The Day The Earth Sood Still

The Day The Earth Sood Still (2008)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Cleese
Extras: Original 1951 Movie, Commentary Track, Video Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Photo Gallery

Given the constant influx of utterly forgettable and mediocre remakes of classic movies, it is hardly surprising that people are reluctant to see yet another re-imagining of a movie they loved for decades. Robert Wise's 1951 classic science fiction film, based on a story by Harry Bates, was such a beloved movie that everyone respected and admired. A remake of the film could only fail, or could it? Well, to be quite frank with you, I was actually somewhat surprised by this updated version of the film.

After having visited Earth 70 years earlier to collect DNA samples, an alien spaceship is heading straight for Earth. Mistaking it for a meteor about to hit the planet, the world watches in wonder as the spacecraft lands in New York's Central Park. But quickly wonder turns into panic as sensational media, thoughtless military and paranoid citizens treat the encounters as a threat, the first step of a hostile alien invasion.
One of the aliens, Klaatu, is trying to make contact with the human race and is shot by the military on the spot. His protector, a 100 foot robot, restores his life and Klaatu is taken into military custody for interrogation.
However, Klaatu has a mission and being denied freedom he simply takes matters in his own hands. Vastly superior to the human race he breaks free and mingles with humans, observing their way of life. He quickly concludes that the human race is being salvation. Set in their violent ways and determined to destroy their home planet, Klaatu sets into motion a plan that will remove the culprit from the face of the Earth. It is time for a reboot – without humans.

While I mentioned in my opening that the film was somewhat of a surprise, it is important to put this statement into perspective. The film does have serious flaws and would never qualify as a great flick by any means, but at least it is enjoyable as a whole, serving up 100 minutes of mindless entertainment. Whether that should have been the film's prerogative is certainly up for debate, as many viewers will feel that the subject matter should have been more thought provoking, the way Robert Wise's 1951 movie was at the time.

The way I looked at it, the film had one major flaw – its bad script. Entrenched in today's shallow and superficial mentality, the script was every bit as inane as the people it tried to criticize in the story, indicating that the writer – and with it the director – never took the core message of the story to heart and instead opted for a forgettable blockbuster approach.

The biggest shortcoming that the script is plagued by are the stereotypical characters and underdeveloped parts. While I am certainly no friend of military actions – I am a pacifist at heart – even I had to shake my head at the way the military was portrayed here. Completely over-the-top, everyone you see in this film wearing a uniform is a portrayed as a complete moron with only one thing in mind, to blow everything in their path to Kingdom Come. As much as we got burned during the Bush administration, not even I think that is an even remotely accurate depiction of the occupation. If this had been a Christian movie you would have Catholics up in arms over this sort of unreflected denunciation. The same applies for the portrayal of the Secretary of State, and virtually everyone else in the film, down to the little boy Jacob, whose attitude towards adults is simply insufferable and completely reflects the moronic portrayal of children in today's programming, as seen on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.
All of this leads us to the film's next big problem, which goes hand in hand with the aforementioned issues, the lack of likability of characters. The fact of the matter is that there is not a single likable character in the entire film, not even the story's heroine Helen Benson. With such underdeveloped and poorly defined parts, even caliber cast members such as Jennifer Connelly or Kathy Bates are wasted entirely, unable to squeeze and personality or depth out of their characters. Keanu Reeves' flat one-line delivery may be suitable for the character as such, but the complete lack of body language – which I suspect has been pushed for by the director to make him more "alien" – ultimately turns him into a drone that we would rather see blown to bits that in charge of our destiny. So in the end you will ask yourself, why should I root for anyone in this film, with the result that the film's ending simply doesn't satisfy as it should. Now compare all that to the 1951 Robert Wise film, aged as it may be, and it is easy to see how people were disappointed with this movie.

On the other hand, the film does deliver for the popcorn crowd. With big images, magnificent long distance shots hovering over Manhattan, big bangs, cool special effects of large scale destruction and a 100 foot robot from outer space with a laser beam shooting from his eyes that has the ability to heal and destroy likewise, I have to admit that part of me actually enjoyed the ride.

Being a brand new film produced largely in the digital domain it is hardly surprising that the 1080p high definition transfer presented on this Blu-Ray Disc is magnificent. Razor sharp and with plenty of detail it is a modern looking film that reigns your screen. Whether it's subtle hues and shades or bold blacks and vibrant colors, the transfer accurately reproduces each of them with incredible detail and vividness, making sure you will get the most bang for your buck.

The same is, of course, true for the audio, which is presented as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track here. Rock solid and powerful, the directional effects are phenomenal, and create an aggressive sound filed that engulfs the viewer. With its deep bass extension, the track holds plenty of bottom while the high end of the spectrum is served up equally well, all without any hint of distortion. Dialogues are well integrated and despite their aggressiveness, never drowned out by the sound effects or the music.

Arriving as a 3-disc Blu-Ray set, the release also contains a number of bonus materials, most notable, a Blu-Ray copy of Robert Wise's 1951 original movie on a separate disc. But the release also contains a commentary track by screenwriter David Scarpa, who is either completely unapologetic towards or utterly unaware of the level of nonsense he has heaved upon us. Be that as it may, it is easy to skip the track and move on to other bonus materials, such as the deleted scenes or the many featurettes covering various aspects of the film. They are your typical run-off-the-mill promo style featurettes without major highlights, so if you're not all that much into the film, you can easily skip them without worry you might be missing anything of importance. The release is rounded out by a Photo Gallery and a Digital Copy of the film.

Depending on what you expect, this remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still" could be a disappointment or a fun ride. Your mileage will vary, no doubt. I expected the absolute worst and came out enjoying a mindless scifi Hollywood spectacle. Forgettable yes, but not the bottom of the barrel I had prepared myself for to see. Sometimes you just have to take films at face value, I suppose.