The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
3rd April 2009
During an expedition to the Karakoram Mountains in 1928, a mountaineer encountered a strange glowing blue-white sphere. Intrigued by it, he approached and touched it. Blinded by a flash of light he collapsed, awaking a number of hours later with a strange scar on his hand and the mysterious sphere gone. Back in the present day, Dr. Helen Benson, a well respected astro-biologist, has her evening disturbed by a phone call. The caller refuses to give his name, but her front doorbell rings and a large number of FBI and other federal agents whisk her away to a military base. Still refusing to give any information to where they are heading, or what it is all about, Helen can't help noticing that the interstate is closed in one direction - and they are the only vehicle travelling on it . She's informed that it has been closed for their motorcade. Things must be pretty serious then.
Arriving at the military base, along with a group of other scientists who have been rushed to the base, Helen learns that an object travelling at an unbelievable speed is on a collision course with earth. With only a slim chance of being able to intercept the object, and survive the impending impact, the scientists are on hand to formulate a survival plan. However, as one of the scientists points out, an object travelling at such speed hitting the earth wouldn't leave anything left to rebuild. And when they are informed that the object will hit Manhattan in 78 minutes (yeap, it looks like New York is in for a good old trashing again), it doesn't give much time to prepare. But as the object enters the earths atmosphere it starts to slow before finally touching down in Central Park. As the dust settles, a giant sphere is clearly visible to the arriving police and troops.
Surrounded by a large military presence in the park, a doorway in the sphere appears and a being emerges and approaches the startled scientists, holds out his hand in greeting and announces his name as Klaatu. In the ensuing confusion, Klaatu is shot by a trigger happy solider and large robot appears from the sphere, disabling all of the soldiers weapons and extinguishing all of the lights. But before it can do anymore damage, Klaatu orders it to stop and it powers down, standing to attention and awaiting its next orders. Rushed to a medical facility, the nervous surgeon starts to cut away at the visitors clothing only to find a strange bio-mass surrounding what looks like a human body - a body that looks remarkably like the mountaineer encountered in 1928. Fortunately, it's a form that the surgeon can work on and the bullet wound is soon tidied up.
Whilst recovering from his injures Klaatu is unsurprisingly detained by the military whilst the immobile robot in Central Park is hastily encased in metal and moved to a secure location. Although Klaatu has requested to speak to the United Nations, Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson is having none of it, fearing that he has arrived on the planet to destroy it and decides that some careful interrogation is needed to loosen his tongue. However, Klaatu is claiming he has arrived on earth to save it and he must continue with his mission. But with much smaller spheres appearing all over the planet - and animals entering them - it's beginning to look like Klaatu has other ideas on his mind. Perhaps by saving the earth, he doesn't actually intend on saving everything on planet. Can the human race change its destructive ways before it's too late?
As with all recent action films released on DVD, the equivalent Blu-Ray edition will ensure that the humble silver disc is going to have a lot to make up for. And in the case of The Day the Earth Stood Still it certainly has a good crack at it. Whilst I'll admit that I find it hard not to compare the images produced by Blu-Ray to standard DVD, the reduction in detail gives the special effects a little more credence and realism (if you could even have such a thing in a film such as this). As such, the colours are rich and vibrant (if a little muted at times - with a colour pallet of greens and blue ruling the roost here) and there's plenty of detail to be extracted from the aging format yet. Blacks levels are strong whilst there are no issues with either artifacting or outlining. Naturally, given that this is such a recent release, the transfer is a pristine one and there are also no issues with print damage.
As with the superb image transfer, the 448 Kpbs Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is an extremely busy one. Although, it's nothing like the one offered by the Blu-Ray version, it's still a wonderfully dynamic one with no audio channel spared a workout with sound expelled from each channel throughout the film. Even the much maligned LFE channel gets a serious wakeup call (as will your neighbours!). With all the talk of 7.1 surround and rumbling furniture thanks to D-Box Motion Control, it's actually great to find a film, whether on standard DVD or Blu-Ray, that's prepared to put your surround system through its paces - after all, that's what you've paid for!
Once you get past the generic trailer for Twentieth Century Fox's Blu-Ray releases you're greeted by static, but dramatically scored menu in the form of a number of CCTV cameras showing stills from the film. Whilst it's not going to win any excitement or design awards, the menu it does the job and it's easy to navigate and select the options you want. Extras wise, they are all housed on a separate menu list and include a whole host of featurettes and additional features (some of which are more interesting in value than others).
First up is the Audio Commentary with Screenwriter David Scarpa. Surprisingly, director Scott Derrickson nor any of the cast members, are on hand to provide any additional input. However, that doesn't really matter as David Scarpa provides an extremely interesting and detailed commentary. With plenty of detail and gaps in all the right places, you'll pick up plenty of information about the film, the origins of the various ideas behind the film and nods to other films and characters. The commentary is also subtitled, so if you don't fancy listening to the commentary you can watch and read instead. Next up are the three Deleted and Extended Scenes which are thrillingly entitled
Equipment is issued to the scientists, Helen and Granier discuss the shot and Extended version of Klaatu being wheeled down hallway. Given that these scenes last for a mere two minutes the guys at Twentieth Century Fox obviously thought that the audience's bladder couldn't last out much longer. Still, it's not as if these scenes added too much more to the film and they aren't to be missed from the final cut of the film.
With plenty of film clips, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast, in the thirty minute featurette Re-Imagining "The Day", director Scott Derrickson, crew members and various film historians, this detailed and interesting featurette looks at the original black and white science-fiction classic and its modern interpretation. You may well laugh and giggle at the original special effects - including an alien in a sprayed crash helmet and a tall person in a diving suit - but the underlying storyline is a gripping tale of fear and hope for the future. I just wonder whether it really needed a modern remake. The Fourteen minute Unleashing Gort featurette looks at the weird and wacky designs for Gort before, after much time, money and effort, they reverted to his pretty much original, and iconic, design (I've always said, if it's not broke, don't fix it!). Director Scott Derrickson, screenwriter David Scarpa, character designer Aaron Sims and other SFX designers all put their 10 pence worth in, but during a design meeting it took Visual Effects Supervisor Jeffrey Okun to say that he preferred the original humanoid version (albeit taller, and with a special ability which might be a tad troublesome towards the end of the film). With plenty of artwork, clips from the film and simple CGI, design fans will find it interesting viewing.
Next up is the twenty three minute Watching the Skies : In Search of Extraterrestrial Life. With quite a few clips from the film, plus some insightful interviews with numerous scientists, astro-physicians, authors and Britain's very own Nick Pope, the featurette offers a very insightful, and honest, look at our galaxy and the universe and asks whether we are alone. Next up is the fourteen minute
The Day the Earth Was "Green" featurette. Given the message of the film, Twentieth Century Fox decided that The Day the Earth Stood Still should be their first green production. This featurette looks at the details and methods from their attempts at creating and using an environmentally conscious set. From powering the lighting rigs and sets using Biodiesel, turning off engines when not in use, limiting waste kitchen and paper waste and using environmentally friendly cleaning products, everybody appears to be making an effort to help boost their green credentials. Not a bad attempt really, especially since I've often wondered about the many set elements big budget films generally have and the amount of wood that's used in their construction.
Given the amount of fuss and performance the designers went to for Gort there's a good chance that there'll be plenty of artwork to be shown off too. So, in the Still Galleries there's a collection of Concept Art, Storyboards and Production Photos. Whilst these sort of things don't tend to interest me too much, fans of such things will find plenty of artwork, storyboards and photographs to plough their way through.
Unless you've spent a little too much time revelling in the wonders of Hollywood's originality, the more savvy of you will have realised that this is a remake of the 1950's black-and-white Cold War era-classic where, rather than destroying the natural world, man was in danger of destroying himself with nuclear weapons. With that danger more-or-less resolved, the writers have turned their attentions to the more pressing agenda of global warming, drowning polar bears, over population and the relentless destruction of the rain forests. And whilst the underlying plot is certainly a noble one, it is poorly executed with an annoying script, cringe worthy dialogue, feeble actors and some special effects which fall a little short on the small screen.
I'm sure that during the casting stage the writers were looking for someone who could portray a cold and expressionless alien with ease. So, naturally, it didn't take long for Keanu Reeves phone to start ringing. After all, this guy is hardly the most charismatic of actors and is the only actor who was able to slip into the part with ease. As for the eye candy Jennifer Connelly, the extremely annoying Jaden Smith and the hideously cast John Cleese as a Nobel prize winning scientist (hardly the first person you'd think of casting!), it made for some frustrating viewing that involved lots of shouting at the television. Unfortunately, whilst the original 1950's version is quite an enjoyable watch, the latest version is yet another disappointing Hollywood remake with more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. When will these guys learn to leave things alone and come up with some original ideas?!
Whilst it's possible to put the annoying cast and contrived storyline to one side for a moment, if you own a Blu-Ray DVD player then the equivalent Blu-Ray edition certainly warrants further investigation. From a visual and audio point of view The Day the Earth Stood Still has to be up there with some of the best titles currently available on the emerging format. Whilst the clarity of the transfer on either format exposes some the shortcomings of the special effects, the thumping soundtrack and good selection of extras ensures that The Day the Earth Stood Still is an interesting purchase quandary for science fiction fans. It's just a matter of which format you decide to opt for.
- Audio Commentary with Screenwriter David Scarpa
- Deleted Scenes - your chance to view three scenes that did not make the final cut of the film with "Equipment is issued to the scientists", "Helen and Granier discuss the shot" and ">Extended version of Klaatu being wheeled down hallway"
- Re-Imagining "The Day" – a look at the making of this re-imagined version of the film
- Unleashing Gort – take a peek at the process involved in creating Gort’s new look
- Watching the Skies: In Search of Extraterrestrial Life – scientists talk about possible real world scenarios for first contact with aliens
- The Day the Earth Was "Green" – Fox’s first green production; details from this environmentally conscious set
- Still Galleries