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DVD Review: The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) – Two Disc Widescreen Edition

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If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.

Remakes like The Day The Earth Stood Still are always tricky. Filmmakers usually must compromise with fans of the original while appealing to current audiences and their desires/ideologies. Director Scott Derrickson changes themes from Cold War nuclear war tensions to bad environmental practices that put Earth in peril amid the universal community.

This sci-fi remake stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, a mysterious entity accompanied by Gort, a powerful (and taller from the 1951 film) entity in his own right who doesn’t speak, but definitely has a more intimidating presence. Reeves keeps an even range, which often becomes his most frequent criticism. Jennifer Connelly stars as acclaimed scientist Helen Benson who’s suddenly thrust into this situation along with the young boy Jacob, played by Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness).

PhotobucketHelen’s past and current distant relationship with Jacob factor into the storyline as they connect with Klaatu when everyone else avoids him. A miscast Kathy Bates plays a high ranking government official while John Cleese makes a credible appearance as one of Helen’s colleagues and Jon Hamm is one of many experts called into the crisis.

The visual chaos depends on countless special effects and CGI sequences. They keep the sci-fi elements strong, but more realistic effects that blended more completely would have increased the escapism elements helping you really escape into these amazing events instead of getting distracted by gaffes. Some logistics, like lining up tanks in perfect rows instead of more tactical formations, also detract from the film. The disintegration of the highway sign with mileage to the next city doesn’t look authentic, which just reminds audiences of that fact and put the film into familiar ‘disaster movie’ mode where the destruction overshadows the story.

This update lacks powerful impact, though fans of the original get some satisfying gems like the famous "Klaatu barada nikto" fail-safe phrase, though it’s quick at the beginning and hard to hear. The War of the Worlds update succeeded, but this 103 minute film doesn’t equal the 1951 Robert Wise-directed film — even with millions spent on special effects. This DVD version actually includes the original.

Recommended with reservations and rated PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence. Also showing in IMAX theaters. Three-Disc Widescreen + Full Screen Edition and 3-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray versions also available.

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