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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, 2008
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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL MOVIE POSTER
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
Movie Review

Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, John Hamm
Review by Jen Frankel



SYNOPSIS:

CLICK HERE and read more reviews by Jen Frankel

Astrobiologist Helen Benson is on hand when a mysterious sphere lands in Central park with a sole occupant who claims to have come to save the Earth. Unfortunately, he means he has come to save it by destroying the entire human race.

REVIEW:

Few science fiction films have remained as iconic and timeless as the original The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951, starring Michael Rennie). It was directed by the brilliant Robert Wise, an acolyte of Orson Welles, who also has West Side Story and the original Andromeda Strain to his very impressive credit.

After the okay but hardly memorable Tom Cruise War of the Worlds, it was hard to be too excited over another remake of a sci-fi classic. War managed to up the effects and carnage, but over-sentimentalize most of the central story. And of course, neither film really managed the gripping impact of the original Welles broadcast.

But here, Reeves is a terrific casting choice as the alien Klaatu who brings an ultimatum to the human race, which choses to ignore him in favor of a far more violent response. Klaatu has barely emerged from the glowing orb which has brought him to Earth before he's wounded by a military sharpshooter.

Reeves's always slight woodenness and his extraordinary physical presence are both assets here. It's easy to believe he's a creature created by another race from a bit of stolen human to

house an alien consciousness. His self-possession leaves no doubt that he is entirely capable of laying waste to the destructive human race, in order to save one of the only planets in the cosmos capable of sustaining complex life.

If Klaatu is a believable harbinger of destruction, Jennifer Connolly as Dr. Helen Benson is ideal as its wounded, still hopeful soul. Benson is the sole parent left to her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), struggling with her own bereavement and his.

Kathy Bates is a powerfully unyielding adversary as the American Secretary of Defense, Regina Jackson, who is the conduit between Klaatu and the President of the United States. But she quickly comes to realize the impotence of American military might and sense of supremacy. As she says, the history of first contact between races has always resulted in the destruction of the less advanced society. This time, that less advanced race is humanity itself.

The 2008 Day is just as good as the original, and maybe even better. The first film was a reaction to the Cold War, and made a strong allegory about getting along with our fellow humans or facing the "mutual assured destruction" warned of by the theorists of the time.

Now, we may face even greater disaster at our own hands, and this film makes a case for the necessity of the human race to change before we destroy the very environment we count on for life.

The special effects are as spectacular as anything I've seen: the mysteriously swirling spheres that are reminiscent of the Earth from space, or maybe the constantly raging storms in the atmosphere of gas giant Jupiter; the giant robotic Gort who is only activated in the presence of violence.

There may be some element here, as there was in the original, of preaching to the converted. I don't know how many will be convinced of the final verdict on humanity's ability to change, given the evidence presented. I'm not sure the potential seen by Klaatu can be fully justified by the events of the film.

Still, it's a great ride, and a thoroughly human tale told on a global, apocalyptic scale.

3.5 stars out of 4!

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