It's more than a difficult task to try and remake a beloved film, so relatively inexperienced director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose") probably had his hands full trying to take on "The Day the Earth Stood Still", a remake of Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi flick (one wonders if it would have been a Roland Emmerich film had that director not been doing "2012".) The picture opens with scientist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) whisked away by the government and sent off to join a party of scientists who are unaware of why they have all been gathered together. Soon enough, they find out they're headed to Central Park in order to intercept something that is directly headed there from outer space.
Although Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) eventually exits the giant sphere that brought him to Earth, he's not greeted warmly, attacked shortly after walking out into the open. A giant robot that accompanied Klaatu to Earth moves everyone back, then allows Helen and others to take him to a hospital. After recovering, he lets the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) know that he wants to speak to a gathering of world leaders.
His message is simple and straightforward: humans are destroying their own planet, and if they are unable to take proper care of it, they will be wiped off the planet because there are only a few planets in the solar system that can support complex life. Helen, upset at the treatment of the visitor by the government, helps him escape and the two - along with Helen's son (Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith) - hit the road with the government on their tail. Along the way, she tries to convince Klaatu that humanity is worth saving.
The picture isn't exactly without its concerns, such as the fact that some of the characters aren't exactly bright, Helen's son is a pretty pointless character and there's more than a few instances of rather blatant product placement throughout the movie. Beyond those concerns is the fact that the film has a rather chilly, detached air about it - for a disaster movie, the tone is awfully subdued, which takes away from some of the impact.
As for impact, I was a little surprised that the movie doesn't seem to press the point of its message of saving the planet. I wouldn't have wanted the messages to be delivered in a heavy-handed way, either, but given what the movie is about, the lack of much of a message is surprising. Towards the last quarter of the movie, it's about how humans can change, but this aspect of the film is never really delivered in a believable way.
Keanu's performance is the most monotone of the actor's career, but that's the way the character is meant to be played. While Reeves plays the role about as well as can be expected, Connelly is a bit disappointing, as while this certainly isn't a bad performance from the otherwise terrific actress, it's a performance that seems a little distant.
As a big-budget effects picture, the film does boast a few reasonably impressive action sequences and effects are generally satisfactory. While I found the film basically entertaining (it served as a satisfying way to pass an afternoon) despite it's flaws, little from the movie really stuck with me after the credits rolled.
A Blu-Ray disc with the original 1951 "Day The Earth Stood Still" film is included, as well as another disc with a digital copy of the film for PCs/portable players.
VIDEO: "Day the Earth Stood Still" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). This is a mostly terrific transfer, as the big-budget flick generally looked sharp and detailed, although some scenes looked especially crisp well-defined. The film's overall look is gloomy and subdued, and as a result, the picture - with few exceptions - goes for a rather low-key color palette. Colors looked accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults.
The print used looked spotless - as one might expect from a new release. Some light grain (likely an intentional element of the cinematography)is seen at times, but gives the presentation a somewhat "film-like" appearance. A few slight instances of edge enhancement are seen briefly at times, but really don't result in much distraction. Overall, while this presentation doesn't stand out as reference quality, it's an excellent effort from the studio.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack does certainly have a few moments of aggressive surround use for discrete effects and ambience - mainly during the opening quarter and the few big FX sequences of the last quarter. However, this is not an all-out audio assault, and there are stretches throughout the film that are more dialogue-driven. Audio quality was quite pleasing, especially during the major FX sequences, where strong, deep bass was both heard and felt.
EXTRAS: We don't get a commentary from the director, but we do get a commentary from writer David Scarpa. Like the movie or not, Scarpa provides a solid - if somewhat uneven - commentary. The writer talks about the film excitedly for a stretch, then goes quiet for a period. When Scarpa does talk, he does provide a detailed, informative discussion of the production, chatting about his way of approaching the remake, his thoughts on the final film, working with the actors and behind-the-scenes stories.
"Re-imagining the Day" is a 30-minute look at the making of the movie, as well as a discussion of the original. It's a somewhat promotional overview, with a number of clips from both the original and the remake. There's a good deal of discussion about how the production went about remaking the film - we hear about differences, casting and production issues - but the documentary doesn't go into any subject in great depth.
Three tiny deleted scenes are included, with no commentary. "Unleashing Gort" is a short featurette on the FX for the Gort sequences in the film, as well as creating the character design (there were some different versions before the filmmakers went with the version seen in the film.) "The Day the Earth Turned Green" is a 14-minute look at both the film's message of saving the earth and how the production itself was environmentally friendly. "Watching the Skies" is a look at how the "Truth is Out There" and there may be life forms on other planets.
We also get a picture-in-picture option that can be played during the film that either shows storyboards or pre-viz/FX footage. Finally, we get still galleries, a "Build Your Own Gort" interactive feature and the film's theatrical trailer (as well as - as mentioned above - both a digital copy of the film for PCs/portable players and another Blu-Ray disc that offers the original 1951 version of the film.)
Final Thoughts: While I found this remake of "Day" basically entertaining (it served as a satisfying way to pass an afternoon) despite it's flaws, little from the movie really stuck with me after the credits rolled. The Blu-Ray edition offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of supplemental features. Rent it.
The Film B-