The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

PLOT:

In 1928, while on an expedition in the snowy mountains of India, a mountaineer (Keanu Reeves) encounters a glowing sphere. He then finds himself awakening after a sudden loss of consciousness, with the sphere now gone and a scar on his hand. In the present day, the United States government hastily assembles a group of scientists, including Princeton professor Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), to formulate a survival plan when it is feared that a large unknown object with a speed of 3×107m/s is due to impact Manhattan in approximately 78 minutes.

The object is a large spherical biological spaceship, which slows down and lands gently in Central Park. A being (taking on the appearance of the man from the opening scene of the film) named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) emerges from the sphere accompanied by a large robot. Klaatu, a representative of a group of alien races, has come to assess whether humanity can reverse the environmental damage it has inflicted on planet Earth.

In the ensuing confusion, Klaatu is shot, but survives. The large robot activates and proceeds to disrupt all electrical systems in New York City, including many of the defense systems that the military has mustered in a perimeter around the spaceship. Before the robot can do any further damage, Klaatu orders it to shut down. While recovering from his injuries, Klaatu is detained by Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates), the United States Secretary of Defense, and is barred from speaking to the United Nations. Klaatu manages to escape with the help of Helen, and he soon finds himself eluding the authorities throughout Newark, New Jersey, and the forested Highlands, with Helen and her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith).

Meanwhile, the presence of the sphere has caused a worldwide panic. The United States military manages to capture the robot after it thwarts their attempts to destroy the sphere using unmanned aerial vehicles and sidewinder missiles. Klaatu meets with Mr. Wu, another alien who had been assigned to live with the humans for years. Upon learning of humanity’s destructive tendencies, Klaatu decides that humans shall be exterminated to ensure that the planet—with its rare ability to sustain complex life—can survive. Mr. Wu, however, decides to stay on Earth, having seen another side to humanity that he is unable to explain to Klaatu. Klaatu orders smaller spheres previously hidden on Earth to begin taking animal species off the planet, and Jackson fears that a cataclysm is imminent.

The robot, named “GORT” (Genetically Organized Robotic Technology) by the United States government, is subjected to experiments in an underground facility in Virginia. It then transforms itself into a swarm of self-replicating insect-like nanites that begin destroying everything in their path back to Manhattan, including an armored battalion of the U.S. Army.

After speaking with Nobel Prize-winning Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese) about how his own species went through drastic evolution to survive its sun’s demise, Klaatu is convinced by Helen and Jacob that humans can change their ways and are worth saving. The three go toward the sphere in Central Park, where Klaatu warns that even if he manages to stop GORT, there will be a price to the human way of life. The nanobot cloud arrives before they can reach the sphere and they hide under a footbridge.

There, it is revealed that Jacob and Helen have been infected by the nanites. She pleads with Klaatu to save Jacob. Klaatu saves both of them by transferring the infection to his own body, then sacrifices himself to stop GORT by walking through the nanites to the sphere and touching it. His actions cause the sphere to emit a massive pulse which destroys GORT, saving humanity, but at the price of all of Earth’s technology becoming useless and immobile. Klaatu disappears, and the giant sphere leaves Earth.

REVIEW:

Let me preface this by saying, I’m a huge fan of the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, and detest remakes, as you can read in my post, “Movies that should not be made”. Personal feelings aside, I said that when I had the chance to watch this film, as I do with most remakes, I would keep an open mind.

The makers of this film tries to convince fans of the original that this was a good decision, by saying it was a story that needed to be updated. No film NEEDS to be updates. I have yet to see a decent remake, that I am aware of.

In trying to not be compared to the original, this film tries too hard to create a new story and use special effects. Neither works. The effects seem to be just thrown in as a tool to create some excitement for this otherwise rather dull film. The giant spheres don’t really do anything special in regards to the story, and are, in essence just expesive props.

As bad as the spheres were, GORT was actually pretty cool. I wasn’t too crazy about the locusts, though. Especially since they seem to be another form of GORT. One would think that when Klaatu stops the process the locusts would return to the form of GORT, but rather they  just drop to the ground. To me, that just made no sense.

The beginning makes no sense either. Keanu Reeves apparently is a doctor who discovers something, but that’s as far as they go with it. No other explanation is given about the opening scene. My guess is the writers figured they needed to do something different, so why not have the main character in the frozen tundra discovering something.

The acting in this thing was terrible at best. Keanu Reeves, while capturing the robotic nature of Klaatu, just doesn’t have the cold warmth that Michael Rennie had in the original. Reeves is known for his robotic acting, and this is probably the reason he was cast. I don’t want to take anything away from him, because I hear he really wanted this role and all, but I just wasn’t convinced. Character wise, I was impressed with Klaatu’s powers, but we could have done without the placenta birth. That seems to be becoming a signature of Reeves nowadays.

Jennifer Connelly is a beautiful and talented actress, of that there is no question, but she may have been more robotic and out of place than Reeves in this film. With the exception of one heart-warming scene with her stepson near the end of the film, she shows no emotion, at least none that we can tell. At times it feels as if she’s just reading the lines straight from the script or teleprompter. Honestly, I think it would have been better to have taken someone from high school theater than for her to butcher this role that Patricia Neal immortalised. Even if Neal would never have done this character, Connelly is too talented to give such a horrendous performance.

Jaden Smith’s character needs to get over his dad dying. It seemed like in every scene he was saying something about his dad dying. This little kid was as annoying as many children tend to be in film. It may be too early to make this generalization, especially based on this one role, but he lacks his dad’s talent and charisma as an actor.

The military needs to learn to stop shooting any and everything that they think is harmful and learn to ask some questions. This seems to be a recurring theme, especially in sci-fi films. The policy of shoot first, ask questions later is usually what gets the Earth nearly blown up everytime. In this film, they set off GORT, who is nigh indestructible. Heaven forbid Klaatu not been able to shut him down. Stupid military dogs!

The fact that this is a remake put aside, this is not a good film. The effects feel forced upon the audience, the acting sucks, and the plot doesn’t move anywhere. You’ll find yourself feeling as if the Earth is standing still as this thing takes forever to finish. In relation to the original…well, for me, it feels like they’re trying too hard to not be the original and in doing so butcher its legacy. Forget all the nonsense of the message needs t be said for today’s generation. If they really want to do the message, then make an original picture, don’t destroy a classic like The Day the Earth Stood Still. I feel so dirty after watching, I need to go back and see the original again and never speak of this hot mess. People wonder why I hate remakes, its because of films like this!

2 out of 5 stars (they have GORT to thank for that generous rating)

3 Responses to “The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)”

  1. […] The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) […]

  2. […] nothing to change my mind about remakes. If anything, this was almost as much a waste of time as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), which, coincidentally, also starred Jaden Smith, […]

  3. […] remakes (and I already hate and despise the things) that Keanu Reeves has been in, the other being The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). This film has nothing that any guy is going to be interested in, save for Lauren Graham in her […]

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