Throwing a remake out to the masses is a phenomenon of trickery I can't even begin to comprehend. People usually agree that new versions of old films are generally nowhere near as memorable, yet the studios keep crankin' 'em out. To warn the audience a beloved classic is about to be slaughtered, laughable terminology is used to make the effort sound better than it really is. 'Reimagining' is a term that springs to mind, but who do they think they're kidding? Such a phrase only proves that meaningful substance and context are being replaced with big name stars and special effects. The worst part about the whole thing, is that you know a bunch of people sat around in a meeting and actually agreed to scrapping the good stuff! It boggles the mind. The Day the Earth Stood Still is certainly no exception when it comes to the changing standards of 'quality' from within Hollywood, and although the film isn't great by any means, it's certainly not awful.
When a sphere that looks like a gaseous planet ready to explode lands in New York City's Central Park, the military is immediately on the scene with their weapons drawn. Numerous experts in various fields of science are called upon to investigate the sphere, including Dr. Helen Benson, who is given the mind shattering opportunity to make first contact with an extraterrestrial. A grave mistake is made when a trigger happy soldier wounds the alien without cause, as a giant sentry weapon known as GORT, who activates in the presence of violence, emerges to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The alien Klaatu is immediately locked up in a military base for questioning, and instead of unveiling a heartwarming message of love and harmony, he instead reveals a plot for annihilating the human race. Klaatu explains that our presence on Earth is doing nothing more than guaranteeing the death of a planet. Although we've learned to love, hate, and everything in between as a species, we're still too self centered to appreciate the wonderful gifts the Earth has provided. This is how the alien worlds Klaatu has been sent to represent have branded our kind, and Dr. Benson, as well as her son, will have to lead by example if they want to save the human race. They'll have to show the spaceman that the we can learn from our mistakes, and that we possess qualities that would be sorely missed if exterminated.
The core of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a warning above all else. The original flick warned of our growing capacity to destroy ourselves with nuclear technology, but the remake takes a more eco friendly approach. We're no longer facing extinction from the threat of nuclear war. Instead, we're charged with destroying a world that's supposed to be able to thrive. They may as well have started the movie with a hybrid car commercial.
I'm exaggerating a little though. The Day the Earth Stood Still doesn't hit you with the message as hard as it could, but it's still about as subtle as an M-16 in a jewelry store. I've never been a big fan of movies that take a highly debatable agenda to push its message, but the green agenda actually works here. The context consists of aliens saying goodbye to the human race because we're destroying a vibrant and vivid world. If aliens actually touched down to deliver a message, I could certainly see this being one of them.
Although I think the story was tweaked in a clever enough way for the remake, its execution was definitely hampered by the decisions made in casting. I really like Jennifer Connelly, but this just wasn't the right role for her. She acts the same way she does in almost any other film, and while that's OK for the roles she takes on from time to time, it just doesn't work when she's supposed to be a leading example for humanity. I feel the 'Hollywood' oozing out of her, as opposed to the reality I'm supposed to feel from her.
I had the same problem with Jaden Smith in his role as Jacob, Dr. Benson's son. While I'm sure Jaden is going to be a hot commodity in Hollywood for years to come because of who his parents are, again, that sense of reality I should have felt from the character just wasn't there. Jaden's character was very inconsistent. At times he seemed too mature for his age, and at other times he was just the opposite. This may have been due in combination to both the script and direction. Either way, this just wasn't a fit.
The bottom line is that the main characters were supposed to show an alien the good things we're capable of. Unfortunately, the genuine artifacts of emotion and realism have gone out the window. I just couldn't relate to these characters, and if I can't relate to them, then how in the world is an alien going to?
There are plenty of things this film actually got right, and I may even surprise you with my next statement. Keanu Reeves was actually good in his role of Klaatu. You heard correctly. Keanu Reeves actually did a pretty good job! I'm not a fan of his acting by any means, but if there's one thing Keanu knows how to pull off, it's definitely a role that doesn't require a lot of emoting. Watching Keanu at work in The Day the Earth Stood Still was actually quite enjoyable. Some have slammed Reeves for what would have been a stale performance in any other role, but this style of acting actually benefits his character to no end. The original portrayal of Klaatu seemed to be a little more human than we could ever hope for in an alien, and although Keanu's portrayal was completely at the opposite end of the spectrum to almost a fault, I feel his performance was the one that made more sense in the grand scheme of things.
There are other liberties that you can appreciate when contrasted with the original. The robotic monster known as GORT was only modestly taller than any human being in the classic, but GORT's size has been tweaked to be impressively intimidating. The alien technology on display throughout the film is unique and makes more sense than the flying saucer we've grown accustomed to. The remake is also quite effective in providing high levels of discomfort and paranoia throughout.
After all is said and done, The Day the Earth Stood Still doesn't even come close to surpassing the original. Does that mean it's a terrible movie however? No. The film definitely breezes by the most important aspect of the original, but as an apocalyptic popcorn flick and nothing else, The Day the Earth Stood Still fits the bill... but just barely.
Encoded using AVC at 1080p, The Day the Earth Stood Still looks brilliant in its 2:35:1 native form. FOX is pretty consistent in providing some of the best transfers on Blu-ray to date, and this is no exception. Detail is astonishing, and I'm fairly impressed by this because the film has a very cold tone that's utilized through heavy use of blue, green, and gray. Muting the color palette a tad can sometimes lead to a loss in detail, but this release doesn't suffer from that at all. Detail remains vivid and even window-like at times, and the effect is further enhanced from the complete lack of film damage, or ugly enhancements such as DNR or EE. The contrast is phenomenal, always lending to the atmosphere that's intentionally created via the muted color palette.
There's really nothing I can nitpick about regarding the transfer, except for the fact that it can occasionally be inconsistent. Much of the film appears to be reference quality material, while other shots or scenes can appear fantastic, but not quite up to the reference quality standard. Being that's the only complaint I can come up, there's nothing else to do but give FOX a big thumbs up.
Wow. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is even better than the video transfer, and that's saying a lot. It knows how to provide clarity for dialogue in quieter moments of the film, and it can roar to life at any given moment, utilizing an impressive directional field. The sound effects are going to come at you from every angle, and with the clarity of a lossless track to back it all up, you're simply not going to believe your ears. If you want a demo disc for audio, then you're going to want to check this out.
Commentary by Screenwriter David Scarpa - This is a fairly interesting commentary, as Scarpa is able to keep things interesting, and that says quite a bit considering he's doing it alone! Every aspect of the film is covered, and agree with him or not (I'm looking at you 1951 Stood Still die-hards), he explains most of the changes from the original film in great detail. There are some silent moments throughout, but for this being a one man show, I was pretty impressed.
There are some picture-in-picture features for while you're watching the film as well. You can view concept art, early CGI work, production stills, and storyboards. This is all available using the color coded program BONUSVIEW. We've also been given the ability to check out all the art goodies from the discs menu, as a feature called Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts.
Build Your Own GORT - This is an interesting concept, but really just filler material. You can choose how you want every aspect of GORT's body to look. I have to admit this is pretty cool to play around with at least once, because who watches a film like this and doesn't wish they had a thing like GORT to command and control? After doing this once or twice however, this feature loses its appeal.
Deleted Scenes - There are three deleted scenes available here, and I can see why they were left out. The pace of the film was rather quick. Since the movie is already lacking a great deal of believable humanity from the characters, there wasn't anything from the cutting room floor that could have changed that. These scenes do not add that desired element, and would have only hampered the film if left in. Die-hard fans of the original film may want to see these out of curiosity, but I'm going to save you a little trouble. Skip 'em.
Re-Imagining The Day - If you're not a fan of commentaries, but still want to hear how the flick from 1951 got transformed into this, then you're going to want to check this feature out. You'll probably find this feature to be a little ironic though. The remake didn't capture nearly as much of the human element that there should have been, yet everyone involved seems highly aware of the standard that was set from the 1951 classic. If that's the case, why did they leave out the most important part of the film? Instead of making things 'bigger' or 'better', Hollywood needs to start realizing that sometimes the original formula is fine the way it is.
Unleashing GORT - This isn't a bad featurette at all. It goes over the design process for GORT, and I would recommend checking this out. If there's one thing the remake has up on the original, it's the fact that GORT is much larger, and just looks a whole heck of a lot cooler. Sometimes special effects can be a very good thing, and GORT is a prime example of that.
Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life - This isn't related to the film directly, but this featurette follows the path human kind has taken to find alien life throughout history, as well as the current developments that are underway today. If you're a person who's fascinated by science and truly believe there's alien life out there somewhere, then I highly recommend checking this feature out.
The Day the Earth Was "Green" - Oh boy, here we go. If you needed confirmation of how much thought really went into the film's 'green' factor, then look no further. The 'green theme' is discussed at great length. I understand there's a lot of people who are really nutty about being green, but that's not what bothers me about this featurette. It's the fact that FOX is promoted as being a leader in following the green agenda. If you're unfamiliar with FOX's active in role in going green, FOX started releasing certain properties in cardboard sleeved packaging. I really hope they're not polishing their ego up enough to make this a widespread plan for their products. At least the Blu-ray packaging for this remake hasn't suffered...
Also included on the first disc are a bunch of still galleries that include concept art, storyboards, production photos, and the theatrical trailer. It's also worth noting that the film itself is enhanced for the D-Box Motion Control System, but I can't validate how effective this system is, as I do not own one.
The second disc is merely a coaster that contains a digital copy of the film. It's the third disc that's truly a treat. The original 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is included, and the best part is that it's in high definition too! The transfer is identical to that of the Blu-ray that was released just over the winter, although the extras haven't been ported over. I don't find that to be too bothersome either. FOX still wants to push the original 1951 Blu-ray release I'm sure, and what's a better way to do that than offer the extras on that release exclusively?
Overall, the extras are sort of a mixed bag. There's a little filler, some obnoxious pushing of the green agenda, but there's some decent stuff to check out as well. And let's be honest, the inclusion of the original black and white film is above and beyond what many of us would have expected from FOX. That alone makes the value of this release worth every penny. The only thing that could have made this release even better, is if the special features from the black and white film were included as well. You never know, maybe FOX has a super special edition in the works?
The Day the Earth Stood Still started in 1951 as an alien's journey into experiencing humanity, and unfortunately, that journey has been severely muted to make way for some special effects. There are certain aspects about the movie that are better than the original, but only in a cosmetic sense. Overall, the remake just can't compare. The acting wasn't in the zone it needed to be, and there wasn't nearly enough time spent on Klaatu doing a thorough evaluation on the human race.
That's not to say the remake isn't enjoyable enough to watch though. It's a fun popcorn flick that debates our very existence on planet Earth, and green agenda pushing aside, it works well enough on its own when a side by side comparison isn't performed with the original. If you must compare however, you'll be given ample opportunity to hear what the Screenwriter has to say, and more importantly, the original 1951 film is included as well. The list price for this three disc set is $39.99, which means you'll definitely be paying less at retail. How can you possibly go wrong?
Even if you're vehemently against the remake, this is a solid deal. You're getting two movies for the price of one! Not only that, but it's demo worthy to boot. It's for these reasons that I recommend this release to sci-fi film buffs everywhere.