The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)


Curiosity is one of humanity’s driving forces and has led to many of our species finest achievements. It can also have a very negative impact, after all we are told the “curiosity killed the cat”.  For over four years I have managed to avoid watching Scott Derrickson’s ill conceived remake of the 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. I maintained this strong stance because the movie upon release received universally bad reviews (although this did not seem to harm its box returns) and that the very notion of attempting to reboot such an iconic piece of cinema, seemed to beggar belief. This morning I foolishly gave in and watched it. All 103 minutes of it.

I’ll keep this fairly short as I don’t really want to waste to much time on such a poor film. Considering the resources that were available to such a studio as Fox, you’d have thought they’d have managed something a little better than this effort. So here are a few bullet points which to my mind catalogue just some of the failings in the movie. They are in no particular order. Feel free to add additional ones of your own


  • Why cast Keanu Reeves? He’s not a actor known for his dramatic range. The central character, Klaatu is supposed to be and unemotional and detached individual, who slowly warms to human emotions through his interaction with others. Reeves makes no such emotional journey and therefore lacks any gravitas or the sage-like quality that Klaatu inherently has.
  • The focus of the plot is not on man’s war like nature but our impact on the environment. A very contemporary issue I hear you cry but it is delivered in a rather patronising manner as if by some post modern parent. I have no problem with the notion of exploring a globally relevant themes but draw the line at being badgered and hectored,especially by Hollywood.
  •  The production reeks of film making by executive committee. All demographics are represented and all stereotypes are reinforced. Single Mothers (who work hard and are understanding), appealing mix race children, warmongering Americans (this film depicts the US military to be even dumber than they usually are!) and best of all, the avuncular academic who speaks with great conviction and gravitas (who is therefore  British and  played by John Cleese).
  • Once the plot line has advanced beyond a certain point and the moral posturing has reach critical mass, it is then time to defer to large budget special effects. They are a wonderful collection of show reels for the various companies that produced them but simply do not advance the story or embellish the movie in any positive way.


The film ends with the world being saved from destruction but at a catastrophic price. A huge EMP destroys all electronics and technology, thus plunging the human race into a new dark ages. Now please go with me on this next point as I think it illustrates a massive logical flaw in the plot. Klaatu lectures us on the fact that human are hostile, war like and rape the planet for resources. Surely if all technology ceased to work instead of bringing the human race together, it would simply cause more war and mayhem as the world descended into anarchy fighting over the remaining resources. Not exactly a beneficial situation and somewhat contradictory to Klaatu’s original mandate. It would be an ecological disaster.

I could go on but I won’t. Simply put The Day the Earth Stood Still is bad cinema all round. Another example of a pointless remake that seem to regularly clutter the multiplexes each year. Who was the intended audience for this film? It’s too talky for the young, not enough things get blown up for teenagers and the politics insult the intelligence of any adult. Do yourself a favour and watch the Robert Wise original. Enjoy its religious and idealogical symbolism. Savour the genre defining sound track by Bernard Herrmann and revel in the immortal lines “Klaatu barada nikto!”  If you are a ardent Keanu Reeves fan I would refer you to one of his earlier works such as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which is far more entertaining and edifying.

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