When The Day the Earth Stood Still was announced to be remade in 2008, many people surmised that the remake would completely miss the point of the original in favor of bombastic special effects and shoddy core filmmaking. Those people turned out to be correct. The original, thankfully, is still with us, and is far more well regarded than its remake, or indeed of many science fiction films of the classical era. Robert Wise’s classic sci-fi doomsday prophecy even today still retains much of its power and effect.
The plot is essentially derived from the Cold War paranoia that was so prevalent at the time, but even today it still rings truer than you might think. The film is essentially a wish fulfillment scenario where a man from space arrives with an ultimatum for humanity to cease using atomic power for violent and destructive purposes or face what could best be described as judgment from his and other advances races across the galaxy. How humanity reacts to his arrival and his attempts to convey his message form the crux of the film. The film is built down to its core from B-movie sci-fi materials, and remains true to its roots even when the film tries hard to overextend its budgetary limitations. Thanks to the film’s excellent use of mood, it succeeds more often than it fails in that regard; really, the only way you’ll end up disliking this film and what may amount to its flaws is if you are decidedly nitpicky about it all, and if you are, you might do with some cultural readjusting.
This is a still-relevant piece of entertainment with a message that it very obviously wants to impart, but it wouldn’t be the first film to try. That doesn’t mean that the film forgoes being entertaining or a good film to try and pass on its message, because it certainly is still entertaining and very well done. Still, the message is the heart of the film, and most of the action is a lead-up to the delivery of the message, which only truly takes place at the end. I’m really on the fence about recommending this one, again, not because it’s not good, but because of its single-minded vision, which may turn some people off, but those people would be missing out on a key piece of science fiction in the last century, and the message it has to tel us is one we could all benefit from. Whether we can actually take it to heart is another story, and one for another blog.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10