Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Frank Release date: December 12, 2008 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
The Day The Earth Stood Still 2008 probably would be more successful if it had a different name. As it stands we can't help but compare it to the 1951 version - one of the best science fiction films ever made - directed by Robert Wise without special effects and color he used Patricia Neal as Helen and Michael Rennie as Klaatu, even Gort was a real person, his name was Lock Martin. Also, the very effective sound track is missing.
Taken alone this 2008 production even with a weak ending has some qualities to admire. Director Scott Derrickson with very little experience doesn't appear to have the magic touch or the skill that Robert Wise carried into the original, but he begins with a scene in 1928 in which we see Keanu Reeves in a very cold climate split open a clouded globe, all he gets from the encounter is a small patch on his wrist.
Jennifer Connelly's Helen Benson is a part of the science community who are charged with calculating why these globes are landing on the Earth. The major one settles in Central Park in New York. Working to determine what the alien is about they find Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) surrounded by a fleshy placenta like material which is cut away to reveal a human body just like the one which was sampled back in 1928.
Science fiction films often reflect fears of the time, back in 1951 it was nuclear power, here Klaatu has been directed to stop the destruction of the natural functions of the Earth which are caused by human beings.
NYPD swat teams can't stop him and panic erupts in the park and over the world. Klaatu with the help of Helen, who is convinced he is OK, roams in a blue suit and tie looking like the FBI or one of the Men in Black. As Secretary of Defense, Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) plays all the traditional tools but she can not stop nanite metal bugs whick attack humans and their constructed society, wiping them out as they pass. As Helen attempts to convince Klaatu human kind is worth saving, her son Jacob (Jaden Smith) is very effective as a pain in the neck.
In what might be a surprise John Cleese is very convincing as a serious Professor Jacob Barnhardt. In one scene which surpassed the original Klaatu and Barnhardt work a chalk board together to solve a persistent problem that Bernhardt can't solve alone. But Gort who dominated the first film is reduced to a special effect monster with a red single port for an eye. He is referred to as a powerful entity but in this version Klaatu has the power originally given to the robot, which makes the danger appear far less effective.
Rather than convincing the scientists and political leaders to get their act in order, this Klaatu listens to Helen, as she works to convince the alien that there is good on Earth and he should abandon his destructive mission.
While Director Derrickson keeps our interest early on with visual images and curiosity about Klaatu's mission he leaves Gort with little to do and he produces an uninteresting ending which leaves us with limited satisfaction.
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