Is It Just Me? ... or is the Day The Earth Stood Still remake equal to the original?

One Total Film writer argues the case…

In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film writer Paul Bradshaw asks, ‘Is it just me? … or is the Day The Earth Stood Still remake equal to the original?

Another day, another remake... Until someone decides to reboot Casablanca with Channing Tatum and Megan Fox, it’s hard to imagine an easier target than the Keanu Reeves-starring 2008 rejig of seminal sci-fi The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951).

Accused of desecrating the memory of a bona fide classic, it surely only avoided cleaning up at the 2009 Razzies because it was up against The Hottie & The Nottie and The Happening (for the record, it was beaten to Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off Or Sequel by Indy IV).


Nothing will ever dim the impact of the original – a bold, brave genre touchstone which elevated the B-movie – but critics need to get off the Keanu-bashing bandwagon.

The stories are basically the same – a stony-faced E.T. lands on Earth with a giant, silent henchman in tow. He warns us that we’re messing up the planet, threatens everyone with his big robot and leaves... but not until he’s learned lessons about life, love and humanity.

A film designed to shock a frightened world into action over the threat of nuclear armament, Day ’51was directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound Of Music) with cautious economy. By contrast, Scott Derrickson’s big-bucks remake is all glitzy FX and bankable A-listers. It’s all too easy to paint this as a conflict between old-fashioned American filmmaking on the one hand and overblown brainlessness on the other.

But Day ’08 is only as dumb and bombastic as Day ’51 is cheap and a bit tacky. A Washington set becomes a densely populated New York, a tall guy in a Lycra suit becomes a robotic behemoth – and garbled Cold War polemics become warnings about environmental destruction.


The lack of obvious political subtext makes Derrickson’s film look like it’s lowering the highbrow tone that Wise did so well to raise out of the genre’s pulpy roots. But yesterday’s arms race is today’s climate change; arguably, deforestation and ravaged natural resources pose as much as of a threat to the planet as nukes ever did.

Though he’s made some great films, from Point Break to The Matrix, Keanu Reeves is not a great actor. But he’s perfect for alien emissary Klaatu.

He might make a half-decent time-travelling stoner and a passable karate-chopping computer hacker, but this was surely the role he was born to play. Day ’08 whips up an epic, stormy tone where the original’s budget could only give us some empty soundstages and whitewashed backlots.

Derrickson’s one-man invasion might be heavy on the CG, but it’s actually highly impressive; here, Klaatu’s intergalactic warning reaches more than a few deserted streets.

What’s more, it seems a damn sight more believable that a skyscraper-sized Transformer could lay waste to the planet than a lanky member of Daft Punk in tin-foil over-pants. Remakes always start out in the shadow of their predecessors, and rightly so, but 50 years is more than enough to set two Days apart.

There’s plenty of room for a remake that’s as much timely allegory as it is sci-fi spectacle – and fares better on both fronts than the original.

Or is it just me?

Agree or disagree? Have your say below and a selection of the comments will be printed in our next issue.


    • dojj singh

      Nov 18th 2013, 16:04

      it was an easy film to remake, not a lot of goings on, a bit of special effects, job done, it was nearly as easy to do as war of the worlds

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    • eirikbull

      Nov 18th 2013, 17:46

      I really liked the remake of this, more so than the original, in fact. The special effects, I think, doesn't overshadow the story. It has a very creepy sense of dread to it, and Reeves is perfectly cast for the role. :)

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    • StevePotter

      Nov 18th 2013, 18:07

      Well, it's clearly not just you, but I wholly disagree with you. Everything about this movie felt off, from the acting to the idiotic decision to (SPOILER) turn Gort into a cloud of CGI bugs. Keanu Reeves was alright, and James Hong and John Cleese did fine in their tiny parts, but everything else was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

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    • durden

      Nov 19th 2013, 9:24

      this time around it's not just you.shocker!

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    • imrobbyrichmond

      Nov 30th 2013, 3:23

      I see where you're coming from Paul, but you miss the point. Keanu isn't the issue, Will Smith's son is. The boy is toxic waste to every film he touches. I find it had to believe Klaatu wouldnt destroy the human race simply just to rid us of his 'talents'. Jayden Smith is bad, so horribly, horribly bad he makes me want to punch walls at the mention of his name. I know he's a kid and he's learning, but he's certainly not inherited any of his fathers wit, charm or comedy timing. Steve Potter makes a valid point too, any sci-fi / comic-book movie where the bad guy/ evil thing/entity becomes a 'cloud of energy' (or anything like that) just sucks. As examples I give you Hulk (2003), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) and Green Lantern (2010)

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    • rhob60

      Dec 24th 2013, 20:04

      It's just you. This movie was a piece of s**t. The cast was boring and slept walk through a bunch of c**p CGI. There wasn't a single human moment in this. It was an excuse to make a green SF movie and show how humanity is f*****g up the planet. Oh gee, really? Well thanks for that news alert. Let's not forget the PC element. Let's have the single mom have a child of color, which added nothing to the story. Jennifer Connelly must have needed some cash, since she seemed to be on an opiate of some kind she emoted so little. As for Keanu, well, he sucked in this, but he usually sucks. This is one of the prime reasons classic, great movies, shouldn't be remake. How many remakes have sucked? It would take me a week to write that comment. Instead here's are a few that surpassed the original, The Fly, True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma. King Kong, This, and nearly every other remake are c**p. And this one is close to wearing the crown.

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