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The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (**)
directed by Scott Derrickson
by David Scarpa (whose only previous screenplay is The Last Castle),
based on a 1951 screenplay by Edmund H. North (who wrote much better films, including Destry and Patton),
which was in turn based on a here uncredited story by Harry Bates, "Farewell to the Master" from the October 1940 Astounding Science-Fiction (which features Slan on the cover).
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Principal Cast
Keanu Reeves -- Klaatu
Jennifer Connelly -- Helen Benson
Kathy Bates -- Regina Jackson
Jaden Smith -- Jacob Benson
John Cleese -- Professor Barnhardt
Jon Hamm -- Michael Granier
Kyle Chandler -- John Driscoll
Robert Knepper -- Colonel
James Hong -- Mr. Wu
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

I wish they would stop remaking 50s science fiction.

The 50s are a Sargasso Sea of science fiction amid an ocean desert of movies with not even a hint SF. There were great SF films in the 30s and earlier. But there was no science fiction (except low-budget movie serials and monster movies) between Things to Come, by H.G. Wells, in 1936 and Destination Moon, by Robert A. Heinlein, in 1950.

The best (and only big budget) fifties SF films are Destination Moon, about man's first trip to the moon, The Conquest of Space, about man's first trip to Mars, and a slew of movies about aliens landing on Earth in the present day: The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing, War of the Worlds, It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth were set on (or inside) the Earth and were based on novels by Jules Verne. When Worlds Collide was about Earth wiped out by a comet. The science fiction content in these films was very timid. Compare The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein, and The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, all written in the 50s.

Slightly more adventurous were the only two movies set in deep space before Star Trek: This Island Earth and Forbidden Planet. The latter, in particular, features a starship with a human crew whose mission is to explore unknown worlds (and boldly go where no man has gone before?)

Of these twelve films, six have been remade (not counting some appalling television remakes) and none of the remakes have any of the charm of the originals. Remakes of When Worlds Collide and Forbidden Planet are scheduled for 2010.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is not a bad film, but "not bad" is no reason to see it. All of the good dialogue and all of the good special effects are in the previews. Why remake the rudimentary SF films of the fifties instead of making new films of, say, The Demolished Man, Citizen of the Galaxy, and The Caves of Steel?

spoiler warning

At the end of the new version, it seems that electricity is abolished to prevent humans from destroying this planet and apparently the woman and little boy survive. But shortly before the end, the Secretary of Defense gets an order from the president that she obviously does not like. And in the very last shot, we see Earth, viewed from space, with what looks a lot like a nuke exploding over Washington D.C., so I guess the woman and little boy don't make it after all.

end of spoiler warning

All too realistic an ending. I've talked on occasion with people who do not read science fiction, and almost without exception their reaction to a question about non-human aliens is that we should do our best to destroy any Godless aliens the instant we encounter them. Another feature of fifties science fiction films is that they usually make the point that, while our science may be far behind alien science, our God is greater than their god.

No credit cookies.

A note on "Farewell to the Master." It is not a bad story, but the science is silly and there is a careless mistake involving whether humans have space travel at the time the story is set. The story is not up to the usual high standards of Astounding Science-Fiction.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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