The Day the Earth Stood Still
- Rob Carnevale
- 11 December 2008
As remakes go, Scott Derrickson’s re-imagining of Robert Wise’s 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still has more contemporary resonance than most. By substituting the threat of nuclear war for that posed by global warming, the film feels very much a product of its time. But given the optimism it places upon humanity’s capacity for change, it fails to ring true emotionally.
Just as in Wise’s original, mankind’s future is placed in the hands of alien visitor Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), who has been sent to judge its capacity for change in the wake of the environmental damage they have inflicted upon the planet. It’s up to Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith) to convince him that they are before it’s too late and he triggers their destruction.
Derrickson’s film adopts a refreshingly restrained approach to the inevitable fireworks that follow, slowly building towards the big bang moments and inviting plenty of thought. But he regrettably fluffs the emotional content by virtue of the fact his humans aren’t sympathetic enough to be worth saving. Smith’s Jacob, in particular, is so precocious that you may well be rooting for Klaatu to teach him a very stern lesson, while Connelly’s Dr Benson could do with some tips on exerting parental control. John Cleese and Kathy Bates also struggle to convince as, respectively, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a gung-ho Secretary of Defence.
The all-consuming need for optimism in American blockbusters eventually becomes an over-riding factor, too, depriving audiences of the type of provocative finale that would really have left them thinking. But if it’s spectacle you seek, the film does deliver some impressive effects late on, as well as some striking imagery, while Reeves – so often [unfairly] accused of finding acting an alien concept – does convince as the extra-terrestrial Klaatu. For once, then, we have a remake that doesn’t make it feel like time’s stood still.
General release from Fri 12 December.