Thursday, January 28, 2021
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Stick With The Original – The Day The Earth Stood Still

Well, we can add the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still to the list of other failed attempts at mining gold from previous film successes. Once again, we’ve been offered a big budget, high tech, star-laden clunker in the place of a well-honed film that neatly, at times eerily, invoked alien intrusions and fear at the dawn of the nuclear age.

Some classics are best left as they are and should not be messed with, unless it is being handled by a master director and some of the finest actor who can do justice to an already well known character. Whenever we see a remake of an old film being presented to us with modern day changes, it becomes difficult to accept it with an open mind as each and every moment of the film is well etched in our memory. It is much better to view this film on than endure its atrocious remake.


Ok, there’s no law that says a remake has to be just like the original, but this one was certainly promoted that way. I suppose you really couldn’t make the exact same movie over again. You do have to keep up with the times. In 1951 it was nuclear weapons. Today it’s about the environment. But even if you’re going to change the film’s focus you still need to make it watchable. This one, unfortunately, turned out to be The Day My Watch Stood Still.

Once again technology becomes the dominant character and, as it has in many films, proves to be the guy who sucks all the oxygen out of the room. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still had less technology and so characterization took over creating a tight film that hits its notes right on. Michael Rennie, under the direction of Robert Wise, played Klaatu as an urbane presence, a man on a mission that presented mankind with the specter of annihilation but also left open hope. Klaatu may seem like an ordinary human being but he was also unambiguous in his message, change Earth’s deadly ways concerning nuclear weapons or face the wrath of other planetary civilizations. That wrath came in the form of a robot, Gort.

Gort perfectly set the ominous tone to the original film that thrilled adolescents and still carries its power to our older selves. The tension is terrific; Klaatu the suave, intelligent, guy you’d like running your company opposite the threatening, obedient, Gort. Against them both, a fearful humanity, depicted beautifully in the scene where Patricia Neal approaches Gort and barely gets the words Klaatu Barada Nikto out of her mouth to save her life. There’s no similar scene or the words in the new film and it’s a pity.

The remake starts with a different premise. There’s no hope, repentance it seems is out of the question. Plans for our annihilation are already in the works. Why? Well, we’ve obviously made Earth a hell-hole and we have to give it back to the rabbits, mountain goats, and insects. Nothing necessarily wrong with that but when you team that idea up with the usual blank-faced Keanu Reeves, a more buffed up G.O.R.T. that adds almost nothing to the story or to shivers, a plot that’s an endless series of escapes, and mind-numbingly little logic, you don’t have much.

A few characters do survive in their own way. The Patricia Neal role is now taken over by Jennifer Connelly only now she’s a scientist who helps Klaatu escape initially and provides the innocent hope that slowly changes Klaatu’s mind about wiping us out. Professor Barnhardt steps in briefly in a nice but essentially meaningless turn by John Cleese. And there’s a young boy only this time the Billy Grey character, everyone’s dream child, is replaced by Jaden Smith, a chalkboard-scratching irritant. And there’s the robot, much more attuned to killing and named by humans in a silly acronym, G.O.R.T. Added is a Secretary of Defense, played gamely by Kathy Bates, to provide the necessary bureaucratic attitude. There are also other aliens who’ve arrived years earlier to prepare for human extinction. We meet one, who actually likes humans, in probably one of the nicer scenes in the movie.

Nonetheless, the destruct sequence is implemented and G.O.R.T. changes into a cloud of nano-insects turning everything manmade into powder. The rest is a technology and less than suspenseful race by Klaatu to stop the process. By the way, nothing stands still.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a movie that only raises the stature of the original. Like other failed attempts at remakes, this will become a fast-forgotten B-movie, barely watchable once let alone dozens of enjoyable times.

David Scott is the head writer at TRI PR. He better part of his college life as a journalist for the college magazine. He still writes and he loves it.