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May 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #4: The Day the Earth Stood Still duo (1951 – 2008)

Gort (Lock Martin) in a frame from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
For reasons I cannot explain, and although I am a big Sci-Fi fan, I had neglected to see The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and its same-titled 2008 remake. I just corrected this wrong, and although not much has been left to say about the duo that hasn’t already been said, here’s my brief notes.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Set during the Cold War era, a few years after the end of WWII (World War II), this is about a spaceship that lands on our planet Earth, bringing the alien visitor Klaatu [Michael Rennie from The Lost World (1960)] along with his goon robot Gort (Lock Martin). When the duo’s messages of peace don’t work to the ever war-inducing earthlings, Klaatu will try to infiltrate our planet’s population by befriending a young boy, Bobby Benson [Billy Gray from Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)].

Based on the ‘Farewell to the Master’ story by Harry Bates, the screenplay by Edmund H. North [Patton (1970)] may be a bit too neoliberal for its own good (even though neoliberalism probably wasn’t a thing back then), what with the celebration of police via a supposed peaceful message, but that was Cold War-era America and those messages were the standard. On the other hand, Robert Wise’s [West Side Story (1961)] direction is top-notch, and he truly delivers a masterful work of science fiction. The soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann (no introduction needed) is probably the most iconic in the history of the genre.

Produced by Julian Blaustein [Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)] for 20th Century Fox on less than 1$ million, it went on to gross $1.85 million, it is now considered a classic of its genre and cinema in general, and should not be missed by anyone.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

When an alien spaceship lands in New York City, a bunch of scientists is gathered by the military, among them the female lead Dr. Helen Benson (the always drop-dead gorgeous Jennifer Connelly). The alien that comes out of the spaceship, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves, no introduction needed) comes in peace, but the ever trigger-happy U.S. military forces gun him down, prompting his gigantic robot to take action. Once Klaatu is captured by the U.S. government, he is subjected to some awful interrogation methods, and upon arranging his escape, he will try a different approach in order to deliver his message of peace.

Not so much a remake, but rather a re-imagination of the original, director Scott Derrickson’s [The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)] film is much more spectacular (what with the expensive CGI and multiple shootouts and explosions, etc.) but lacks in depth. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates is a winner though, even if not as iconic as the original film’s one. Produced by Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, and Erwin Stoff, for 20th Century Fox, on a whopping $80 million budget, this went on to gross $233.1 million, essentially becoming a big blockbuster.


Whereas the 1951 film is a subtle classic of its genre (and an occasionally moody and quiet piece at that too), the 2008 remake is a bombastic multi-million dollar spectacle. They are both nowhere near my list of my all-time favorite Sci-Fi films from the past or the recent times, but they are still very enjoyable popcorn movies that you should catch up with, in the unlikely case that you haven’t already done so.

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