Walking out of the theater, the negativity looming through the halls was almost shocking, considering how well thought-out the remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was. Granted the 20th Century Fox holiday disaster pic is far from perfect, but there’s still a lot there that makes it worth checking out this holiday season.
While taking on any remake these days seems to be taboo, revisiting a classic such as the 1951 film of the same name, directed by Robert Wise, seems liked a dead-end from the beginning. Yet, a quick trip back to the original would prove that remaking the black and white classic was not only a great idea, but also necessary.
I don’t want to sit here and review the original film, but I will point out some obvious flaws that drive me crazy. Something has always pissed me off about the original was Michael Rennie ‘s performance as Klaatu, an alien sent to Earth to save mankind from their magnetism to war. Klaatu I supposed to be over our feeble emotions, omnipotent if you will, yet he walks around Washington with his nose in the air completely arrogant and annoyingly cocky. He’s a flippin’ know-it-all and it makes absolutely no sense why he’s be the one to judge our society. Scott Derrickson and co. fix this problem in the remake where Keanu Reeves plays the news and improved Klaatu, who plays the role strikingly fierce. Many of the reviewers after the film were slamming his performance, but on closer observation, and with a little logical thinking, it becomes clear that he nails it on the nose. In the remake Klaatu is sent to Earth to save to EARTH from mankind, as opposed to us being a threat to the alien race. Reeves plays Klaatu as an alien who is on a mission and dead-f*cking-serious… we’re killing our planet, and one day they might need it. So his goal is to destroy us.
David Scarpa does a fabulous job of modernizing such a silly story and making it believable and creepy. The unfolding of the events is strategically placed and the characters are well developed. One of the problems with Scarpa’s screenplay are the hideous choices of dialogue. There are some horrid lines and awful delivery that will most likely have you cringing instead of laughing (I still don’t know which is worse).
Director Scott Derrickson did a pretty solid job of taking the screenplay he had to work with and creating tension. He made this dated and cheesy sci-fi movie feel more like a serious apocalyptic horror film, while also keeping the message in tact. One of his only major, major flaws is that he makes the mistake in making New York a little too desolate. While the giant robot GORT is standing guard, there’s not a single human in site (other than the army). It’s impossible to believe that, in a situation like this, that there wouldn’t be a single person not interested in seeing this giant robot on display in the middle of NYC. I’m sure there are tanks and soldiers standing guard all over the place, but people would find a way. SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW also makes the fatal flaw, which has been known to capsize an entire film.
Speaking of GORT, while the design was pretty rad, the special FX work was shoddy at best. Having a completely CG object placed in front of a CG backdrop only makes it look like we’re watching a videogame, or a crappy Disney movie. It makes no sense why everything had to look so incredibly digital, especially GORT. And in the finale, you can see the layers clear as day between Jennifer Connelly and the ground behind her – seeing it in digital only made it more obvious.
All in all, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a descent film, with some hefty flaws. With a pretty solid story and believable acting (I love John Cleese’s scene), the film does give you plenty of reason to see it. It really is the perfect “family” holiday thriller (the edgy side of Christmas) and carries a message that is so perfectly fine-tuned to our problems of today it might actually make you feel a little guilty. If a movie can entertain you and make you reflect on your lifestyle, there’s got to be something good there….