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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)


Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese and Kathy Bates
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 20 April 2009

Xenobiologist Helen Benson is panicked and confused when she is plucked from her home by government agents, taken to a top secret facility with a group of diverse scientists they are confronted with an object heading straight for the Earth. Given its speed it will eradicate all life if it hits. To their surprise the objects decelerates and lands in Central Park, where Helen finds herself staring up at a gigantic swirling globe.  When the globe settles Klattu exits and is accidentally shot. Helen soon learns that his mission is to save the Earth and that means saving it from mankind...

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008 - 1 hr, 39 min, 18 sec) is a remake of the 1951 Robert Wise film, which itself was based on the superior short story by Harry Bates (Farewell to the Master, 1940). This new version of the story was directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2005) from an adaptation of the original screenplay by David Scarpa. The film one a single award and was nominated for a further six.

Okay, cards on the table. I watched this film with my better half. I, like many of my generation, revered the original film - no I’m not old enough to have seen it on its original release - and felt that the director was just going to walk all over our cherished possession. Like many, who are of a certain age, I came to this film with a lot of personal baggage. My better half on the other hand had never seen Wise’s film - no don’t ask me how she got away with that one, still the weekend is coming up - had no idea of the story or to what vaulted regions legions of fans had  pushed the original.

The original film played upon man's fear that the nuclear genie was well and truly out of the bottle and was likely to combine with our own animalistic tendencies to wipe us from the face of the earth, kindly Klattu had come to Earth to tell us to stop playing like naughty boys or the Galactic society would spank our collective arses. Time has moved on and fears have grown exponentially. Now we have a planet in flux and no one else to blame except ourselves, the message of this film is that we are on a precipice and unless we change we will be a very short lived race.

Klattu is played by Keanu Reeves, who seems to be cornering the market in playing enigmatic characters, and for most of the film portrays the alien's emotional distance well. Jennifer Connelly (Helen) and Jaden Smith (as her stepson Jacob) form the emotional hub of the film, through which Klattu starts to understand the better side of our natures. John Cleese pops up in a cameo role as a friendly scientist who advocates for humanity. The special effects are pretty good and for once do not swamp the film. I tried to watch the movie dispassionately, but as a fan of the original felt that there were some awful howlers, the worst of which is some army bloke explaining that they have named Klattu’s giant robot GORT and explaining what it stood for, this is even after Klattu has expressively already referred to the robot as Gort, there are other moments, but that would be nit picking. The better halves view was that it was a good film, one worth watching, which had something to say and real heart at the centre of the story.

The DVD does come with a pretty decent set of extras. First up are three deleted scenes which add little of nothing to your understanding of the film, a watch once experience. Better is Re-Imagining the Day (30 min, 07 sec) which discusses why and how changes were made to Edmund H. North’s 1951 script, with contribution from both cast and crew. Unleashing Gort  (13 min, 52 sec)  discusses the various design phases Gort went through until they came full circle to make him essentially a humanoid robot. The real shame of this piece is that there were some really good designs, which would have been more exciting to see on the screen. Next up is Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life (23 min, 09 sec) which has a bunch of scientists discussing the realities of possible extraterrestrial life - though this won’t tell you anything you shouldn’t know already.  Apart from the stills gallery the last extra is The Day The Earth Was “Green” (14 min, 05 sec) featurette which looks at how the film tried to reduce its carbon footprint, which is basically just funny. I presume that both making and showing the film, worldwide, would have used enough energy to power a small city, I shall refrain from pointing out that the best way would been never to make the film. Oddly enough the movie has a full length commentary, but only from David Scarpa. It’s interesting enough to listen to once.

So there you have it, in the prejudiced corner you have my good self that thought it was okay, but not a patch on the original, but from my better half a view that it is a film well worth watching.


Charles Packer

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