The Day the Earth Stood Still

Movies Reviews Scott Derrickson
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Release Date: Dec. 12
Director: Scott Derrickson
David Scarpa, screenplay by Edmund H. North
Cinematographer: David Tattersall
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese
Studio/Run Time: 20th Century Fox, 103 mins.

Remake of sci-fi touchstone works on its own terms

Knives sharpened, mood somber, the loyal followers of 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still have long viewed this day as their own personal apocalypse. For today, we get the remake

—the soulless Hollywood desecration of that essential, eerily cerebral sci-fi touchstone, a dreaded event for any fan.

There’s no question that this new Day the Earth Stood Still exists to upgrade the special effects of the first, not the ideas. If it doesn’t exactly dismantle the original’s intent—there is a predictable update in the message from Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), the alien representative who comes to our planet with an ominous warning—it does go ahead and make the fear of Earth’s demise literal with a jazzy spectacle of obliterated sports stadiums and fallen cityscapes. And this time, it’s a Princeton scientist (a game Jennifer Connelly) who aids the alien visitor after the U.S. government refuses to allow him to speak to world leaders.

Indeed, inevitable comparisons to the original are in ready supply, but they are also pointless, since whatever their similarities, this movie exists on expressly different terms. It’s a sincere attempt by new director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) to make a poignant blockbuster that will satisfy an audience used to the very different creative prerogatives that surge through Hollywood today. Despite his broad filmmaking and the gloss that comes with more dollars to spend, the movie is reasonably coherent in that aim, even as it sometimes struggles to keep its head in the right place.

There are other, less lofty triumphs—in Klaatu, the expressionless visitor from another world, Keanu Reeves has found the role of his dreams—but there are some audiences that won’t be able to muster the humor to appreciate them. So be it, but if cynics can find a place somewhere in their curmudgeonly hearts to take the movie on its own terms, they’ll see it stacks up well enough against the dead-eyed retread it could have been.

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