT'S OWN WAY" I know not to go see it.
Secret-Asian-Man!! on Dec 14, 2008
This was one of the very worse movies I've seen in over a year. Someone please shoot and burn that kid to death in a fire. Story? Pathetic. Ending? Beyond disappointing. I would rate this a negative number. The only way to like this movie is if you are stupid.
Drestin on Dec 14, 2008
I think he gave it a 6 to keep himself in a respectable eye from his peers and i agree it sounds like he did enjoy it. After all movies are for entertainment and escapism if only for a while. Great review btw im seeing it tomorrow. I have not seen the originall but im also picking up a copy of that to watch on the weekend. Its fair enough to expect some quality from our beloved studios but sometimes i think people just want to damn much. I used to pick and prod movies and you know what...Yeah they aint perfect so know when i watch a film i just go in and turn my mind off and let the screen take me where it goes. ok rambling now bye.
werdnafaz on Dec 15, 2008
Like the majority of the people who haven't seen the original I didn't know what this film was trying to recreate. Not that i'm a fan of overacting black and white film they certainly do have a place in history. I think this film is solid in its message and from what I understand maintains the message of the original. "Use violence and we'll kick your ass", and GORT has no problem telling that to the weapons of mass destruction launched by the US. However as the themes change with the eras it now comes to the misuse of the planet and how we are now the weapons of mass destruction wreaking havoc on mother earth. Yes the movie was predictable and I see no reason to put the magic twist at the ends to distract you from the clear and common message lately of being better custodians of this planet we call home. I think the message is better left dry and to the point in some cases. As for the constant Kenau Bashing I think its time to stop. We don't make nearly enough fun of people like Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington or Christian Bale. They all have roles that they play pretty much the same way give or take a different shirt. Sure he plays emotionally flat characters a lot of the time but we don't try to cast Tom Cruise in the cross dressing broadway singing amputee role. It doesn't suit him. Keanu did fine in this role. He made his point. The movie was a solid message film. And if the human race only realises that perhaps its time to act, the message will be clear if not loud.
Darren on Dec 15, 2008
The kid just shot the movie down for me, I couldnt stand him. I though keanu did fine, connely did fine, Gort was cool, story was pretty good, but god, every scene with that kid just made me want to leave.
N on Dec 15, 2008
Good take on it, I probably would've been less generous. I'm seeing less and less the reason to remake a film that got it right the first time. I'm a little worried that in fifty years people are going to want to remake Goodfells, Pulp Fiction or other modern classics. That's my fear.
adrian on Dec 17, 2008
morris on Dec 18, 2008
I would say there may be 'spoilers' in this text- but the story is SO predictable- you'd have to be a retard to not know how it turns out! The brat kid needed a good slap- (credit to his acting- if he was) as he really got on my nerves and wanted him dead! This movie sucked SO much! Too much preachy moralising and not enough action. Zero tension/suspense- no feeling of real threat- no 'earth standing still' type epicness !! A missed opportunity- if it needed doing at all. Pointless cameo roles! (Cleese)- Only the woman & brat knew he decided to save the world- so how can 'everyone change'?? They've learnt nothing? As, for most humans- it was just what they saw on tv- big globes and few explosions, they didn't have a clue what was going on. Hardly any action- street signs that clearly showed they were in Canada!! - Some ropey CGI- (not as bad as I am Legend though!) The killer bugs that can eat stadiums in seconds- take forever to eat a few holes in his jacket!? GORT or whatever the robot is called did hardly anything?!! what a waste of a well styled cgi! (only positive thing) Don't waste ya money- not even to rent
Jester222 on Dec 24, 2008
I have to say besides the great visual effects and Keanu Reeves' acting, the movie is quite disappointing. The people were never panic or feel afraid even though the end of the world is near. Whoa...
Yowazzup on Dec 29, 2008
Yowazup, i'm sorry, but i'm gonna have to totally disagree with you there entirly, because darn it!, this movie rocked big time, so what in the heck are you even talking about!!!. I think you seriously need to think twice about that, like right now!!!, i mean really now!!!, come on now!!! =/.
sean on Dec 29, 2008
I actually found the movie to be pretty good. I would give it a 7.9, I thought the movie could have been better but was not bad at all. There were moments that really worked for me and some that didn't, I thought Jaden Smith was one of the standouts of the movie and I think this one is definitely an underrated one.
KyB on Jan 1, 2009
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