A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this drama/thriller (which is a remake of a 1950s classic that most kids probably haven't seen) has lots of urban destruction, as well as some scenes of science-fiction-style violence perpetrated against people. There's some blood and some graphic visuals, such as when a man with broken legs is healed through super-science and his broken legs are seen straightening out. There's also a notable amount of product placement, particularly for Windows and McDonald's. On a positive note, there's basically nothing in the way of swearing or sex, and the movie offers thought-provoking discussion about humanity's relationship with Earth's ecology.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, astrobiologist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is summoned to a government staging area late at night under cover of secrecy -- because a massive object of unknown origin is headed right for Manhattan. But the object isn't an asteroid or meteor; it's a sphere capable of course correction and deceleration -- a ship of some kind. After a humanoid figure and a giant robotic machine leave the craft, a shot rings out, and the humanoid figure falls. Emerging from a cocoon of pasty goo, the visitor looks human; his name is Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), and after escaping from custody, he enlists Dr. Benson's help in his mission: to determine whether humankind should be destroyed so that the planet Earth might survive.
Is it any good?
This remake of the 1951 genre classic might have better visions and visuals than the low-budget original, but it lacks the heart and sense of wonder the first film had. It's as if the people behind this film figured they could get by on special effects alone. Reeves plays the alien visitor as an unlikable, unrelenting functionary who's doing what he must: "The decision is made; the process has begun." Connelly's character tries to get him to change his mind, while also fitting in some relationship management with her distant, moody stepson (Jaden Smith); as Benson pleads and Klaatu stays impassive, the film throws plenty of big-screen spectacle at us, but it never really connects the high-tech tricks with any heart.
Director John Derrickson has previously worked on lower-budget horror films and thrillers, and he shows a capable hand with the bigger budget -- but he doesn't show as much promise with the film's bigger ideas. The Day the Earth Stood Still wants to move our minds and quicken our pulses, but it does a far better job of the latter than the former; for all of the film's discussion of how mankind is destroying the Earth, there's precious little mention of what we're doing wrong or what we could do better. It as if the filmmakers were afraid of upsetting anyone ... while they proceeded to destroy New York and show us the end result of their effects budget. In the attempt to avoid saying anything controversial, The Day the Earth Stood Still winds up not saying much of anything at all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's central theme: What will it take for humans to deal with issues like pollution, global warming, overpopulation, and other consequences of our industrial-technological lifestyle? Is it the media's job to point out these issues?
Do you think most mainstream movies have an issue-based agenda? Why or why not?
Families who've seen the original can also discuss the differences between the two films. How have filmmaking styles and technologies changed in the past 50 years, and what era-specific real-world concerns do the different films speak to?
- In theaters: December 12, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: April 7, 2009
- Cast: Jaden Smith, Jennifer Connelly, Keanu Reeves
- Director: Scott Derrickson
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sci-fi disaster images and violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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