The Day The Earth Stood Still: 2008 (DVD & Blu-ray)

DVD VERSION | Anne Wollenberg The human race struggles with arrogance. There’s the fact we’ve trampled all over this planet, filling it full of skyscrapers, pollution, death and destruction. We’ve created some nice things along the way – such as cinema for example. And there’s another arrogance problem: the insistence on remaking classic movies

The Day The Earth Stood Still: 2008 DVDSure, a 2008 remake of the 1951 film of the same name was always going to have swishier effects, and it’s quite apt to revisit the idea that we’re wrecking the Earth given all the crap that’s currently going down right now. If you think we’re not destroying the planet, just try asking the polar bears how they feel. But swish doesn’t mean good. It starts off decently enough, though without a shred of originality: scientist Helen Benson (Connelly) – she’s an astrobiologist, to be precise – is drafted into helping with a small problem the US military have identified, namely a rather large UFO heading straight for Earth. Enter Klaatu (Reeves), an alien whose mission is to rescue Earth. And that doesn’t mean he’s going to rescue its human inhabitants; he’s there to save the planet from us. Well hey, somebody should. Not that he gets a friendly reception. There’s also some nice subtext when he asks Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson (Bates) if she speaks for the whole human race, and her response is to state that she speaks for the United States of America.

While it starts well enough in terms of intrigue and drama, the film promptly goes downhill. Helen’s bratty stepson Jacob (Smith, son of Will) is meant to provide a nice little emotional microcosm for the story, a bit like Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds, but his story has much less impact than in the original because he just comes across as a little sod. And Cleese? He does some sums.That’s kind of it. This remake is vaguely entertaining, and it has a very timely message, but as it trundles into the lame final act you can’t help feeling cheated. 

EXTRAS *** There’s a commentary with screenwriter David Scarpa – some of what he says is interesting, though he’s a bit quiet at points, and it’s a shame nobody else from the project is featured; a half-hour making-of documentary, Re-Imagining The Day; Unleashing Gort, a featurette about the eight-foot metal robot that accompanies Klaatu; Watching The Skies; In Search of Extraterrestrial life, a featurette looking at the idea of finding intelligent life on other planets; The Day The Earth WasGreen, which is basically a promo for Fox shouting about this movie’s eco credentials – which is fine, because the effort is pretty commendable; three very brief and utterly pointless deleted scenes; and a stills gallery.BLU-RAY VERSION | Stuart O'Connor The original 1951 version has always been one of my favourite sci-fi flicks, which means this remake was was always starting from behind. But, like any film, I'm always prepared to give it a fair shake. As Anne has said, it starts off fairly well, although the opening scenes with Keanu in the Arctic seems very naff. But then then it settles down and gets into the film and story proper, and for the first half it's pretty decent, sticking closely to the spirit, if not quite the story, of the original. But once Klaatu reveals his true mission, it sort of loses its way, loses its poiint, and becomes just another chase movie. Reeves's rather bland, monotone acting style does suit the character of Klaatu, being an alien and all, but Connelly seems lost half the time, and as though she's sleepwalking through the role the other half. On the plus side, it does look lovely on Blu-ray, and the special effects really are spectacular, but overall the film lacks the warmth and heart that a tale such as this deserves. And the classic line – Klaatu barada nikto – doesn't even get a look-in. Shame.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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