The Day The Earth Stood Still DVD review

Kev finds the messages a bit too mixed in this remake of the 50s sci-fi classic....

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Now this is an odd one: part of the way through this half-preachy remake, starring Keanu ‘Klaatu’ Reeves and the coolest giant humanoid automaton this side of the X-Men cartoon series, I considered that this film was a keeper for anyone, purely for containing a universal truth. That truth is that we as humans, in complacency, are a bit rubbish. Yet what’s odd is in the end, despite an enthusiastic moral philosophy which would normally get me on side, The Day The Earth Stood Still is hard to recommend to any save obsessives of the ‘Earth, it’s impending doom time’ genre.

The setup is Keanu Reeves, abducted at the outset, returning to Earth some 80 years later as the shell for an alien that has come to save it. Bizarre race that we are, we’re as perplexed as always that any life-form (a) actually exists, though we always assume they do, and (b) should come to our planet considering they need to step in and do something to turn things around. But that’s what happens and so, as humans do, the citizens of Earth (or, the United States as these things tend to pan out) have to deal with it. And deal with it they do, in the most ham-fisted, narrow-minded and painfully realistic way.

The plot here claims that if aliens did arrive, and happened to be more knowledgeable than us (of course, they’re mere arrival suggests they would be), we’d feel threatened and claim, sulking all the while, we need no help from nosey extra-terrestrials who have travelled half the universe to lend a hand.

It’s probably true as well. If an alien parked neatly outside the UN headquarters tomorrow and requested an audience, what nation wouldn’t secretly be readying the troops ‘just in case’? When knee-deep in this philosophical jostling, the film is undoubtedly right and it’s hard to disagree, but it’s not the mistrust of aliens and our questionable nature that this remake had to get right. Rather, it’s the ‘agenda’ of climate change and the act of getting that subject easily sharing a stage with a discussion about why humans are imperfect. Why you should never attempt to attack an indestructible 50ft tall robot that has done nothing but act in zen-like defence, is a bonus, but it only serves to further illustrate our obvious inadequacies, which in itself does not make a film.

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Unfortunately then, despite Keanu acting in what some refer to as his ‘perfect’ oddball, alien role, and some solid support from both Jennifer Connelly (‘we can change’, Dr. Helen Benson) with Jaden Smith (the naïve, ‘we should kill it’, Jacob Benson), the story seems to shuffle along, never really sure of whether to lecture the audience of our own wrong-doing, convince the aliens of our virtue, or turn into an all-out Us vs Them. Because of this there’s not too much left to recommend either.

Without wanting to give much away to new viewers, even at the resolution – itself coming after communications rapidly become strained – nothing is particularly resolved and the whole episode seems to have changed very little in the human mindset. Because of this, it’s not essential viewing. Perhaps the 2008 version here lacks the clout of the 1951 classic and its message of peace so soon after hellish war. Perhaps, as the film suggests, we need extreme situations to really learn lessons, but more than messaging, films need to entertain.

As for extras, very disappointingly there are none, not even a commentary pointing out derivative decisions. The options available, ‘Play Movie’, ‘Language Selection’ and ‘Scene Selection’ are measly, though would you believe that in choosing a language, the ‘English Descriptive’ option for those with poor sight is almost poetic in places. Ironic really, considering the film it commentates never really gets into a rhythm.


2 stars
1 stars

More musings from Kevin can be found at his blog,

The Day The Earth Stood Still is released on 20th of April.

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2 out of 5