“THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008) Review

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”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008)

Back in 1951, Robert Wise directed a science-fiction film about a humanoid alien visitor who comes to Earth with a warning. The film, starred Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. Fifty-seven years later, Scott Derrickson directed a remake of the classic that stars Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly.

Based upon Harry Bates’ short story, “Farewell to the Master”, this updated version of ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” ditched the Cold War theme and settled upon humanity’s environmental impact upon Earth. Another change in this latest version centered around the main character, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). In the 1951 version, Klaatu (portrayed by Michael Rennie) started as a “humane” and ended up as a slightly cold alien who threatens the humans during a United Nations conference, with “the big stick” – threatening annihilation if the nations refused to find a way to settle the Cold War. Klaatu experiences a reversal of characterization in this new version. He starts out as cold and tough, with very little hope for humanity. Due to his interactions with Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connolly), Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese) and Helen’s stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), Klaatu becomes more humane and compassionate over humanity’s situation.

I wish I could point more of the similarities and difficulties between the two versions. But if I must be honest, my memories of the 1951 version are not that sharp. It has never had much of an impact upon me. It just happened to be one of many decent movies that I did not find particularly mind boggling. Even when I became older. And If I must be honest, I can say the same about this version. In the end, ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” (2008) seemed like nothing more than a solid, yet entertaining science-fiction story with a message about a real life crisis in present-day Earth. Namely our endangered environment. Everything about this movie seemed solid – Scott Derrickson’s direction, David Scarpa’s screenplay and the cast led by Reeves and Connolly.

However, there were some exceptional standouts in both the cast and the crew. Jeffrey A. Okun’s visual special effects struck me as being impressive. I especially liked the updated design of Klaatu’s starship and the fact that it, along with Gort, was biologically based. As for the cast, I was impressed by two performers – young Jaden Smith, who portrayed Helen Benson’s stepson and Kyle Chandler as John Driscoll, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates). Smith did an excellent job of conveying young Jacob’s anger over his father’s death and resentment toward being “stuck” with his stepmother. And Chandler provided another example of his talent for portraying ambiguous and sometimes, dark characters with his portrayal of the frightened and desperate Driscoll.

Other than that, I found nothing really exceptional about this version of ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” . . . anymore than I did about the previous 1951 version. If you are looking for something exceptional, you will be disappointed. If you are simply looking for a solid story that is also entertaining, then ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” is your movie.

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