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"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008)-(Wayne's Review)
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Sci-Fi Release: 12/12/08
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connolly, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Jaden Smith, James Hong, Kyle Chandler
Scott Derrickson Screenplay by David Scarpia based on the screenplay by Edmund H. North and the short story "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates

This is the way the world ends not with a band but with a whimpy remake The remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" demonstrates that the makers wanted to honor the original film BUT try something different so it would be remembered on its own merit. Unfortunately, it's more "The Day the Film Stood Still" which, after a riveting first half hour, unravels and has a turgid pace. There are some really clever ideas in the film including the way transformation of Gort and Reeves actually is quite believable as an other worldly visitor playing the role much as Kyle MacLaughlan did the main character in the classic sci-fi flick "The Hidden"; Reeves looks human but is about as disconnected as someone with Asperger Syndrome. ***

Robert Wise's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is, hands down, a classic film. If you're going to tackle a remake you should probably be as different as possible from the original and the remake "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (the title of which doesn't quite make sense because, well, in the remake the Earth doesn't stand still at all unlike the original film) does get some things right even if the center doesn't hold. The film has all the hallmarks of having been recut or rewritten during production which, if that's the case, might explain why it starts off so well but falls apart by the end (where it literally just "ends"--it doesn't have a conclusion). ***

As in the original film the Earth is visited by an extraterrestrial named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) who comes to our planet to warn us about our evil ways. David Scarpa's screenplay (which is adapted from the original script by Edmund H. North which, in turn, was an adaption of Harry Bates short story "Farewell to the Master") does take a couple of original and interesting twists and turns before becoming turgid and lifeless. Director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose") opens the film with an impending disaster--a large object is on a parabolic course for Earth and will crash in the heart of Manhattan. Dr. Michael Grainer (Jon Hamm in a wasted role) assembles a team of scientists including Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) who must plot out the possible aftermath of this collision which will in all probability kill all life on Earth. Instead, the object slows down and settles for a soft landing in Central Park. This massive iridescent globe spits out Klaatu (Reeves) who is initially unrecognizable as human. He's shot as he comes out of the approaches Benson and a group of other scientists. Gort a 15 foot tall silicon robot follows him out shutting down all power on Earth for a few moments (OK maybe the Earth DID stand still for a moment BUT it wasn't the pivotal plot point here as in the original film) and threatens much more until Klaatu tell shim to stop. Rushed to a hospital, a surgeon cuts open Klaatu's space craft to discover…he's human after all and he has a message for humanity that we won't like. ***

The first half hour of the film is promising but it quickly falls apart and fails to involve the viewer. Perhaps part of this could be Reeves performance playing Klaatu with a flat affect but, I suspect, it has more to do with a central premise that isn't logical (although it IS interesting…I could see how it would work IF Klaatu had stated that they seeded our planet and came back to pick out the weeds)and a flashy narrative that is all surface with little character development. When the film ends it just…ends…no big conclusion, no big sent off it just stops. The film doesn't have a convincing moment when Klaatu realizes that we are WORTH saving because either Scarpia didn't write it or it was cut (which begs the question WHY was it cut since it is an emotionally relevant scene and it is the hinge that the entire film must pivot off of. Certainly it can't be the scene where Klaatu sees Benson crying towards the conclusion?). ***

I had the feeling that this wasn't the film that Derrickson set out to make. There was a lot of potential here and themes that he could sink his teeth into but I suspect he was overwhelmed with the technical challenge of this film compared to his previous projects. ***

There are films out there ("The Dark Knight", "Iron Man") that tackle difficult themes/questions and STILL manage that fine balancing act of serious film and popcorn pleasing flick. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" isn't one of them. It's technically accomplished with some fine visual effects (Gort is pretty impressive up close even if they chose to render the character in CGI and he has an even more diminished role in the film).

Final Words:

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" fails to engage the audience despite a strong opening half hour. The film offers an empty plate and the audience is hungry for SOMETHING substantial. On the surface the film is quite pleasing looking with some stunning visual effects, photography and set pieces but the script just doesn't gel in a convincing way.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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