Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Day The Earth Stood Still

directed by Scott Derrickson

The Day The Earth Stood Still poster  
Human beings are flawed creatures. Incorrigibly violent, destructive of the environment, and stuck in our ways, the Earth would be better off without us. But can we change? That's the question posed by this updated version of The Day The Earth Stood Still.

The action begins in 1928, when a climber discovers an unusual sphere on a remote mountainside in India. The sphere soon disappears, and he is left to wonder about it. Fast-forward to the present day and Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is lecturing about microbiology at Princeton and caring for her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith). Out of the blue she's whisked away by the government on an urgent, top-secret assignment. A number of other scientists have also been gathered, along with a lot of military types, but no-one is sure what's going on at first. When they are finally told what's going on there's little time to do anything about it, as an object hurtles towards the Earth on a collision course. A great catastrophe seems to be imminent. When the object turns out to be a spaceship rather than a deadly asteroid it looks as though mankind has been granted a stay of execution. Yet when the advanced beings emerge from the ship it's soon clear that humans are hopelessly outmatched by their technology.

The government, represented by the Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) responds in a fearful and belligerent manner. But Dr Benson disagrees with this approach, and does all she can to treat the visitor Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) with kindness. But will her help and sympathy be enough, when the unassuming alien makes a decision about the fate of the entire human race?

Keanu Reeves isn't known for his expressive acting, but he makes a good alien. At least, if robotic and cold is the attitude you expect from an alien then it's good. He's almost as impenetrable as Klaatu's automaton, Gort. Gort is a vast silver humanoid, with no speech so it can't be reasoned with. It looks like a giant cylon, huge and menacing, with its red scanner where its eyes would be.

The Day The Earth Stood Still doesn't lack for breathtaking alien technologies and a sense of wonder. The special effects are bold and impressive, just as they should be in an alien movie.

What doesn't work so well is the tone of the ending, or indeed much of the plot. The ugly, violent part of human nature is demonstrated some very stupid military types who tend to act first without pausing to consider whether or not a heavy-handed, trigger-happy approach might be a bad idea. The young Jacob echoes this gung-ho sentiment, arguing with his stepmother at every opportunity. Presumably he is supposed to be the cute kid, an innocent who misses his father, but he comes across as irritating and undisciplined and the character doesn't gain our sympathies. Jennifer Connelly is believable, but the reasons for the way the story ends aren't quite as convincing. So a good-looking film is brought down by a banal and predictable storyline, a dull script and a surfeit of tearful melodrama.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

If you like this, try:

Independence Day cover    

Independence Day by Roland Emmerich
Enormous alien spaceships arrive on Earth just before the USA is due to celebrate the 4th of July.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson