DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson
Contains SPOILERS of BOTH the 1951 & the 2008 versions
I am a huge fan of the original film, which made in 1951, came only six years after the end of the second world war and the first and only use of Atomic bombs in wartime, over Japan.
Robert Wise’s 1951 version had a UFO land in Washington D.C. and Klaatu, a humanoid alien alighted the craft, along with his robotic companion, Gort. Klaatu, portrayed by Michael Rennie, is promptly shot by an over zealous U.S. infantryman, and Gort demonstrates that it can destroy any weapon of war it feels like, vaporising tanks and rifles etc, without killing the troops.
This is the first real difference here. Life is far less as sacred in this remake. At the end of the original, Klaatu meets with a collection scientists from around the world and in no uncertain terms, threatens the annihilation of the Earth if they spread their aggregation beyond the planet, as we were obviously on the brink of space travel after entering the atomic age.
He also stated that Gort was a galactic policeman of sorts, who could and would lay waste to the planet if they didn’t heed his warning. This film, seems to start in many ways were the original left off. There is no doubt that this is a remake, and is certainly no sequel, but the Wise version was more intellectual and threatening, almost as threatening as the Cold War would become, with threat over action protecting us from ourselves.
I felt that the 2008 version lacks that faith and felt that we needed to see what Gort could actually do, and in many ways, I liked it. Gort is now an organic machine and is made up of billions of nanobots which are manifested as locust type machines. The effect of the swarm consuming the earth towards the conclusion is brilliant and though it strays from the original’s sociopolitical stance, it does shift the film in to a more frightening direction.
Now, beside the fact that the film nods consistently and very nicely to original, it’s probably time to leave the comparisons and touch on the film as it stands. The Day The Earth Stood Still, had an amazing sound scheme, one of the best in past few years. How this didn’t win award after award is astonishing to me, but there you go.
The sound, the visual effects and the overtones of the film are all first-rate and it is mainly because of these factors that I bloody loved it, finding myself engrossed from the opening frame. But, there were several points that let it down, but not in a way that derailed it, which in itself, must be a plus, surely.
Many have as usual, berated Keanu Reeves for his usual vacant performance and comments about the fact that this role wasn’t very taxing are banded about. But so what? It suited him and played it well. Harrison Ford generally excels at roles where he plays himself, as does Al Pacino, but to name couple. The action in general was good to excellent in this and that must be a testament to the direction ans well as the cast.
Though I must admit, that when I saw John Cleese on the opening credits, I felt that we were in for a right one. But even his brief role as Professor Barnhardt, originally portrayed by Sam Jaffe, was great. I was in fact so pleased that he had been cast in a dramatic role, rather than pitched as comic relief, or unintentional comic relief as Sir Ian McKellen had fallen into in The Da Vinci Code.
The feeling was tense, dramatic and serious, without being downbeat of overly melodramatic. That’s not to say that melodrama didn’t have its place here, because there were moments but there was still a general homage to the tone of Robert Wise’s more clinical Sci Fi effort, with had been instrumental is legitimatising the genre, at a time when it was generally, green Martians invading Midwestern farms!
But the ending left me down, seemingly ending without a sufficient conclusion. There was no speech, no threats, just a conclusion to the events and a strong implication as to where things were heading. It was good, sort of effective but not as clear as I feel it should have been. I also wasn’t happy with Kathy Bates’ character as the Secretary Of Defense, exercising a national policy which seems to make little sense in the real word and beside news footage and verbal references to the world-wide panic, there was little sense of this portrayed on-screen.
Personally, I really liked it, and though it lacks some of the weight of the original, this was still entertaining and much, much better that I’d expected. In fact, this could be one of, if not the best direct remake of the last decade and beyond.