The Day The Earth Stood Still Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short version: If all you ask from a movie is cool CGI effects, The Day the Earth Stood Still is for you. Look for any more than that and you’ll be sorely disappointed.

day the earth stood still reviews The Day The Earth Stood Still Review
Screen Rant reviews The Day the Earth Stood Still

You know, I can understand the desire to remake The Day the Earth Stood Still… I really can. The original film had a great concept, it’s stood the test of time, and the temptation to revisit it with today’s visual effects must have been overwhelming.

But one of the first rules of remakes is: You don’t remake classic films.

You don’t remake Gone With the Wind, you don’t remake Casablanca and you don’t even TRY to remake Citizen Kane. It’s a losing proposition – remakes that work are few and far between, and often they’re based on obscure or poorly made originals.

Now that I’ve got you thinking that my entire review will be based on comparing this new version to the original, let me tell you: This version doesn’t even work as a stand alone film. This could have been titled Alien Retribution and it still wouldn’t have been any good.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: An alien spacecraft suddenly appears, an alien comes out to greet us (followed by very large protective robot), is mistakenly shot, questioned by the U.S. government, escapes, is befriended by a woman and her son, and it is revealed that (and here is where the plot diverts from the original) he is here to destroy mankind in order to save the Earth.

The film starts interestingly enough – with Keanu Reeves as a mountain explorer in 1928, apparently up in the Himalayas. He’s alone and there’s a pretty good snowstorm blowing, and he comes across an ice covered globe about 10 feet in diameter. He chips away at the ice, and something happens to him which forms the basis for how he (or someone who looks like him) returns to earth present day.

Present day, the always beautiful Jennifer Connelly plays college professor Helen Benson. She has a son, played by Jaden Smith, but I’ll get to him later. Federal agents soon appear and sweep her away with virtually no explanation to join a bunch of other similarly clueless scientists and engineers. Soon they are informed of the object heading towards Earth, apparently set to collide with a very prominent city and cause millions of deaths.

Of course it doesn’t crash but lands. It is a gigantic sphere that looks like it contains spinning liquids/gas. From it emerges a humanoid alien creature, who approaches Benson very slowly and carefully, extending its hand slowly in what is obviously a handshake. This is when he is shot by a nervous soldier (who, I assume, had never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and frankly, I found the shot completely contrived. At least in the original the alien (Klaatu) was holding a device which suddenly sprang open in the appearance of a weapon. Here it seemed as if the writer said “oh, here’s where the alien gets shot, let’s just get it done.”

A gigantic robot (Gort) emerges from the ship and commences to destroy all weapons within line of sight – he only stops when Klaatu orders him to (it was hard to make out but I believe this is where they inserted the famous line “Klaatu Barada Nikto”).

Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) is taken to a secure medical facility in order to try to help him, and there is actually some cool conceptual stuff going on here with the alien organism side of things. Soon he’s healed and is shakily adapting to his human body. Kathy Bates plays Secretary of Defense and is not wearing kid gloves in her approach to getting information out of the apparently human alien.

It becomes apparent that this Klaatu has powers over electricty and more, and he soon escapes with the help of Benson. She continues to believe he is here for the good of humanity and is determined to help him stay away from authorities long enough to get him in front of the United Nations to address the world. As it turns out he isn’t here to save humanity, he’s here to save the planet Earth from humanity.

The plan is to wipe human beings from the planet because “only a handful of planets in the universe can support complex life.” I literally laughed out loud when I heard that line – so in order to save a rare planet that can support complex life, his “federation” of aliens is going to wipe out the most complex life form on the planet?? What puts an exclamation point on the joke is when we’re shown tons of spheres all over the world collecting specimens of animal and insect life presumably to whisk them off the planet (just in case?). So snakes and squids are worth saving, but humans aren’t.

The best thing in this movie was watching Jennifer Connelly on screen – she was great in her role. John Cleese has a small and surprisingly serious cameo in the film which worked as well. Reeves was… well… Reeves. There wasn’t much he could do with the role as given, playing it very cold and unemotionally. Jaden Smith’s character however, annoyed the living heck out of me. He looks like he’s about nine years old and he played this incredibly snarky, back-talking character to his (as it turns out) step-mother, Helen. With every exchange between him and her I was torn between wanting to slap some parenting sense into her or some discipline into him. If they had cast a 14-16 year old I would have bought it, but a kid that young with that much lip? Not in my house.

Compound that with the fact that later on in the film we’re supposed to feel compassion for him when he finally “turns around.” He either wasn’t given the dialog to do it or just doesn’t have the acting chops to pull it off. That’s a major problem with the film – Outside of Benson, I didn’t really care about anyone or what might happen to them. I felt disconnected from the film and it just never really engaged me. For all the visual effects in the film, the overall feel of the film is fairly flat and boring.

Then there’s the whole “kill the humans to save the Earth” message – frankly I found that ludicrous. Here’s a supposedly highly evolved race that apparently has no problems with just murdering all of humanity. For what? Do they plan on populating Earth themselves? Replace us with “good” people who know how to take care of the planet?

I mean seriously, they should just be patient – if we’re that close to self-destruction just come back in a few thousand years. Does anyone really believe that humanity can actually pollute the planet to death? If anything the worry should be that we’ll make it uninhabitable for ourselves – give the Earth 10,000 years without us and it’ll be back to a lush paradise on its own.

There are other things as well, if Klaatu’s true alien appearance would be “frightening” (as he stated in the film), one would assume it is completly alien-looking – so why is Gort humanoid in appearance? Then there’s a “spy” who has been on Earth for 70 years, who Klaatu confers with before his final decision to destroy us. They guy tells him about how he’s come to love humanity, but we won’t change our ways. In view of how the film ends, this ends up making absolutely zero sense. There are also a couple of rather jarringly obvious product placements, and the ending is completely ambiguous.

In the original Klaatu left us with a warning… basically: “Get your act together and stop being so violent. We’ll be watching.” Here, Klaatu finally stops the destruction, but he just… leaves. How far will his message of why he came get? Will anyone hear it? Did he decide humanity is so noble that they don’t care what we do to the planet any more? Why didn’t he listen to the old guy he talked to earlier? Why didn’t the guy make a better case for humanity?

I swear I expected Al Gore to have a cameo in this film at some point. When Benson rescues Klaatu, my first thought when they got to her car was “good thing she doesn’t drive an SUV!” Despite this, the film never has the guts to go all the way and use the term “global warming” or say “you’re destroying the environment with your pollution.”

The Day the Earth Stood Still is all about the visual effects. They are cool, but I need more than that from a film in order to call it “good.” As a matter of fact, for all its spectacle, the film is pretty flat and boring.

So if you’re into seeing lots of cool CGI on the big screen – and plot and characters don’t mean that much to you, by all means, go check this out. On the other hand if those things DO matter to you, go rent the original and enjoy that instead.

Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)

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  1. Well I’m….shocked. :-p Kidding of course. Excellent review, Vic. Loved your “not in my house” quip about the kid lol.

    Saw this for Gort. :)

  2. When I first heard of the global warming lsant to the film, I knew they were going to tarnish another legendary title with their nonsense. Does anyone respect the source material anymore? An even bigger question: when’s the next time Keanu is gonna be in a good movie?

  3. Lol,,,Kahless,,,
    I love the way Fox is marketing this, “Hey this is the only way to see the “Wolverine Trailer”,,,
    (It should be online by Monday)
    (Statement from FOX)
    Thanks for supporting our crappy remake. We knew you would,,,

    When will ppl learn,,, :-(

  4. Vic,

    I just got back from seeing this and I didn’t enjoy it that much (as expected) but not for all the same reasons you mention.

    I’m not sure global warming/climate change was the real issue here at all from what I gathered watching the movie.

    Unless I missed something, it seems like the primary reason they want to get rid of humans is because we’re destructive and will kill ourselves and render the earth uninhabital in the process through worldwide holocaust or some such thing.

    I don’t remember them discussing humans causing climate change at all but they do talk twice about how destructive a people we are to each other and they make sure to even include some extra scenes of how badly some humans treat each other. It felt to me that was an overly obvious focus point of showing that scene with the dude stealing the ticket. It’s literally an alien watching humans treat each other horribly. There was no such thing when it came to pollution, climate change, global warming, etc.

    So, as for saving squids and not our complex species, squids don’t build nukes, would be my answer. They wouldn’t and couldn’t ruin the planet like we can.

    I’m seeing on many many sites, talk about climate change and you said yourself you laughed out loud at the moment. I don’t get that. Is everyone thinking that’s the focus? It’s not really mentioned or focused on in the film (unless I’m forgetting) but all this militarism and human-vs-human destruction is.

    As for the aliens being patient. The movie is not from their perspective so we don’t know for sure what they’ve done – one could argue they’ve been patient watching humans for thousands of years seeing us continually getting more powerful (military/weapon-wise) and at the same time, continually being brutally violent to each other with no end in sight). With the current availability of the infamous “weapons of mass destruction” seemingly everywhere, perhaps they felt they had to act before those weapons do what they fear. You said yourself “if we’re that close to self-destruction” (for the aliens perspective that would mean they have to act now and that’s how this story takes place in 2008 as opposed to the future). Again, this is what I thought the movie was about.

    The other thing I thought differently about was with regards to Jaden Smith. To me, he felt a years older than 9 and that explains his room and attitude. That’s also not him but his character that’s annoying. The fact that he came off annoying means to me he played the part well, and the scene at the graveyard he played amazingly too. I didn’t understand why the character was annoying so many times but I would of hated a 16 year old a la War of the Worlds remake which tried that.

    What drove me nuts was how unrealistic most (if not, all) of the people acted/reacted in this film in each scene or situation – it was so unrealistic to how people would actually act, that comes down as weak writing/directing in my opinion.

    The gunshot start to the story was terrible and didn’t make sense as you point out. Very weak execution and lack of detail, let alone creativity. They didn’t even show the shooter. It’s like you said, they just needed him to get shot by human so they said “cue the bullet!”.

    Kathy Bates and all of the secondary and background cast was bad. I did think Keanu was fine with what he got. I also liked Jennifer, Jaden and Cleese (surprising to me, I kinda wish he had a bigger role now).

    Overall, I was bored alot and I felt they went through the motions just to get a movie out there with a big budget and big brand name to get that paycheck.

  5. I’ve seen the “T.D.T.E.S.S” remake, and found it interesting and darkly
    entertaining periodically. I’ve mixed feelings about “humanity,” anyway! All in all, it’s NOT a threat to the original film, (which is my preference.) My “review” of the film overall would require more time and space than is available, so I’ll focus on the “ending,” only. In exchange for Klaatu’s stopping of the “plague” humanity was sent back to the “dark ages” technologically. They’ll have to start at ZERO.

  6. Im in agreement that the film overall was pretty BAD! While I liked the first 20 mintues where the Jennifer Connelly (Im a fan) character is being set up, the rest of the story is very weak. The director is clearly in over his head as the story becomes very boring and disjointed as it goes along. Its hard to watch Jaden Smith and not think that the only reason he has so much screen time is because he’s Will Smith’s kid. When I walked out of the theather people were angry that they wasted there money paying to see it. Personally I can’t believe 24% of critics are actually recommending this. I would say the years 2nd worst film behind The Happening!


  7. Rob,

    Whatever the reason (and I’m quit sure it’s environmentalism considering when this film went into production) any logic that says the survival of the Earth is more important than humanity is utterly and completely stupid (or at least naive and/or nihilistic) IMHO.


  8. Didn’t anyone see the point at the end? Klatu makes some comment about “This will require sacrifice. you will have to change” Then we see the power worldwide going off — with the implication this is permanent??? Did anyone else read it this way? I guess letting the human race freeze,starve, and otherwise go back to the 16th century is more humane than killing everyone.

  9. @gortbuddy

    You may be right – but then where is the rest of the movie? The third act, where we see the reaction/fallout of this?

    That explanation doesn’t “fix” the movie IMHO.


  10. I can understand why many people didn’t like it, but this film at no point mentioned global warming,thats NOT the message of the film. WATCH THE FILM BEFORE MAKING MISGUIDED COMMENTS.

    That now said the film overall was not the worst film I have seen, but the lack of ending annoyed the hell out of me. The acting wasn’t terrible, but some of the plot points were. If an alien landed in central part and asked to address the UN I’d be inclined to let him, but No lets shoot him, drug him, interigate him and otherwise abuse him because when dealing with a being who clearly represents a society with technology we can only dream about, this a good idea???????


    Oh well I love the original but feel that they should have missed out some homage scenes and put in more realistic ones to further the plot in better ways.

    The pacing of the film is fine (it does require an attention span above that of a chimp, but not by much)Otherwise a rainy Sunday afternoon film when nothing else worthwhile is on.

  11. I have to say that after seeing this film, it’s not that the elements of the film were bad. In fact, the parts that made up the whole were rather good. The problem is that they didn’t linger on interesting ideas and plot points long enough to make it good. I think that there should have been more screen time for the old chinese guy and John Cleese. So, it wasn’t terrible, it just fell short of what it could have been. There was so much more potential for the movie to make a statement. Maybe a directors cut will have more dialogue to be paired with the action.

  12. When I read that it was being remade, I knew it would be corrupted to another cliche, greenpreach!

    By its title alone, I will not see this highly predictable screed, unless someone gives me a pirated copy.

    I consider it encouraging to read that
    “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto” wasn’t even mentioned in the revision. I fully expected it to be presented as “Gore,
    Bush did not really beat you!” Hey, it’s metrically equivalent, in terms of syllables.

    But today’s Hollywood is not the equivalent of what produced the original
    “Day the Earth Stood Still,” despite the delusions artistic competence that spawn such remakes.

    By the way, in the original, I can recall four scenes in which Renny’s Klaatu spoke in the alien language. The first to pacify Gort, was, “Gort, da Klaatu brasco!” By the presence of the speaker’s name in the sentence, it appears the language lacks a first person, singular pronoun. It appears to have meant, “At ease, I’m okay!” or “I command, stop!”

    The second was what he told Patricia Neal(sp?) to say. We all know that one and roughly what it means, by Gort’s reaction.

    The third he spoke in two scenes specifically to Gort: “Gort, bareenga!”
    And by Gort’s reaction, it appears to be the equivalent of “Heel, Fido!” But in his broadcast to his home planet, wherein he arranged the massive power disruption he used another inflection of ‘bareenga.” And I noticed that the R’s he used were not always trilled.

    And as you can see, I am a bigger nerd than the reviewer when it coems to the real “Day the Earth Stood Still,” of which, despite the recycled title and characters of the current run, there shall ever be only one.

  13. Sadly, I have to agree with the rating given here. Even by watching the movie with really low expectations (which often help me change into a “Well, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it’d be”) didn’t help this time. I felt emotionally hollow after leaving the theater, since I could not relate to the film emotionally or intellectually.

    There were many nonsensical lines of dialogue that killed lots of neurons in my brain. For instance Connelly’s character reminiscing about her dead husband, saying he was a soldier, but that he really joined the military to build things as an engineer. Okay. So he joined an organization whose main purpose is combat abroad, and expected to play with Auto-CAD in an air-conditioned office till retirement?

    Finally, as far as I can tell, it was pretty obvious the film catered to the current scientista trend of anthropogenic climate change and the demonizing of humanity as destroyers of the earth. It reflects recent news showing extremists mourning for felled trees, saying they sterilized themselves to “save the earth,” or saying with a straight face whales are more important than human lives.

    Well, at least I enjoyed Gort in the two seconds of screen time he had :-(

  14. I offer my neck in advance for the anti-TDTEST peeps. I actually liked it. I know, I know. How could I? I loved Kathy Bates. Jennifer Connolly can cry on a dime and when I wasn’t wanting to smack Jaden Smith I was admiring his ability to cry convincingly as well.

    Don’t get me wrong. There were numerous problems.

    Not enough use of Gort although when he was around I was digging it. When he disolved into little metal bugs, that was disturbing but it also made me wonder who was going to clean that mess up and weren’t they sharp?

    The McDonald’s ad was an embarrassment to all movies unless it’s a movie about product placement or something like Wayne’s World where they’re doing it as a goof and for the money.

    I was so distracted by the Mc’y D’s logo, reflection of the logo, food wrappers, tea cups with the logos, too many logos. I couldn’t even pay attention to the close caption because of the refection of the golden arches behind Keanu’s head. In fact, they could cut that scene and make it a phone call and it have been better. Better yet? How about just a letter?

    I liked the sly references to Independence Day from Jaden where he talked about how his dad would have killed the aliens. No questions asked. He said a bunch of other things that made me think of Independence Day. Maybe it was an accident but it went on long enough not to seem intentional.

    Plus I started my own game of Three Degrees of Keanu Reeves. Keanu made the Matrix which was offered to Will Smith who turned it down. Then Jada Pinket Smith was cast in the last two Matrixes. Now he’s worked with both Smith’s wife and kid. He just needs to make a movie with Will Smith to close the circle.

    BTW, I just had back surgery and I’m taking LOADS of narcotics so I apologize for being so scattered and somewhat unintelligible. I wasn’t high when I saw the movie though and I still liked it although when you read everything I’ve written so far it doesn’t sound like it.

    I didn’t think that they hammered the ecology method so much that you hated the movie.

    Maybe I liked the movie because I was really expecting it to suck and it didn’t. And I thought Keanu did a good job. Sorry. He acted like someone who just got a new body and didn’t know what to do with it.

    Loved John Clease. He gave me hope that mankind will fix itself. And I particularly liked their dual at the black board.

    Jennifer Connolly is still beautiful but could she eat a sandwich or a a cookie once in a while? She’s got some major anorexia going on there. I know that’s the style but when you realize how many layers of clothes she was wearing and STILL looked skinny. Well, she going to age early if she doesn’t start eating.

    In summary (I know, THANK GOD). Liked the movie. It was art although it was pretty. Turn off your brain and just go on the journey, dude.

    One more thing, someone was wondering where they’d heard the famous Klatu Nikto Barada (sp?) saying? Army of Darkness. It’s what Ash has to say to pick the right demon book. Funny.

    If you made it this far, please remember that this is being typed by someone taking Valium and Oxycodone. Be amazed that I can type at all.

    I thank you for your time.


  15. At least one correction: I meant to say that it WASN’T art. Sheesh. What am I? High or something?

  16. I tried to watch this film last night but heck, it was indeed flat and boring that I didn’t notice I was falling asleep. I was extremely disappointed and to think I was planning for a movie night with friends with this flick as the main show.

  17. If you’re an insomniac, then it was money well spent. ;)

  18. I agree wih your review.My husband and I went out on our 5th wedding anniversary and wanted to watch a good movie, so I suggested
    the day the earth stood still,boy were we dissapointed( I felt worse because I was the one that chose the film),it was sooooo boring.

  19. robot looks like justice league robot ‘Amazo’ that lex luthor creates
    …and fat lady looks like ‘Amanda Waller’ in justice league project cadmus arc…

    and they used the word arc in film!

    I thin the production designers like Justice League animated :-P
    Just had to get that out my system…feel better now.

    Keanu reeves role is perfect for him as he looks creepy anyway and suits his household ‘wooden’ acting style. Yes, JC needs to be fondled in the Hulk labs and someone needs to kick that will smith kid like a football!

  20. Just Watched the Movie…

    Anyone who thinks we will not outlive this planet is a total moran…

    the Human Race was either created (or had evolved whatever u may believe…)

    to addapt to any Enviorment it is put in…

    as u look around u, its simple we are smart enough to study and observe and learn, that what we are all about…

    our appearence might not change, but our minds do on a daily basis.

    The Film was basicly a peice of Hollywood Propaganda and failed to inspire me in the slightest bit.

  21. the ending is not at all ambiguous. there is no more power left on earth. society as we know it comes to an end. no power means no transportation, no manufacturing, no electronics, no running water etc…..
    mankind is back to the its bare roots before any power source was developed.
    the “we can change” mentioned many times in the movie and the comment “it will effect your way of life” all came to be with the loss of power.
    made me ponder life without power. the change would be enormous….

  22. the ending is not at all ambiguous. there is no more power left on earth. society as we know it comes to an end. no power means no transportation, no manufacturing, no electronics, no running water etc…..
    mankind is back to the its bare roots before any power source was developed.
    the “we can change” mentioned many times in the movie and the comment “it will effect your way of life” all came to be with the loss of power.
    made me ponder life without power. the change would be enormous….

  23. If there was no electricity, fossil fuels etc. suddenly & without warning it wld be a Dark Age, most of the world’s population (certainly most of the West’s population, but I think most are dependent to some degree on the Green Revolution) would die over a year. Initially planes wld also fall out the sky etc.

    There wouldn’t be enough food (no electricity, oil-based fertilisers etc.), no time to completely re-orientate society to labour-intensive, organic agriculture (which cld never feed over 6bn ppl), & it’d be hard to move the food we have around countries & the world. The remaining water would give us cholera, dissentry etc. Most modern medicine & surgery wld stop w/o electricity (& as society collapses) so ppl wld die of lots of other diseases. I imagine condom factories need electricity, so STDs wld prob be rampant too, & women wld die in childbirth a lot more, & life expectancy wld be 40 or lower. And cold places wld have no heating, so they’d chop most of the trees down, like England did before discovery coal.

    • Actually, finally saw this movie.

      Quite frankly, my only problem with the ending was that if the consortium that Klaatu represents wanted to end humans’ ability to destroy the plante’s capability to support advanced life, his “end all technology pulse wave” was the way to do it. World population prior to the industrial revolution was about 3/4 of a billion people, meaning you would have an instant die off of at least 5 billion, and then further as plagues and wars rip through those that don’t starve to death. I noted with some sense of irony that the message I guess the movie tried to convey…that us resource intensive westerners would pay the price of raping the planet…ignores that the US would probably come off better than the populations we’re supposed to feel sorry for (take a wild guess at how many people the whole continent of Africa could support without modern agriculture).