The Day the Earth Stood Still

Posted on December 8, 2008 at 8:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Theme of possible world destruction, guns, sci-fi violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 1951
Date Released to DVD: 2008 ASIN: B00005JKFR

In the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, a spaceship landed in front of the Washington Monument to warn the people of earth that they were on the path to destruction. The problem then was the Cold War and nuclear arms race. In 2008, the remake has a space orb land in New York City and once again a humanoid-looking creature from another planet comes to earth because of another impending doom. “If the Earth dies, you die,” he says. “If you die, the Earth survives.”

Jennifer Connelly, who seems to enjoy sharing the screen with super-smart crazy guys (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Hulk”), plays Helen, a scientist brought in to try to help assess the threat level from the two beings to come out of the orb. The first would have done better to have had a scientist to assess his own threat level because as soon as it stepped out of the orb someone shot him. The second is a silent, colossus-like giant of a robot with an ominous glow through the eye-slit, standing as sentry.

Klaatu has assumed human form (Keanu Reeves) so that he can speak to the world leaders at the UN. But a suspicious Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) decides to treat him like a galactic terrorist, so soon Klaatu, Helen, and her stepson (Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith), are on the run. They make the obligatory visit to the Wise Man in the Woods (John Cleese, terrific as a Nobel award-winner for “altruistic biology”) and try to evade the efforts of military and law enforcement to capture them while Helen tries to demonstrate that humans are worth saving.

Director Scott Derickson is a committed Christian, and he has given the original story themes of sacrifice and redemption that will resonate with those who are open to a spiritual message. There is a reference to Noah’s Ark. Klaatu has the power to heal. He brings a dead man back to life and even walks on water. The most important themes are deeply spiritual as well, stewardship, respect for the interdependence of all things, and hope.

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Classic DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Rediscovered Classic Science-Fiction

7 Replies to “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

  1. My favorite concept from the movie is that we cannot live without the earth, but the earth can go one quite well without us.
    Regarding your thought about, “the larger theme of making friends with those who may appear at first to be different.” I commend the film “Enemy Mine” – a fantastic exploration of hostility, alliances, and love reaching beyond superficial boundries.
    May the Force be with you (and also with you) Live long and prosper!

  2. “Enemy Mine” is one of my favorites. Beautiful performances by Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. The tradition of reciting the names of the ancestors and the unexpected twist involving a child are very well done.

  3. Well,it’s just difficult for me to stomach any Keanu Reeves film.
    Sorry, he’s just not a good actor–my opinion. Liked the original and was hoping this would be a good remake, but will probably wait for it to come on TV sometime. Am very impressed with Jon Hamm, though. Have you seen “Mad Men” on AMC? Incredibly good acting, terrific writing and the era of ’50s and 60’s captured beautifully. Created by the man who gave us the Sopranos–David Chase. I positively go into withdrawal when the much-too-short season ends! Jon Hamm is someone definitely to watch–very good actor and oh-so-easy on the eyes! Did a hilarious spoof of himself on SNL.

  4. I never saw the original, but I did see the remake and I could watch this film over again and maybe own it when it comes out on DVD. I felt it was one of the better SCi-Fi films this year.
    I Hyped Day the earth stood still on Everhype and gave it 87% which I think is fairly accurate.
    I wouldn’t mind getting some opinions on it . If you get on there, rate me a 5 & request friendship.

  5. Never saw the original until this week. At first I chuckled at Gort — how stiff, how primitive — but by the end of the film I wasn’t thinking those thoughts. It’s what a good story does — makes you forget stuff like special effects. It’s why “Star Trek” the series endures.

  6. Admittedly, the special effects of this classic 1951 Science Fiction Film now look a little dated. But in their day, they were state of the art. Robert Wise had a great sense of darkness and light and used it in virtually every shot of the film. To me the interior shots of Klaatu’s space ship still look very modern even by today’s standards. We also have to remember that the original film was shot to be shown in a movie theater not on television. Gort looks much more ominous and foreboding in the correct screen format. This film had a great script and good acting with integrated special effects that supported the story, unlike todays “blockbusters” where the special effects take over the film.

  7. Thanks, Ric! I love the original and made it my DVD pick of the week this week. It was on AMC today and I watched part of it again. It didn’t have much of a budget but it holds up very well and you are right about Robert Wise. He made it a story with special effects instead of a special effects extravaganza.

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