J.D. Lafrance
The Day the Earth Stood Still: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD Review

The Day the Earth Stood Still: 2-Disc Special Edition

April 13, 2009

Director: Scott Derrickson,
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Kyle Chandler,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

With the world mired in the current economic downturn, everyone is forced to tighten their purse strings, even Hollywood studios. Already notorious for playing it safe, they are taking even less chances and green-lighting projects that they feel are sure things: movie star-driven vehicles (Marley & Me), sequels (Fast and Furious) and remakes, the latter of which brings us the recent re-imagining of that 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Hedging their bets, the studio has not only loaded up the film with all kinds of expensive special effects but also recruited movie stars Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. It paid off as the film defied the critical drubbing it received and went on to become quite the commercial success.

Dr. Helen Benson (Connelly) is a professor at Princeton taken from her home one night with a group of other scientists and engineers picked by the military to deal with a large, unidentified object that will collide with the Earth, specifically New York City. If it impacts at its current speed, all life as we know it will cease to exist. The object, which resembles an extremely large marble, lands in Central Park and the military flies out Helen and the rest of the scientists to check it out. An alien emerges and makes contact with Helen. The military, naturally, shoots it.

They take the being into custody, extract the bullet and then it sheds its placenta-like exterior into a human being. The alien identifies itself as Klaatu (Reeves) and it wants to speak to the United Nations. Of course, the Secretary of Defense (Bates) wants to keep him under wraps and perform an interrogation. Being an extraterrestrial, he’s endowed with extraordinary abilities and easily escapes. Klaatu mingles with the general populace. He seeks out Helen, who is sympathetic to his plight, and she helps him get his message out there: to save the Earth from humanity.

Keanu Reeves is well-cast as Klaatu. For years now, he has mastered the blank slate look of a being from another planet. Sometimes, it has worked against him (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and other times it was ideal for the role (The Matrix films). One could argue that Klaatu is the role he was born to play and he certainly embodies the otherworldly quality necessary for the character.

This leaves Jennifer Connelly to provide the humanity that the audience can identify and empathize with. She’s just fine in a role that requires little of her to do except look concerned and worried. Her scenes with Jaden Smith, who plays her step-son, are well done but he plays a typical precocious child that seems to always inhabit these kinds of films.

The visual effects are nicely done and provide the requisite eye candy one expects from a big budget science fiction like this one. Director Scott Derrickson provides the usual invisible direction that typifies most Hollywood mega-productions interested only in reaching the widest audience possible. Sadly, this version of The Day the Earth Stood Still does nothing to improve on the original film, it only updates it and in the most predictable fashion: a CGI workout that obscures the original’s message of peace.

Special Features:

There are three deleted scenes that show Helen being briefed about the gear she will use to meet with the aliens. There is a brief exchange between her and a long-time colleague (Hamm). Finally, there is a little more with Klaatu being escorted to an interrogation room deep inside a government complex. These are all pretty inconsequential and it is easy to see why they were cut.

“Re-Imagining the Day” takes a look at the origins of the remake. Everyone sings the praises of the original film and talks about how it was a product of its time. The filmmakers talk about how they updated the original for today.

“Unleashing Gort” examines how they tweaked the character of Gort for the remake. The filmmakers went through several designs early on that did not resemble the original character at all. Finally, they went back to the original design with a few modifications.

“Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life” is one of the more interesting featurettes that features scientific experts talking about the possibility of life in our solar system and beyond.

“The Day the Earth was ‘Green’” takes a look at how this remake addresses environmental concerns that continue to plague our planet. To this end, the filmmakers made sure the production was environmentally friendly wherever possible.

There is an audio commentary by screenwriter David Scarpa. He talks about a different introduction that was written which featured a 2001-esque encounter with aliens and a space shuttle. It was deemed too expensive and once Keanu Reeves signed on, the filmmakers wanted him to appear on-screen as early as possible. Scarpa thought of Jennifer Connelly for Dr. Helen Benson early on even though he never met her. The writer talks about how the filmmakers chose to depict the appearance of the alien craft in a fresh, new way.

Also included are still galleries for the concept art, storyboards and production photographs.

There is a theatrical trailer.

Finally, there is the “Gort Art Contest Winners” that allows you to see the artwork that was chosen for a new for Gort.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 60%

Website: http://www.thedaytheearthstoodstillmovie.com/


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