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Day the Earth Stood Still, The


Stars: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese, John Hamm, Kyle Chandler, Robert Knepper, James Hong, Sunita Prasad

Director: Scott Derricksen

Nowadays Hollywood appears to rely more and more on remakes, sequels and rip-offs. This upsets movie buffs who treasure the originals and certainly as far as most science-fiction remakes go, they deserve to be launched – unseen - into deep space.

Dyed-in-the-past buffs will probably wish a similar fate for this lavish ‘reinvention’ of Robert Wise’s 1951 classic. Unfair. Derricksen and screenwriter David Scarpa have retained the central storyline of Harry Bates’ short story ‘Farewell to the Master’ – an implacable alien comes to Earth with a dire warning for Mankind and ready to wipe out a planet bent on nuclear destruction.

The plot still works. Shot by troops on emerging from his spacecraft in New York’s Central Park (rather than the more politically apt Washington DC in the original), the extraterrestrial Klaatu sheds his jelly-like skin and morphs into Reeves whose blank poker face admirably follows in the tradition of 1951’s British alien Michael Rennie. Which leaves microbiologist Connelly and her young stepson Smith to try and save Mankind by ‘humanising’ Reeves, so that he will not destroy the planet. Potential Nuclear War was the original’s McGuffin. Here it is that Gore-friendly elephant in the room, global warming.

Derricksen gets the show moving fast, maintains the pace and creates a telling sense of urgency, staging spectacular CGI-assisted set pieces – Klaatu’s guardian robot Gort mutates into swarms of all-devouring metallic insects that lay waste to everything in their path – and maintaining strong suspense. Contemporary science-fiction film audiences are definitely not short-changed.

And, a word to the Wise – it is possible to remake a classic without destroying the original.

Alan Frank

USA 2008. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
105 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 Dec 2008