Day the Earth Stood Still, The (UK - BD RB/C)
Our Marcus feels that the earth got a raw deal in this new Fox sci-fi remake...
With an unidentified flying object heading towards earth, the US government get into a bit of tizz and call in their top scientists, including Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) to work out how to minimise the damage of a direct hit. Just before the predicted devastation, all plans are forced to change as the object turns out to be some kind of vessel and reveals to have aboard a traveller from another world, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) along with his giant robot sidekick, Gort.
Giving a second spin on the 1951 classic, 20th Century Fox finally get around to making their twenty-first century update on The Day the Earth Stood Still. I’ll start my review by saying that giving this a fair review for what it is, rather than where it’s come from may be difficult. I consider the original The Day the Earth Stood Still a near perfect movie, even when taking into account the limitations from the era it was made in. The fifties original is packed full of character, its events feel realistic and grounded despite its sci-fi angle and Michael Rennie’s performance as Klaatu make him one of the best aliens to have ever graced the big screen.
Going into this new remake, all the signals immediately throw up to let you know you’re in for a modern, big budget, flashy sci-fi movie and even more specifically, one from 20th Century Fox. This is a mixture of both good and bad. Good, because Fox have a long history of great big event sci-fi and bad because of late it’s all gotten a little run of the mill and, dare I say, bland.
Having no real visual flair, Scott Derrickson’s movie feels very close to the X-Men trilogy in its general feel. It has the same palette of colours, the same lighting and even the same underwhelming incidental score with pretty much every scene. The movie stumbles through a weird opening credits introduction with Keanu in 1928 discovering an orb and setting off the first bit of intrigue as to what is going to get changed from what we know of the original. Once we get out of that we’re introduced to Jennifer Connolly’s character, which stacks up with her Betty Ross performance in Hulk as reliable lead role for this sort of fare, but rarely that interesting and as soon as they introduce that she has a kid (Jaden Smith) and it’s a relationship on the verge of collapse, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
Once the movie has set up the players (thankfully quite brief), we get into what we’re here to see—aliens landing in New York. Once again this starts off a little too flashy for my tastes. I’m so over spheres of light replacing good ol’ fashion alien ships. I don’t care if they back up the science of it, I don’t care if it lets studios show off their CGI abilities, give me a ship, I’m old school like that. Anyway, moving on to Klaatu’s arrival, this is actually quite a nice change. I really enjoyed the organic suit idea they opted for as a spacesuit and while his introduction is nowhere near as effective as in the original, it sticks to the simplicity of it (despite the big sphere of light) and of course after an itchy trigger finger screwing events up, we get to see Gort.
Judging by what we could have ended up with (more on that later), Gort is thankfully quite close to the original design, albeit much bigger, more human in form and with an all new snazzy sparkly surface. He still has his eye laser and does a stellar job at being intimidating by just standing there and all in all nothing much has changed, in his introduction anyway. In this remake Gort gets a little more time in the spotlight (and why not, Gort rocks), he gets a bit of an expanded sub plot where super cliché army guys keep trying to blow him up, and he even gets transported to an army base allowing him to show off the real reason for his inclusion on this mission to earth. I won’t spoil it, but this time round it’s more than just carrying chicks back to the ship—way more.
Anyway, back to the big name of the movie: Keanu ‘Ted Theodore Logan’ Reeves. His spin on Klaatu has taken a lot of flack, and not all of it is unfounded. Michael Rennie brought so much to the character of Klaatu in the original—charisma, authority and subtlety. Keanu has opted for another route and I didn’t feel it was that bad a decision. Firstly it plays to Keanu’s strengths and whether you’re a fan or not, you’ll probably agree that he does a great job at emotionless, internal and managing to keep that look of intrigue on his face no matter the circumstance. Secondly, this ain’t the same role for Klaatu. In the original he was here to deliver a warning and his only stipulation was it had to be to all of the world leaders as opposed to giving the knowledge to just one power. Keanu’s Klaatu is here to tell us that we had our chance and its game over.
And this is where it all starts to fall apart. Klaatu is no longer here to study, he’s here as a final warning and because, as in all sci-fi flicks, our governments shoot before they listen, that warning doesn’t even have the chance to really get out there. Klaatu’s away and on the run in the real world, rounding up animals to be saved, while being driven around by Jennifer Connolly and putting up with Jaden Smith’s constant annoying kid-ness, which is all okay, until he starts laying on the tears and you know where all this is going to go.
Annoyingly this all ends up going down the route you’d expect with big budget event movies of late, with only slight echoes remaining from the originals subtle genius. Klaatu and Gort’s relationship is seemingly nonexistent, considering how the events play out with the two. There’s no real connection between Connolly and Reeves either, which is bizarre as they spend so much time together and as for the Earth standing still for the day, that’s more an afterthought that comes into play very late in the game. By this point I was pretty bored with the very forced and frankly over done (and not just in this movie, but in the genre as a whole) shows of emotion that highlight just how worthy a species we are and maybe we deserve to be saved after all.
As I said earlier, the look of The Day the Earth Stood Still has much in common with the X-Men movies, especially the first two. It has a slightly darker look to it in places, but generally, there are a lot of cool blues, muted greens and overcast grey surroundings as opposed to flashy and bright.
Black levels are also well presented. The darker scenes have many layers of black, from deep to slightly greyer, all of which are impressive. A noticeable highlight in this respect was when the helicopters were travelling over the city at night. The blackness of the city backdrop with the bright city lights glowing was a real HD standout moment, which is more than can be said for the rest of the movie.
Grain levels are slight but always apparent, as with the style of the photography. The only real glitch in the transfer, other than never standing out above the crowd, was the majority of CG shots were totally noticeable. It's not that bad in regards to detail or realism but how it looks within the scenes always screamed CG—from glowing spheres, everything Gort did, all the way through to simpler things such as the many, many helicopters in movie. It was all a bit jarring.
Other than a few standout moments, the best thing I can say about this DTS-HD track, is that it’s consistent. As with many big budget Fox movies, scenes are rarely quiet. There’s always a presence of incidental score, helicopters overhead, soldiers running, things like that. Let’s just say your 5.1 system will always have something to do.
As for those standouts I mentioned, the scenes with the nanites fill the room with their sheer power, even if they didn’t feel that dynamic. Gort’s opening screech did the business as well, spreading through the speakers well and coming with a nice bit of oomph behind it.
Opening up with an X-Men trilogy trailer for Blu-ray we get our usual big budget Fox movie menu. Selection wise, the first offering is 'In Movie Features' which gives the viewer different colours options to push while watching the movie to access a few things for your extra viewing pleasure.
The green button offers up the writer, David Scarpa’s commentary, which between the long silences, was filled with his views on what was changed from the original script and details on his original ideas for remake (Fox edits strike again methinks). The blue button offers up a picture-in-picture Pre Viz, FX footage and photos, which incidentally seems to be the same picture in picture that's offered up when selecting 'Klaatu's Unseen Artefacts' from the main menu. Lastly the yellow button brings up the movie's storyboards picture in picture.
Next up are Deleted Scenes (01:56 HD) which is three slight additions between scenes which at just under two minutes for three deleted scenes hardly even seemed worth the cut.
'Build Your Own Gort' is a dull little game to fiddle with many of terrible unused designs for Gort, which leads us into 'Unleashing Gort' (13:52 HD) which chronicles the months and months of work involved in re-imagining the Gort design (all of which were awful) before someone stood up and mentioned that maybe the original design might be the way to go. Shame they didn't stop someone suggesting his new set of powers for the movie.
On to the making of, 'Re-imagining the Day' (30:06 HD). This is all quite generic and again reminds me of X-Men, as this making of is pretty close to how they presented theirs on the DVDs. Basically half of the time focuses on casting, then we move through director and SFX, all while talking lots about the original.
‘Watching the Skies: In Search of Extra Terrestrial Life’ (23:08 HD) is an attempt to base all of this in some sort of real science, with talks from S.E.T.I. astronomers and real life scientists while showing clips from the movie. 'The Day the Earth was Green’ (14:04) gives us a look at Fox’s pledge to make all of their productions carbon neutral by 2010 and how this one was their first real step to making green movies, with Hybid cars on set and being more environmentally sensitive.
Outside all of this there’s a batch of still galleries (Concept Art, Storyboards and Production Designs) and the theatrical trailer (01:48).
Reading my review back, I've probably been a little bit harder on this remake than I intended to be. The Day the Earth Stood Still does what many a remake does. It’s over indulgent, the makers think they are expanding on the elements the fans want them to, but because of this miss the point a lot of the time and the whole thing ends up as a very different movie altogether. Overall, It’s not quite as honourable a the latest King Kong remake (even though it shares many of the same problems), but it gets closer to the mark than Burton’s Planet of the Apes re-imagining did.
The A/V doesn’t really do enough to make it stand out amongst the crowd, but it’s still a solid addition to the Blu-ray catalogue and even though the list of features seems vast, it’s all a little typical of this sort of movie and I doubt will hold many viewers' attention for too long.
The Day the Earth Stood Still isn’t as bad as many critics have said and probably even a little better if you aren’t familiar with the original. While it never really gets that exciting and the modern environmental issues aren't as effective as the original theme, there’s enough in here to enjoy at least once.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 20th April 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Russian
Subtitles: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish
Extras: In-Movie Features, Build Your Own Gort, Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts: Picture-in-Picture Track, Build Your Own Gort, Deleted Scenes: Equipment is Issued to the Scientists; Helen and Granier Discuss the Shot; Extended Version of Klaatu Being Wheeled Down Hallway, Re-Imagining ‘The Day’, Unleashing Gort, Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life, The Day the Earth was ‘Green’ , Audio Commentary with Screenwriter David Scarpa, Still Galleries, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connolly, Jaden Smith
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi and Thriller
Length: 103 minutes
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