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The Day the Earth Stood Still

Nicola Mostyn says finally Keanu finds a role he can excel in. Shame about the film

Published on December 16th 2008.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

In 1951 Robert Wise directed the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, a story written by Edmund H North, apparently in response to the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The original used the idea of alien intervention to highlight issues of violence on earth. 50 years on things haven’t changed so much, and this remake by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) merely substitutes worries about the world-ending potential of nuclear weapons for contemporary but no less frightening concerns such as terrorism and global warming.

As the film begins it is 1928 and an explorer, played by Keanu Reeves, makes a strange discovery in a snowstorm. Chipping through a strange globe of light covered in ice he passes out, coming to hours later to find the globe gone and a small patch of skin removed.

Cut to present day New York and scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is drafted in to help deal with a crisis: something from space is heading for Earth, its impact imminent. When the sphere lands safely in Central Park, it releases a giant robot and Klaatu (Reeves), an alien in a human body. As Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) goes on the offensive and makes plans to interrogate Klaatu, the extra-terrestrial tells Connolly that he is here to save the Earth. But after helping him escape captivity, she finds that Klaatu’s intentions are not as benevolent as they seemed…

Derrickson must have been having a little joke with the casting of Keanu as Klaatu. Watching Reeves attempt to express emotion has long been rather like watching a bear try to fasten a bow tie, so he is perfect for this role of an alien trying to get used to his new physiology, nailing the blank, unfeeling delivery in a way a more expressive actor might have struggled with.

This leaves most of the emoting to Connolly, who makes a good job of the well meaning step-mother who tries her hardest even if the circumstances are against her. But orphaned stepson Jacob (Will Smith's offspring, Jaden) seems to be included solely to prove this character trait and Smith spends the majority of the film getting in and out of a car and whining.

Sadly, Smith is not the only pointless factor in the film. Despite the story’s impressive heritage and competent cast, The Day the Earth Stood Still somehow manages to be completely underwhelming. There are some very implausible moments, such as when we are asked to believe that Klaatu – an alien life form just captured by the government – is left alone in a room with his interrogator with nobody even watching them through a window. Yep, I’m sure this is the exact point at which the Secretary of Defence would choose to go and have a cup of tea. There are too many more 'Well, that wouldn’t happen' moments to mention and while sci-fi fans don’t mind stretching their imaginations for a good cause, such unlikely plotting just comes over as lazy writing.

The effects are impressive, as you’d expect, with a lovely Trojan horse element incorporated via the robot, but the messages of the film are either underplayed or rammed down the audience’s throat. The film cranks the noise up aggressively loud whenever the army is involved (yes, we’ve got it, war is bad) but fails to fully develop the movie’s central theme; that man is threatening the planet with his actions, a planet which, since it is able to sustain many forms of life, is more important than we are.

The result is a rather ho-hum way to pass a couple of hours, a movie which trundles along in an unspectacular fashion and then speeds to its conclusion with a weak, cheesy message about the human race. Namely: yes, we are murdering, nonsensical idiots, but come on, you’ll love us once you get to know us. Unlike Klaatu, on this evidence I wasn’t all that convinced.


The Day the Earth Stood Still (12A) is on general release.

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zabzyDecember 16th 2008.

when they say "The Earth" stood still do they only really focus on North America?

GordoDecember 16th 2008.

This film was so bad Gordo was rooting for the Aliens. It was dire.

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