The Day The Earth Stood Still


This sci-fi reboot can’t convince us to love the alien…

As first encounters go, Robert Wise’s 1951 alien invasion flick set a sci-fi benchmark. It had an iconic robot, Gort, a flying saucer and an alien visitor who thawed the Cold War by warning us all to get along… or else.

It’s a genre classic – although arguably not a masterpiece. In other words, it’s ripe for a remake. 

This reboot pulls off one coup: its casting. Who better to play a spaced-out spaceman than blank-faced Keanu Reeves?

He lands in Central Park, gets shot by trigger-happy Marines then is whisked into government custody.

He looks weird, displaced, a true alien among us. It's a pleasing strangeness and colours the first half as director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) goes for maximum close encounter unease.

As the US government scrambles to deal with first contact, Jennifer Connelly’s astro-biologist is forcibly recruited by the military.

Derrickson clearly adores Independence Day-style doom, shooting his wad over military hardware straight out of Jane’s Defence Weekly, while morphing Gort into an enormous CGI homunculus with planet-destroying powers. Their guns are definitely bigger than ours. 

Escaping from custody, Keanu’s Klaatu goes on the run with Connelly and her adopted son (Jaden Smith, skirting perilously close to mawkish). But, as Klaatu struggles with his conscience – should he destroy humanity to save the planet? – The Day The Earth Stood Still starts to feel like it got it's own internal struggles to resolve.

The problem lies with a script that feels redrafted one too many times in search of contemporary resonance from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina. And, while the CGI-heavy action set-pieces sometimes thrill (like Gort’s ‘flash chamber’ escape) they can't quite overcome some dubious Hollywood rewrites in search of a big ending.

The original was an anti-war parable with a messianic E.T. offering Christian undertones. Here Old Testament rage blots out the peace ’n’ love message as Gort unleashes a pestilential plague of ravenous nano-bots and Keanu unleashes sub-Matrix superpowers that blow helicopters out of the sky.

War is bad seems to be the official line. Yet this reboot would much rather shoot to kill than come in peace. 

Jim Stevens



Cranking the action dial up to 11, Derrickson retools an iconic piece of sci-fi with lots of big guns but extra smarts would have been welcome. It’s bang up to date but a tad underwhelming.  Not the diaster some fanboys predicted. But not a great deal more either.  

Film Details

User Reviews

    • projectionist82

      Dec 11th 2008, 21:01


      for me this film had a chance to be an epic endding to the year,however,if you don't get a chance to view this on the IMAX then you may feel robbed of a great cinematic experience as this film lacked in duration and substance. the film on a whole was not too bad as it kept relevant to the times and how mankind uses and abuses the planet on a whole and the message of destruction is still there but i feel many may miss the point(s) made and just see this as a cgi-filled film!!!

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    • 02parsim

      Dec 12th 2008, 22:06


      I have never seen the original, so I can't compare the two. However the movie was a lot better than I expected it to be. And despite an ending that I actually really did not like, and some really horrendous dialogue in occasion, the movie did work as a good old fashioned popcorn movie. Keanu Reeves is suprisingly brilliant as the alien, possibly because he doesn't have to act human, always to his advantage. Connelly does some solid work and Cleese has a great cameo. A shame Jaden Smith is such a brat throughout the movie, and not once did I want his character to survive. The effects look amazing, GORT had some really cool moments, and all in all its a movie to see and just enjoy. Still as I said the ending isn't all that great, and there are moments you will roll your eyes at how bad the dialogue and plot is.

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    • mallardb

      Dec 18th 2008, 14:46


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    • Phoenix81

      May 7th 2009, 14:08


      WTF - Could have been so much more

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    • Quaid

      Jun 12th 2009, 13:46


      Films like this this really frustrate me. It was awful.

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