Review: ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (2008)

If you want to see all the cool special effects in this remake, watch the trailer. If you want the extreme environmentalist agenda that goes with them, buy a ticket.

Starting off pretty much the same way as Independence Day, something bad is heading toward Earth. Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is one of several scientists contacted for the inevitable: first contact. When the object slows and is revealed to be a transport, a trigger-happy soldier shoots the first humanoid that comes out. The aggressive act prompts another creature to exit the craft, a silver giant with a red eye, but the response is halted by the wounded humanoid. While the US military tries the figure out how to incapacitate the giant without provoking its defensive capabilities, the humanoid morphs into an actual human that calls itself Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), but since no one will let him address the United Nations with a dire warning, he proceeds to put an apocalyptic plan into action.

In 1951, a atomic-age film called The Day the Earth Stood Still warned that harnessing the atom came with great responsibility, even suggesting that peace-loving aliens would destroy humanity outright rather than risk exposing our war-like tenancies to other worlds. The 2008 remake, however, suggests that everything except humanity deserves to live more than humanity does, no matter what the cost. That’s right, turn off the power, cease communications, unplug the freezers, delete the Internet, and get ready for some good ol’ hunter-gather living off the land. Did it occur to the film’s creators that the only people fit to survive in their “ideal environmentalist world” for more than a month are outdoor survivalists who would probably kill them for meat before they figured out how sharpen a knife?

The film isn’t a total loss. Product placements by Microsoft Windows (and their Windows for tabletops and walls), McDonald’s restaurants (and their new McCafe), LG cell phones, Citizen watches, and Toyota hybrids are all there in the understanding that this is a fantasy and consumers are watching. There’s a great little performance by Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada) mourning his father, but the actual plot is Connelly trying to convince Reeves that humanity is worth saving, a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. Mr. Reeves seems pretty comfortable doing his alien thing, and Jennifer Connelly again does the desirable leading lady bit (although we miss your curves and worry about how thin you’ve become… may we suggest a Bic Mac and large fries while Keanu plots to destroy the world?)

There is a telling scene early on when Kathy Bates, serving as the eyes and ears of the US president, asks Klaatu why he has come “to our planet.” Reeves responds by asking, “YOUR planet?” Please allow my indulgence here as I provide a better response for Ms. Bates than what the writers saddled her with:

“Yes, OUR planet, the one WE evolved from, and as such, it’s our sovereign right to exist here and use the world that spawned us as we see fit. But as a highly-evolved race that has probably already accomplished everything humanity has ever aspired to, why didn’t you come down a little sooner and offer up some your advanced green technologies a decade ago or a century earlier? If you could have provided the solutions to keep us from spoiling the planet sooner and only NOW tell us that’s it too late, feel free to share in half the blame yourselves. But if for one minute you’re going to hold us solely responsible for our own mess, then leave it for us to wallow in and get the hell of OUR planet.”

(a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. Um, you’re a little angry. Maybe you’re angry because in real life, you’d be the soldier to shoot Kaatu at first sight. You sound like a human who has no hope for the future and fear changing the way you think more than you fear changing your lifestyle.

    You aren’t dumb, only naive. you get the point of the movie, but you reject it outright.

    Sorry to hear that. I thought the movie, aside from the slew of product placements, was a decent warning to the masses that go see it that we all need to wake up and move our actions in a positive direction to achieve harmony with the creatures of this planet, including ourselves.


  2. I completely disagree with your review of this film. I thought everything was good and fun about the movie except for the product placements. Did you see the one where the Windows logo was on the BACK of the laptop? Haha that one was hilarious. The movie was pretty good though, obviously not the best of this amazing year but it was still an enjoyable experience.


  3. You’re right, Eli. I disagree with the idea that humanity has no right to exist if it disturbs something else. Well, guess what? That’s the law of the jungle and humanity is at the top of the food chain. Having said that, we’re also smarter than the average lion, and there’s nothing wrong with a little conservation to protect things for future generations.

    What I reject is the notion that industrialization and modernization is fundamentally wrong, that possessing the knowledge to build tools and change our world is an abomination and an affront to nature. The earth has survived millions of years before us and will continue for millions of years afterward. There have been at least five mass extinctions before humanity appeared (although those were obviously humanity’s fault, too, somehow, right?)

    The one good point the film does make is that, when put in a life or death situation, humanity, like nature, is driven to and often finds a way to endure. Have you considered that the reason you find my point of view naive is because you yourself can’t handle the notion that humanity is ultimately insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things?


  4. It seems odd to me that your review of a film is based primarily on whether you agree with its philosophical premise. Maybe it makes an anti-humanist, eco-centric argument poorly, and THAT makes it a load of crap. But the fact that it espouses a point-of-view contrary to yours is not in itself grounds for a bad review.


  5. Were the production and special effects interesting? Yes. Was it well acted? Nothing too exceptional, but nothing horrid. But to accept the story’s premise as revealed requires suspension of disbelief in much the same way as M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Happening.’ The only difference between this film and that one is that a classic sci-fi film was mined for elements and skewed from a warning of self-annihilation to “humanity is inheritly evil and must be destroyed for bettering itself.” I vote humanity; death to the aliens!


  6. The point is that this movie is rehashing old material…and not with any talent. Besides, this is a subjective art, if the movie leaves someone unsatisfied wouldn’t it be dishonest to give it a good review?

    You don’t have to be fair in movie reviews, just consistent.


  7. I think I like this Reaper guy. He makes some good points. Im getting tired of the movies that come out these days, just brimming with preachy messages meant to make us all feel self loathing. These films literally play the role of propoganda, never really showing both sides of an argument.


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