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...or you could just play Shadow of the Colossus
The Day The Earth Stood Still -- 2008

(originally posted in slightly different form by Jamie Kelwick at his own site -- www.the-usher.com.)

Hollywood's fascination with remaking old movies continues, but when attempting to remake a true classic of the science fiction genre then it better be good. Unfortunately this definitely isn't.

Sometimes a remake of a 1950s science fiction B-Movie can surpass the original. Just look at John Carpenter's remake The Thing. But when we are talking about one of the truly defining pieces of Sci-Fi,The Day the Earth Stood Still, you have a really high standard to surpass.

Robert Wise directed the original -- the man who would later go onto helm other science fiction classics The Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as other beloved pieces of movie history West Side Story and The Sound of Music. The movie was based on a story by Harry Bates and adapted by Edmund H. North into a movie that was not only a fantastic piece of science fiction but a statement on the political climate of the world in the 1950s.

In a time when the Cold War was taking hold and the tensions between the US and Russia were escalating out of control, the story of an Alien coming to Earth to warn the human race that if they continued on this destructive path they would have to step in and remove them from the planet. It wasn't until that alien, named Klaatu, spent time amongst the humans that he realised that they could change and a warning would be all they need to change their ways.

No, I can't pick out Canada on the globe...
Now, over fifty years later that premise is still relevant today but instead of a warning about changing our warring ways, it is our destroying of the planet's environment that has gained the attention of the aliens. This time instead of a huge flying saucer landing in Washington D.C. and the brilliant Michael Rennie emerging from the ship to deliver the warning, we have a huge glowing sphere landing in New York's Central Park and Keanu Reeves emerging from it.

While the visual effects and the sheer scope of this landing have been injected with all the visual effects muscle that Hollywood can provide these days, it doesn't really have the same impact. Yes the scene is the same and the military reaction to this alien is again greeted by a retaliation by Klaatu's protector, the huge robot GORT, but from then on this is a slightly different movie.

Now when Klaatu leaves the 'care' of the US military, instead of spending time amongst the people to help him realise that the human race is one worth preserving, he spends his time on the run with Dr. Helen Benson, one of the scientists who examined him but then helped in his escape, played by the always good Jennifer Connelly, and her adopted son.

While this was meant to show the power of family and an understanding of human grief, you, the audience are just left wondering how Klaatu hasn't just destroyed the Earth after spending five minutes of time with Jaden Smith's irritatingly whining character, Jacob Benson. The character is the epitome of reason why some people refuse to have children and if he is supposed to represent what is good about the human race, even with all his problems, then the Earth is doomed.

My agent said I'd do what now?
With Keanu Reeves being completely wooden throughout (no change there then), Connelly and Kathy Bates as Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson trying their best, John Cleese representing the 'clever' people of Earth and Jaden Smith being as irritating as hell it could have been easy for the message of the film to be lost amongst these awful characters and over-the-top and slightly underwhelming visual effects. Fortunately it doesn't.

The problem is as the movie builds to its conclusion, instead of the impact and the message that the original had at the end, this movie just ends with no reinforcement of the warning that we are destroying the planet. While some might say that this is assumed, it is more likely that some might think that this was a victory for the American Government and its military might as they have forced the sphere to leave and the human race to be spared.

The message will still get through however, as it is still one of the best ever conceived in science fiction, but it you really want to heed Klaatu's warning, then watch the 1951 original because this version has been very diluted.

Jamie Kelwick

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