Review: 'Day the Earth Stood Still' Mirrors Days of Noah

( [email protected] ) Dec 15, 2008 10:32 AM EST
Hitting theaters this weekend is the remake of a classic 1951 film cherished by sci-fi critics and fanatics.
In this image released by 20th Century Fox, a giant sphere from another world is shown descending on New York's Central Park in a scene from 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.' (Photo: 20th Century Fox / WETA)

Hitting theaters this weekend is the remake of a classic 1951 film cherished by sci-fi critics and fanatics.

Being a remake, Scott Derrickson’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” will be viewed critically by avid fans of the original. Having seen both, I personally feel the remake is definitely worth seeing – by both fans of the original and those who never heard of it.

The setting for the remake is New York City – a choice that may seem insensitive, but is understandable given the fact that the United Nations is headquartered there. (The setting of the original was Washington, D.C.)

When a large object hurtling through space at supersonic speeds makes it way toward Earth, a team of the top scientists in the United States are assembled to find a way to prevent the object from making impact. What they discover however, is that the object is no meteorite, but an organic space vessel carrying an extraterrestrial and its extra-large android.

Unsure what the alien’s motives are for landing on earth, the U.S. government attempts to interrogate it after a trigger-happy military unit welcomes the new arrival with a bullet to the chest. The alien, played by Keanu Reeves, however, insists on speaking only to the leaders of the world, and later escapes captivity when his request is refused.

With the help of one of the scientists, Klaatu sets off to receive a report from a fellow alien who has been observing and mingling with mankind for years in human form.

The verdict? The human race is destructive – though there’s something about them that the aged alien is drawn to.

The sentence? The end of the human race.

Now, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is not a Christian movie, per se. But so obvious are the biblical allusions that it will likely be embraced by believers – should they see it, that is.

The movie makes for a great modern day retelling of the Noah’s ark story. And seeing the destructive nature of mankind in the movie really helps believers and non-believers understand more clearly why God – or any deity or powerful entity – would end the lives of so many as He did in the days of Noah.

“If the earth dies, humans die. If humans die, the earth lives,” Klaatu says in one scene.

Now, lines like these and other environmental references may lead many to view the movie as a Green one, but the message of the movie goes deeper than that. It’s not just about mankind’s destructiveness toward the Earth, but about mankind’s destructiveness in general – toward one another even.

Is the human race without hope? This is what Klaatu believes after receiving his colleague's report. But as Klaatu spends more time with his human hosts and engages in a conversation with a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he comes to question the verdict which was rendered and the sentence that begins to carry out.

That said, the latest version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” eclipses the original in many areas – mostly due to the technologies and special effects available today that were not six decades ago. The flying metallic saucer, for example, is replaced by an organic space vessel that brings a more out-of-this world feel as it’s not based on present-day Earth technologies. Also included in this version is nanotechnology, which opens up a frightening form of destruction.

The sudden conclusion of the movie, however, may leave moviegoers feeling like an entire third act is missing and may put a damper on whatever suspense or thrills the action-packed film may have built up – which is a shame because the movie has so much going for it.

Despite this, the movie is still better in many ways to the cherished original and worth making a trip to the theaters to watch. Furthermore, the message that the movie presents is such an important one for every person in this world. Especially, with the word “Change” on everyone’s mind – particularly in the U.S. – the movie will resonate with many.

And as we are still living in a post-9/11 age, more movies with messages like this one are surely needed – as are the people who will work for change.

Hopefully, moviegoers will leave this flick not just entertained, but inspired and changed themselves.