DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE
An alien spacecraft in the shape of a globe lands in Manhattan's Central Park to deliver Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and a giant robotic bodyguard, and soon other, smaller globes land all around the world, spreading panic. The US authorities collect specialist scientists to prepare for the aftermath of an alien invasion, including bio-physicist Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), who is minding her step son Jacob (Jaden Smith) after her husband's death. Helen wins Klaatu's trust and learns that he is part of the interplanetary plan to save earth from its deadly inhabitants, who are destroying it. Horrified, she pleads with him to avert the catastrophe.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
At the casting session for the role of the alien, Klaatu, the filmmakers sought the actor who could do wooden; 'Keanu Reeves' came the chorus from around the table. For contrast, they cast the emotionally open and communicative Jennifer Connelly as the woman who must convince Klaatu to save the human race. By this time, the damage had been done and the new screenplay was written. Instead of the 1950s mindset - postwar, cold war, fear of aliens - it's been resettled into the mindset of today - man's inhumanity to the planet.
But throughout the movie, the filmmakers seem to reference the 1951 editorial stand of the original, making the US authorities as warmongering and violent as they can. In America, the first response to anything unusual is to point a gun at it. The second is to shoot it - with lots of big guns. When an alien extends his arm for a handshake, you blast the mothersucker with your best shot ...
The aliens have come to get rid of the pesky humans who are choking the planet to death, along with its rare natural resources and wildlife. The alien orbs that descend to earth look very much like the earth looks from outer space. But they bring special effects .... The giant robotic weapon that's shaped like a man except for his head, which is a featureless helmet with a slit to allow a powerful light to shine. Geeky, nerdy 1950s elements like this are so out of keeping with today's mindset and today's acceptable sci-fi fantasies as to be ludicrous. That's the risk you take when you drag a 1950s sci-fi movie into the 21st century; you lose the psychological context of the times in which it was made.
The screenplay gives birth to an annoying 8 year old, Jacob (Jaden Smith), whose mother died when he was a baby and whose father, an army engineer, died after he got remarried - to Helen (Connelly). Considering the boy's skin colour and features, it's evident that both his parents were black. The boy provides a suitably sentimental subplot, to fill out what is still an empty and pretentious script. It doesn't go anywhere and withers into its own zero hole for a meaningless ending.
But this is a critic proof film: the majority of those shelling out for tickets don't care what critics say. They don't read reviews. They look for signs of cool FX. It was a great little B movie then, and it's an ugly big B movie now.
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DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE (M)
CAST: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler, Robert Knepper, James Hong, John Rothman
PRODUCER: Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, Erwin Stoff
DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson
SCRIPT: David Scarpa (1951 screenplay Edmund H. North)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman
MUSIC: Tyler Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Brisbin
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2008