Classic Film Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

‘This is how not to remake a film’

The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2008

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Kyle Chandler


If a remake wants to do something different: great, but you need to retain the overall themes that the original tried to convey. This remake of the 1951 classic does not do that. Instead it takes the names of the characters and subsequently changes nearly everything about it. Surely it’d be easier and cheaper to take inspiration and make your own film? As in the original, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) arrives on earth, Gort in tow, only not in a spaceship but in a giant round orb-ball-thing and is shot immediately after exiting the orb-ball-thing. The government soon want to interrogate Klaatu to discover his secrets and his reasoning for coming to Earth (by the way Klaatu isn’t immediately presented as a human, he somehow adopts a human persona while recovering from his bullet wound), only to be befriended by Helen (Jennifer Connelly).

While it’s not the worst film I’ve seen this year, it’s still pretty bad. For one the CGI is too much when it doesn’t need to be (both Gort and the orb-ball-thing are CGI when they would have worked just as well and been just as imposing had they not been) and two the story is all over the place. Klaatu is shot for no reason what-so-ever at the start (at least the original had a shooting based on a misunderstanding), and then Helen believes and wants to save him for no reason what-so-ever and then Klaatu decides the Earth should be destroyed but Helen is now speaking on behalf of the planet when she says we can change in an effort to save it. Only once does Klaatu really mention wanting to speak to the United Nations or a group of leaders, and when that is not possible he seeks an earlier alien arrival who has studied us for over 70 years and bases the overall solution on his assessment. Klaatu and Gort also have exceedingly immense power where they can almost do anything the plot requires.

The Day the Earth Stood Still, 4

He’s immediately labelled and treated as a villain, and, unlike the original, he is a villain. He’s ready and willing to destroy the Earth rather than warn it to change. Their immense power is also a distraction as it’s never specifically labelled what they can or can’t do; for example Klaatu can revive a policeman but not Helen’s ex-husband (probably because his body has decomposed but Klaatu just says he ‘can’t’); he can also take the eating bugs out of Helen and Jacob’s (Jaden Smith) body but before that the eating bugs were eating everything (they are also shown to eat things slowly and quickly giving them no credibility in moments of crisis). Everything about him is seen as a villain who the planet should fear and that is not the theme of the original film; the original told a story of a man who was feared for no reason; in this film there is a reason, so we can’t buy into her saving him as much.

Also, Reeves is terrible as Klaatu; he’s emotionless and stone-faced all the time. Jaden Smith is quite annoying at times, too (for some reason they had Helen be his step-mother after Jacob’s mother and father both died during his lifetime which just means they argue throughout the whole film). No likable characters, an incoherent story, too much CGI and no theme to take away: this is how not to remake a film.


Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * ¾

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