Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: 3 Arts Entertainment
Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Codec: AVC @ 26.4 Mbps
English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; DUBs: Spanish & French Dolby
English SDH, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Cantonese &
• Disc 2: Digital Copy
• Disc 3: The Original 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still
on Blu-ray (reviewed
• Audio Commentary by Screenwriter David Scarpa
• Picture-in-Picture: Bonus View: Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts
• Build Your Own Gort Interactive Experience
• Re-Imagining The Day (30:06)
• Unleashing Gort (13:52)
• Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life
• The Day the Earth was "Green" (14:04)
• Deleted Scenes (1:56)
• Still Galleries
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
Remaking a classic movie must be or should be a daunting
task. We learn from the extra features about which ideas
from the original the filmmakers wanted to keep and which
they wanted to "update." As to the latter, obviously we
have effects hardly dreamed of in 1951 and, as is pointed
out, times have changed. Or, have they?
In any case, what is most evident after only a few minutes
into the new film is that 60 years later, no one appears to
have ever seen the Robert Wise film, though they have taken
from Independence Day the appropriate lesson: Shoot
first, and ask no questions afterward. Nor has anyone see
Starman, which this new movie resembles perhaps more
than the original Day the Earth Stood Still.
In the new movie, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) arrives in a unique
spherical vehicle and lands in the middle of Central Park.
All he wants, we soon learn, is directions to the U.N. where
– and this is where things start to get a bit muddled – he
would (I'm going to take some liberties here) remind folks
of his previous trip a few decades earlier and the
cautionary message that came with it. He would have said
something like: "Apparently humans did not take my warning
to heart. And not only do you continue to make war on one
another, but on the very planet you share with other life
forms. There are precious few such worlds in this galaxy,
and those whom I represent are dedicated to their
To which demand, everyone would rise in unison to declare:
"We can change." And Klaatu would answer: "You said that
before, and look: For all your technological advances, you
still seem bent on the destruction of your own planet." To
which everyone replies once again: "We can change. Give us
another chance." Klaatu: "You can't change your own
nature." Everyone: "We can if there is no choice."
Does any of this sound familiar? It should if you've ever
known anyone addicted to alcohol or drugs. In fact, people
can and do change their behavior. Sometimes, even their
attitude. It usually takes some precipitous event to
motivate them, however. The question for screenwriter David
Scarpa is how to present the argument on our behalf in an
emotionally compelling drama. To this end he has
constructed a relationship between a boy, Jacob, (Jaden
Smith) and his stepmother, Helen (Jennifer Connelly). The
boy misses his father killed while serving overseas. The
boy's mother, too, is not in the picture, so it's up to
Helen to bring Jacob back into the lifestream.
But Jacob is cruelly married to the idea that this unwanted
visitor, Klaatu, and his friends should be taken out at the
first opportunity. I'll get back to them in a bit.
Helen is an astro-biologist by profession and is part of the
team that welcomed Klaatu as he touched down in the park.
The American Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) insists that
this alien is here as part of an invasion, and she has good
reason to believe this, Klaatu having taken out our main
communications satellite, but not before having learned via
its connection to our military computers everything about
our defenses. Ooops.
So, unlike when Klaatu came here sixty years ago, this time
he evidently means business, and he has brought with him the
means to do it: Gort, who seems to have grown in stature,
flexibility and firepower since his days as a onetime
doorman. Making matters worse, Gort is an even more
independent operator than previously.
As before, our attempts to hold Klaatu fail and he escapes
into the city. But Helen has formed something of a
connection with him (this Klaatu being in some genetic, if
not personable. ways more human than Michael Rennie.) For
all her efforts at furthering this connection, Klaatu does
not lose sight of his mission.
Remember the boy? This is where the movie falls apart
simply by having reduced everything about Jacob and his
stepmother to a cliché: While the world as we know is about
to undergo a serious face and heart transplant, these two
are arguing about what his father would do if he were
alive. I can understand Helen's frustration as she doesn't
want to – how shall I say it – alienate the boy any more
than what comes with the territory naturally. The question
is: how or if Klaatu can see though the dynamics of their
relationship the potential for change that everyone,
including a soporific Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese),
insists is possible.
To return to the Starman analogy: You'll remember
that film is essentially a road movie in which cultures
collide and learn from each other. There are heroes and
villains on our side (the Starman having been invite, so
he's innocent.) At the end, with the bad guys hot on his
heels, the Starman, with the converted Earth woman at his
side, has a conversation with one of the good guys at the
café outside Crater. He says: "You are a strange species,
unlike any other. You would be surprised by how many there
are - intelligent, but savage. Shall I tell you what I find
beautiful about you – You are at your very best when things
are at their worst." The good guy is persuaded by the
argument and lets him continue on his way. He seems to
understand that Fear is the thing that we should be most
fearful of. This, too, was the lesson of the Robert Wise
film. I'll let you decide if Scarpa's argument is as
On one hand it's an interesting re-telling - but trying to
copy such a revered classic simply invites abject criticism
- "How dare they soil my favorite sci-fi film from the
50's... by re-telling it?". Well, they did - and they
didn't do such a bad job. But Keanu Reeves? - he was one of
the strong points. Connelly - more so. What about Cleese? -
absolutely perfect in a non-comedic role. The production
makes a deft switch in initially emphasizing Earth's
destruction by a large object from space (more common-place
as a plot device a few years back). It puts us on our heels.
So, when the more socially conscious counterpoint is
introduced - it becomes much more meaningful. There is some
adept filmmaking going on here folks - despite the
detractors - many of which who will bark before sampling.
There is some enjoyment to be had - mostly by NOT comparing
- and for the entire generation who haven't, nor will ever
see the original ("What? - black and white? - no thanks!")
- it's their loss - but they will probably get something out
of this. After all - it has the base of near perfect science
fiction with open-ended corollaries. "You treat this
planet as you treat each other". Hmmm... "Are
you a friend to us?" - 'I'm a friend to the
Earth" - Uhhh-ooo!
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence
compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.
The second number places this image along the full range of
DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Typical of Fox - all bases are covered extremely well in
hi-def. Depth, colors, detail are exemplary - or as close as
'dammit' is to swearing. It's not too glossy and there are
no reasons to 'Object!" in the courtroom of image quality
here. Contrast, in the many dark sequences, holds up without
fuss. One would be better-off complaining about the
cinematography - but that too - is a decent plus. While the
image is not 'demo' it is not so far away from that ideal.
It blows away the SD-DVD. No strong reasons for complaints.
Audio & Music: 8/6
DTS HD 5.1 supports the occasionally aggressive soundtrack.
There is some bombastic events taking place and the rumbling
and grumbling can rattle your floorboards or windows
depending on the volume level (and the solid-ness of your
foundations). Gort's arrival is tinny treble-intense.
Helicopters (a favorite of the audio mixers) to Tyler Bates'
fully-ranged original score are sent throughout the room -
plenty of bass and too many effect noises to guess at a
number. While there are plenty of subtitle options - the
disc is region-locked to 'A' - more's the pity for our UK
counterparts who don't get the 51' edition as an extra in
1080P as we do
I believe I counted three trailers before the main feature -
but after that it was fairly smooth sailing with a
non-intrusive menu structure and reasonable reaction time.
Navigation - especially with the supplements - can get a
little funky but it's only a few seconds. Once you get the
PiP started - I couldn't figure out how to end it?
Well, you get the digital copy and the aforementioned 3rd
Blu-ray!) of the original 1951
The Day the Earth Stood Still. The feature disc has
a commendable audio commentary by Screenwriter David Scarpa.
Additions include Picture-in-Picture: Bonus View: of
Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts, a Build Your Own Gort
Interactive Experience - then some featurettes -
Re-Imagining The Day kind of production 'making off...'
running 1/2 an hour, Unleashing Gort for 15 minutes
discussing the effects surrounding the robot. Then there is
Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life
with experts giving points on existence of life on other
planets (one gal looks and sounds like a younger version of
Kathy Bates!) - some ecologically-friendly - The Day the
Earth was "Green" for 15-minutes, short three deleted
scenes, Still Galleries and Enhanced for D-Box Motion
Control Systems. Pretty stacked - especially taking into
account the included extra discs.
This is easy: If you don't already own the 1951 movie on
Blu-ray, then buy this one since it contains that very disc
as a bonus – the comparisons are instructive. If you do,
then rent this one for the sake of just that comparison.
This is another example to avoid the 'purists' dictating
your home theater entertainment. I'd say give it a spin and
judge for yourself. There are plenty of very definite
positives to this flic. If the original had never been born
- this would probably have been a much bigger hit.
Comparisons are going to exist but a 1/2 century can do a
lot... and this is coming from someone who worships the 51'
Leonard Norwitz + Gary Tooze
April 9th, 2009