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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Day the Earth Stood Still 3-disc Special Edition [Blu-ray]

 

(Scott Derrickson, 2008)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: 3 Arts Entertainment

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC @ 26.4 Mbps

Capacity: BD-50

Runtime: 104 minutes

Chapters: 28

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; DUBs: Spanish & French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Cantonese & Mandarin

 

Extras:

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• Disc 3: The Original 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Blu-ray (reviewed HERE)

• 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 (23:08)

• The Day the Earth was "Green" (14:04)

• Deleted Scenes (1:56)

• Still Galleries

• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems

 

 

Comment:

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 protection."

 

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 compelling.

Leonard Norwitz

 

The Movie: 7

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!

Gary Tooze

 

Image: 7/8

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 (reviewed HERE).   

 

Operations: 7

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?  

 

Extras: 9

Well, you get the digital copy and the aforementioned 3rd disc (a 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.

 

 

Recommendation: 7

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.

Leonard Norwitz

 

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' version.

Gary Tooze

 

 

Leonard Norwitz + Gary Tooze
April 9th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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