The F*ckin Black Sheep: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Directed by Scott Derrickson

“THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a decent flick, better than remembered."

This might sound strange, but I think people take Keanu Reeves for granted. Oh sure, he doesn’t have a lot of range in his acting, voice, or emotion, but the guy somehow works on the big screen. From when he got famous in BILL AND TED’S until THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Keanu was never without a gig and managed to make some big ass hits. But in 2008, after his turn as everyone’s favorite planet hugging alien Klaatu, his career seemingly slowed. Well, until JOHN WICK shot lots of people in the head to help fans remember that he’s an entertaining fellow.

Now I’m not going to make some outlandish claim that this version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is as good as the original. Let’s not get stupid. Part of the initial problem comes from this being one of many unnecessary remakes. I get that it’s a property with brand recognition, but some films shouldn’t be remade. Call it something new and probably half the bitches about it vanish. So seven years after this movie flopped, I (tried) to watch it as not a remake, but as its own thing because like all remakes, it’s only fair to judge it as if new, to avoid the compare and contrast game (always easier after years have ticked by).

Now back in 2008, a remake of the sci-fi classic sounded decently tempting as it had Keanu (only a few years removed from THE MATRIX trilogy and CONSTANTINE), stupid hot Jennifer Connelly, and rising horror director Scott Derrickson (who wrote SINISTER 2 out now). It was hard to escape jokes about Keanu being perfect for the role of a wooden alien, but watching it again with a renewed appreciation for him brought a conclusion: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a decent flick, better than remembered. No classic, but it’s a fine effort that contains solid moments. Maybe I’m biased, but Keanu does the role justice. For once his acting style fits pretty well since he’s supposed to be alien. When he’s the center of attention, the movie works. When Klaatu takes a back seat to other folks…eh.

Director Scott Derrickson  does a dandy job with the tension and pacing for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. He isn’t in a rush to push the story or the action allowing the thing to build slowly, creating a good looking, glossy film with special effects that mostly hold up. The movie really works right up until Klaatu reveals that the Earth is just about dead. That’s the point when the pacing should have kicked up, but all the dialogue gets a little too preachy. That was cool back in the 1950s, but now it’s a little obvious. What helps keep the flick afloat is when super-sized Gort gets all pissed off in the military base (after they box him up and ship him there) and he turns into the Smoke Monster. Then he finally messes some shit up – everything from a road sign to a truck to a football stadium to the planet. Gone in seconds from little nano flies.

Now clearly there’s some bad stuff in here. Perhaps the worst offender is courtesy of Will Smith’s kid. He’s a fine young actor, but here he’s just another obnoxious kid thrown into a movie that didn’t need another character. He’s the stepson of Connelly’s scientist character (even though she doesn’t do a lot of science stuff). I can only assume Smith is here because the studio wanted to ensure the kiddos had someone to relate to in a PG-13 production. Another thing that stands out is the pushy product placement. There’s plenty of it, but the worst comes when Keanu meets David Lo Pan at McDonald’s. Of all ways to push your product, why pick an alien invasion movie? It didn’t make me want a Big Mac.

By itself, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL has good moments. It’s too bad they tried too hard to make it safe and enjoyable for everyone. I assume that if Derrickson had a little more free reign, he could added some much needed edge and grit, but it’s still not the film dud that everyone has made it out to be.





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