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May 5, 2009
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
22/12/200829/4/2009FoxScott Derrickson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MKeanu Reeves

What is it with Hollywood and remakes? Are they so devoid of ideas that they have to remake a "classic" in the hope of getting people back into the cinemas? Admittedly, the occasional movie is remade well (such as Casino Royale), but more often then not they are a failure (think Planet of the Apes), both critically and commercially. The Day the Earth Stood Still was made in 1951, but it's not that movie which we are reviewing but rather the 2008 remake starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. So, does this fall on the good or bad side of remakes?

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A Sphere turns up in Central Park, New York.
The Day The Earth Stood Still follows astrobiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) as she is unceremoniously plucked from her everyday life with her stepson (Jaden Smith), and whisked away to consult the government on a top-secret matter. That matter happens to be the arrival of a massive glowing sphere in Central Park, accompanied by a towering robot-like protector dubbed Gort and an alien ambassador named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), who takes up human form to communicate with the people of Earth. When Klaatu finds himself faced with hawkish, uncompromising officials, he goes on the run with Benson and her son as the fate of the world gradually becomes clear.

Now I have to admit that I can't recall the details of the original movie. I recall seeing parts of it, but not the entire thing, and certainly not with enough recollection to compare the two movies. So you could say I've gone into this 2008 remake pretty fresh. What I discovered was a fairly impressive sci-fi film which shows the potential first contact with someone not from this planet. While Klaatu may hold a human form, he is not human. The first 30 minutes of the film are quite riviting with the appearance of the sphere, and the first contact with Klaatu. Following this though the movie degenerates into a fugitive styled movie. Fortunately there are some unique themes present - with the ultimate message being one very important to today's world. I won't spoil it for you but obviously the filmmakers couldn't recreate the themes of the original movie about the formation of the United Nations.

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Jennifer Connelly and Keanu Reeves.
The three lead actors in this movie are all fairly good in their roles. Keanu Reeves plays the mysterious Klaatu. Fortunately this role sees him as a rather unique, silent, and mysterious alien being which means he doesn't need to act and doesn't need to show emotion - it's probably the perfect Keanu Reeves role. But seriously, he does carry the picture fairly well with a unique, and intriguing, performance. Jennifer Connelly is also impressive as Dr. Helen Benson but without any doubt the highlight in the acting department is Will Smith's young son Jaden Smith. You've probably already seen him in The Pursuit of Happiness where is was sensational, and it is equally brilliant as Helen's stepson, Jacob.

Another brilliant actor who appears in the movie is John Cleese. When I saw his name in the credits I was hoping for some brilliant scenes, however he is only in the movie for a matter of minutes, and it really disappoints when it's over. Kathy Bates plays Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in the movie. It's an interesting role as she battles with Klaatu about who owns the planet and America being the one he must answer to rather then the leaders of the planet. It may not be accurate to how America really thinks, but it is certainly one very wide perception that many non-Americans have about the what America thinks of the rest of the world.

Visual effects are a standout aspect of The Day the Earth Stood Still. From the enormous GORT, to the arrival of the spheres, to the rather destructive ending everything looks brilliant. It wasn't until I was doing some research after seeing the movie that I realised that WETA Digital were the primary visual effects company (they, of course, worked on The Lord of the Rings movies). For a movie with "only" an $US80 million budget there are some pretty amazing special effects here.

Still, there are some pretty ludicrous scenes and setups in the movie. When NASA discovers the object heading towards Earth why would you collect your top scientists and the put them all in a helicopter right above the projected impact zone?! Why is it that one of the soldiers fires his weapon at Klaatu at the beginning - aren't they meant to be trained to handle weapons? I could go on...

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Destruction in The Day The Earth Stood Still.
Despite it's flaws I still found The Day the Earth Stood Still to be an entertaining movie. It reminded me of the mystery and suspense when the first ships appeared in Independence Day. No one knows what to expect, and that builds a tense atmosphere. This movie is worth a look, just don't expect anything groundbreaking.

Without a shadow of a doubt one of the most consistent movie studios when it comes to video transfers to Blu-Ray is Fox. It's rare to see a release from them, at least of new release movies, that doesn't look exceptional and The Day The Earth Stood Still could be classed as reference quality. There are absolutely no flecks of dirt or film artifacts, colours are natural and the shadow detail impressive. In fact this is a reference quality disc from start to finish and finding fault is absolute nitpicking.

As with the video the audio quality on Fox's Blu-Ray releases are more often then not exceptional, and that is the case here. Using the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 encoding this movie sounds terrific with wonderful use of surround sound channels, and also the sub woofer. Dialogue remains crystal clear at all times and the music from composer Tyler Bates (300, Grindhouse) is engaging.

There are several other audio options on this disc. First up are French, Italian and Russian DTS 768kbps audio tracks which are all impressive and won't disappoint even if they don't quite have the fidelity of the main English track. There is another track which is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps however we aren't sure which language it is - possibly Ukrainian? Finally we have an English Descriptive Audio track which is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps and a fairly impressive effort.

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Klaatu is getting interrogated.
Subtitles are provided in English, French, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and the unknown language. Sampling the English track demonstrated accuracy and good timing with the subtitles often placed on the side of the film where the actors are talking for improved accuracy and a slight sense of direction. It works well and I'd like to see more of this in future - well done Fox.

If there is one real disappointment with this release it's that the Australian release of The Day The Earth Stood Still does not include a second Blu-Ray disc with the original 1951 movie. Still this release of The Day the Earth Stood Still includes a few extras worth your time. Rather then babble on, here's the details...

In-Movie Features: This is an interactive styled feature which allows you to turn on or off three features. By pressing the green button on your remote you can turn on the audio commentary by writer David Scarpa. By hitting the Blue button you can see the Pre-Viz and Special effects footage while the Yellow button turns on the Storyboards. This is a great feature, but the only annoyance for PS3 owners is that without these coloured buttons on your normal Dual Shock 3 controller you have to bring up the menu.

Klaatu's Unseen Artifacts: Picture in Picture Track: Pretty self explanatory this feature put up a small window with extra bits and pieces such as the pre-viz sequences and special effects. This is the same as the one accessed in the In-Movie feature by pressing the Blue button.

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Looking into the sphere.
Build Your Own GORT: A pretty dull interactive sequence to build GORT from a head, torso, arms and legs.

Deleted Scenes (1:56/HD): Three deleted scenes are presented here in High Definition. They are very short, and could have remained in the film although they don't add much to the storyline.

Re-imagining The Day (30:06/HD): This interesting featurette looks at updating the classic movie for a modern audience. There are plenty of interviews here and some footage from the original picture to demonstrate the differences.

Unleashing GORT (13:52/HD): This featurette looks at creating GORT for this latest movie including the lengthy design process prior to filming.

Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life (23:08/HD): A rather interesting documentary about the search for life on other worlds including the SETI project and other attempts.

The Day The Earth Was "Green" (14:04/HD): With the world on the brink of environment disaster this featurette looks at how the producers made this a "Green" movie. That being, environmentally friendly during the filming of the movie given its entire message and News Corp's promise to be Carbon neutral by 2010.

Commentary by writer David Scarpa: This audio commentary is the same as that featured in the In-Movie Features. It's quite interesting and worth a listen if you're a fan of the movie.

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We're going to need a new car!
Still Galleries: A series of still images broken down into Concept Art, Storyboards, and Production Photos.

Theatrical Trailer (1:48/HD): The theatrical trailer for The Day The Earth Stood Still presented in HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at 448kbps.

Digital Copy on DVD: While we never received this disc for reviewing the retail release contains a second disc (DVD) with a digital copy of the film for those interested.

The one real disappointment with this release is the omission of the 1951 original movie on a second Blu-Ray disc in the set. Still, while I can't compare the 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still to the original, I did find it an entertaining experience with some great moments. If you're a fan of Keanu Reeves then you'll want to check this out. With a brilliant audio visual presentation, and a few extras worth your time this is a release worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.