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Old January 26 2013, 10:47 PM   #1
RAMA
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My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon.com

I've discussed the movie with several people recently (not on TrekBBS) including some younger people who liked the original better, prompting me to expand on my original TrekBBS post where I claim the remake is superior in almost every way to the original. That is the title of my review on Amazon as well.

This is totally original though, posted about 4 years after the movie was the first one deliberately beamed into space using by the Deep Space Communications Network at Cape Canaveral and has reached Alpha Centauri at light speed.

The bluray copy itself is very well done, the 3 discs have satisfying extras and out of the many covers populating the internet the one for this particular set is my favorite.

As for the film itself, it's extremely difficult to counter momentum and 60 years of public impression, the original has to be counted as a classic, but in comparison to the 2008 film, it's difficult to see how this is so. When people continue to judge visual sci-fi as an inferior genre they can point to movies like the original and say: "if this is the best you've got..." Above all else, a "classic" must retain some resonance for audiences across time, where new interpretations can be made and the audience comes away with something (even if not originally intended). The basic story can probably never really date, no one wants nuclear war, and despite the reduction of the threat new nuclear states and thousands of warheads remain. But the 1951 movie goes further..our nuclear power will be harnessed for space travel and those weapons will threaten the galactic populace. I don't find any of it credible. Nuclear power was brand new in 1951, it was the "ultimate" power, but in the face of such obviously advanced nations in space, we'd be far behind, no threat.

The new movie is seen by some as extolling the evils of technology, I find this simplistic...it's the responsibility of having such technology and what we are doing with it that is lacking. Yes, it suggests corporate greed, government mismanagement and most damningly, human nautre, but it does not suggest giving up on technology. Instead the new movie is more universal, it takes the dated threat of nuclear power, and make it something I thin any being on any planet might go through...the stage of wastefulness of society. It's a long history in human culture, and it goes beyond environment and into behavior. Klaatu states that planets with indigenous life are rare, so far this seems likely based on actual observational evidence, the classic Fermi Paradox (life should be plentiful, but we have no empirically solid data!!) It seems a lot more satisfying a reason for the aliens to be here..they have decades of data! They would want to preserve life. Another interesting theme in the remake: the idea that intelligent aliens have a different view of possession of land/planets. Humans are not seen as the "owners" of Earth, but part of the biosphere, one that can harm it. It is likely aliens with such views possibly do not even live on planets anymore, but in space habitats or spacecraft where their original planets are almost forgotten, but seen as important origination points for life.

The original falters on other levels: having an alien in exact human form walk among the populace is interesting in a quiet, introspective way, but he basically does it in a few days and in one American state! In 1951 Hollywood it was better to talk about Lincoln and be truly "American" rather than universal in theme. The 2008 remake does better...Klaatu us obviously the product of previous observation on Earth, they have multiple agents on Earth. They are not humanoids at ALL, and must create a human copy to facilitate communication. This is more biologically correct, as it is unlikely aliens will look anything like us when originating in another biosphere.

On the level of moviemaking, the original also seems out of date. The 50s trappings, the stilted dialogue, lack of cross-section of American life (not to mention the world), the moderately good FX. We can't judge classics SOLEY on how they were perceived in their time, as I mentioned a lot of those things should seem almost timeless. The original does not. Obviously the 2008 movies has better production design, better FX, and so on. Michael Rennie is ok in the role, somewhat stiff, I simply found Reeves' Klaatu more believable on several levels and his performance suited it. Jennifer Connelly also is a welcome addition and I prefer her in her role as a scientist and mom as opposed to Patricia Neal's boarding house worker.

Technologically, Spheres have always been the most logical shape for a spacecraft in 360 degree space. I can't fault the original too much here, saucers aren't a horrible spacecraft shape either. Gort was a fascinating, almost "seamless" design, impossible to actually produce convincingly with the technology of the time. Here is where it gets good...nanotechnology is an up-and-coming but already major developmental business, especially in materials science. It deals with the ability to manufacture items from a nanoscale upwards, making products more durable, as well as a range of items never seen before. To construct such objects would require what we see in the remake: "assemblers", or in this case "nano-cloud" assemblers. While the original suggested Gort might shoot ray beams to destroy a planet. Or stomp around knocking building down, the remake uses a very quick efficient "gray goo" scenerio: reducing objects to molecular components. The goal is different too...Klaatu leaves a threat in the original, and that's it, off he goes. It's almost anti-climatic. In the remake, the nano-cloud does destroy part of the US, the threat is real. It is designed to do a job, reducing technological destruction from humans so the planet may live...and of course, in the end, the power doesnt go off for an hour it goes off until human beings can make a cleaner or more efficient way to live a technological life, or that is the assumption. In the original, well they just want to destroy us so we can't be destructive to their Pax Romana. Which brings me to another criticism...

How many of us want to live in a police state, peace through fear of giant robots? The remake's aliens appeared to be for lack of a better term, more Zen-like..something like a Federation from Star Trek but perhaps looser. They are not machine-like or indifferent, they really seem to care about life!

In case you thought I hadn't noticed it, yes I did say the remake did not want to make us non-technological. Yes that is what we are left with at the end of the movie...but again, I don't think that is meant to be our state, we are not wanted as a caveman throwback, we are desired as an advanced partner in the eventual union with other advanced life, this requires technology.

All this is not to say the 2008 remake is perfect, it's not...it starts at the beginning of the movie in fact, when they gather together an elite team...to do what...be at the center of a direct hit from what they think of as an asteroid hitting NY?? There is no need for exobiologists, or mineralogists if the thing lands on their head, or if they have no idea there are aliens aboard. The child actor is somewhat more annoying than the whiney kid from the original. Aren't there supposed to be ANY average kids in movies anymore? Are they all the results of divorced families, or single parents, etc and malcontents at that? Still a movie that has John Cleese deliver a wonderful quote about us only changing at the precipice of danger (often true)with an alien that changes it's mind on Earthly destruction based on human interaction and our worthiness to continue on is worth positive mention in my book, and in a climate where post-apocalypse is the desired tale. I think eventually the movie will get a fair shake but not yet, despite a good (nearly an 8.0 ) rating on IMDB, this movie is still seen as a failure. Sad really. I consider this to be a better film than Avatar.
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Old January 26 2013, 11:21 PM   #2
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

RAMA wrote: View Post
is what we are left with at the end of the movie...but again, I don't think that is meant to be our state, we are not wanted as a caveman throwback
Yet that is exactly what happens in this film. The EMP destroys all technology on Earth, and we can only assume this is permanent - I mean, how could any more technology be built, ever again, after an ending like that?

we are desired as an advanced partner in the eventual union with other advanced life, this requires technology.
Again, the ending makes that impossible. I don't see any possibility of recovery from something like that. You've got to HAVE technology to build technology.

Unless you're suggesting that there is some secret stash of tech somewhere on the planet that was protected from the EMP (assuming it is possible to do such a thing), then where is the hope? It's not like Revolution, where technology is not destroyed as such - just prevented from working. Here, it is actually destroyed. That's what EMPs do, right?
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Old January 26 2013, 11:47 PM   #3
RAMA
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
RAMA wrote: View Post
is what we are left with at the end of the movie...but again, I don't think that is meant to be our state, we are not wanted as a caveman throwback
Yet that is exactly what happens in this film. The EMP destroys all technology on Earth, and we can only assume this is permanent - I mean, how could any more technology be built, ever again, after an ending like that?

we are desired as an advanced partner in the eventual union with other advanced life, this requires technology.
Again, the ending makes that impossible. I don't see any possibility of recovery from something like that. You've got to HAVE technology to build technology.

Unless you're suggesting that there is some secret stash of tech somewhere on the planet that was protected from the EMP (assuming it is possible to do such a thing), then where is the hope? It's not like Revolution, where technology is not destroyed as such - just prevented from working. Here, it is actually destroyed. That's what EMPs do, right?
Well EMPs are a catch all now for technological destruction, in fact EMPs are fairly easy to shield against it, lots of military technology is, this would include bases, tanks, ships, etc. EMP damage can be repaired also, it would just be complicated.

Now originally the aliens DID want to destroy us based on decades if not centuries of observation, there is no doubt of that, Klaatu made the call not too, so let's say the others go along with this...we are now worthy to exist as we may have been originally judged to if we were more responsible.


There are ways to exist technologically with less impact to the Earth (who decides the percentage of impact allowable, I don't know...maybe Klaatu's boss) there are technologies now that can allow us to do this. We can beam solar power down with satellites, wind power is proliferating. We could use salvaged technology and lots of intact mechanical technology to restart life.

We can also undo damage. There are rivers and lakes that were impossible to enter for people that have been cleaned up, LA has reduced smog by over 70%. Eventually more advanced technologies in the biotech and nanotech (enzymes that clean up pollutants and cleanup and a molecular level) can be harnessed to clean up damage we did in a more wasteful stage of human development. More fundamentally, human views on our impact--our damnable nature--is changing too, whether its for the Earth or good publicity, the effect is the same, Green is in.

Also there is always the possibility...since we know about the aliens now in the movie, they may be willing to dispense cleaner technologies to help with our energy needs for a limited time on a limited basis. Not making a judgement here on non-interference, I'm just saying it could be a realistic possibility.
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Old January 27 2013, 12:18 AM   #4
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

RAMA wrote: View Post
Well EMPs are a catch all now for technological destruction, in fact EMPs are fairly easy to shield against it, lots of military technology is, this would include bases, tanks, ships, etc.
But you've got to be prepared for an EMP to shield against it. No one was ready for it at the end of this film, IIRC.

There are ways to exist technologically with less impact to the Earth (who decides the percentage of impact allowable, I don't know...maybe Klaatu's boss) there are technologies now that can allow us to do this. We can beam solar power down with satellites, wind power is proliferating. We could use salvaged technology and lots of intact mechanical technology to restart life.
But like I said, you have to HAVE technology to build technology. None of these 'clean methods' you spoke of will be possible in a world where there is no technology to build them.

Also there is always the possibility...since we know about the aliens now in the movie, they may be willing to dispense cleaner technologies to help with our energy needs for a limited time on a limited basis. Not making a judgement here on non-interference, I'm just saying it could be a realistic possibility.
They would probably not bother doing that. Any alien race who originally intended to destroy humanity, and had to be convinced not to, is not going to turn around and actively HELP humanity. They thought humans were such a threat originally - that attitude is not going to change.
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Old January 27 2013, 03:44 AM   #5
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
RAMA wrote: View Post
Well EMPs are a catch all now for technological destruction, in fact EMPs are fairly easy to shield against it, lots of military technology is, this would include bases, tanks, ships, etc.
But you've got to be prepared for an EMP to shield against it. No one was ready for it at the end of this film, IIRC.

There are ways to exist technologically with less impact to the Earth (who decides the percentage of impact allowable, I don't know...maybe Klaatu's boss) there are technologies now that can allow us to do this. We can beam solar power down with satellites, wind power is proliferating. We could use salvaged technology and lots of intact mechanical technology to restart life.
But like I said, you have to HAVE technology to build technology. None of these 'clean methods' you spoke of will be possible in a world where there is no technology to build them.

Also there is always the possibility...since we know about the aliens now in the movie, they may be willing to dispense cleaner technologies to help with our energy needs for a limited time on a limited basis. Not making a judgement here on non-interference, I'm just saying it could be a realistic possibility.
They would probably not bother doing that. Any alien race who originally intended to destroy humanity, and had to be convinced not to, is not going to turn around and actively HELP humanity. They thought humans were such a threat originally - that attitude is not going to change.
We're talking about an aliens that spent maybe a century trying to convince themselves NOT to destroy us! They even sent an ambassador in crunch time to meet with us, we captured him, tried to kill him and hunted him, not something any of us would look kindly upon. I think a race(s) like that may do some reconsideration if Klaatu's actions had any significance don't you?

BTW, the pulse is what saved humanity also, a shame those pesky nanos weren't shielded. The results were a byproduct, not design.

Lots of tech is already shielded, and repair is slow but can be accomplished, we're talking limited repair to get some things rolling again, possibly govt for organization. It occurs to me that a sequel might be compelling, one where Earth might work hand-in-hand with the aliens..I'm sure some drama might ensue...

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Old January 27 2013, 10:50 AM   #6
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

Sounds like we're left with more of a police state than you claim the original would have been. In the original, Klaatu said that they had simply put law enforcement in the hands of the impartial robots. He told us the facts of life and then left (or died) and we could go forward and straighten ourselves out or not, of our own free will. In the remake, they made a pre-emptive strike, basically bombing us back to the Stone Age.

I do consider the original a classic and a movie that can literally be called Science Fiction, but I'm not especially fond of the picture it paints of interstellar culture. However, in its message of peace, its non-violent demonstration of power and its passive response to the killing of an alien ambassador, it seems to me to be far more Zen-like than the heavy-handed remake.
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Old January 27 2013, 03:59 PM   #7
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

I have to agree that the 2008 version is artistically superior. I think the simplest way to see the difference is to compare Klaatu at the Lincoln Memorial in the original to Klaatu at the train station in the remake. There's no doubt which is more flattering to the self esteem, and therefore more fun to watch.

So far as heavy handedness is concerned, the Lincoln Memorial scene is every bit as hamfisted as anything alleged in the 2008 movie. Throw in Mr. Carpenter and the resurrection climax in the original, and it is marvelous that anyone can seriously claim that the remake is heavyhanded. What they mean is the remake is less congenial.

The remark about the Zen of the original is interesting. The original aliens announced that they were going to disarm the plaent on pain of extinction. The movie quits before they dramatize the different reactions. The Zenness of it all is more or less due to evading the issue. After all, the notion that merely possessing arms is ground for capital punishment is quite extreme. Also, many still believe that nuclear weapons were absolutely needed to fight the meance of communism. Forced unilateral disarmament was like forcing surriender to the Chicom hordes! Ecocide, the crime humanity was accused of in the remake, is at least an ongoing crime, not just a potential.

Lastly, if one interpreted the finale as implying the more or less total annihilation of humanity, then it must be horribly dissatisfying. And if you place humanity above nature rather a horrible idea. But an EMP in fact will not destroy all tech, nor will all tech that is damaged be irreparable. Some will just need new fuses, and more will just need a few burnt out wires replaced. Nonetheless, the loss of life would be enormous, and the new changes in economy imposed would be even larger in their long-run effects. This ending doesn't allow any comfortable Zenness in the viewer.

The thing is, being in the comfort zone, is not the goal.
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Old January 27 2013, 04:40 PM   #8
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

stj wrote: View Post
an EMP in fact will not destroy all tech, nor will all tech that is damaged be irreparable. Some will just need new fuses, and more will just need a few burnt out wires replaced.
This is an alien EMP we're talking about. Who knows how powerful that was. Could have been even worse than any one that could have been generated by humans.
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Old January 27 2013, 08:26 PM   #9
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

^^Well, if it was powerful enough, it could have generated electric currents in salt water and iron-bearing ores, destroying blue-green algae and burning the forests. In other words, destroying pretty much all oxygen producing organisms!

It is true that if you view the ending of the remake as the extermination of humanity the theme is absurd and intolerable. Willful suspension of disbelief is not always possible. SF always runs the risk of falling prey to it. It you can't believe that humanity can survive and prosper in a different fashion afterwards, you can't.

The remake launches a powerful assault on human amour propre even if you just think it means the deaths of millions and a crash program in compulsory population control. That's what makes it more powerful than the original. It doesn't flinch. It's true that it takes a very dark view. Most people dislike dark. Arguing that the remake is superior is not saying it's more popular.
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Old January 28 2013, 01:25 AM   #10
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Re: My review of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) remake on Amazon

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
stj wrote: View Post
an EMP in fact will not destroy all tech, nor will all tech that is damaged be irreparable. Some will just need new fuses, and more will just need a few burnt out wires replaced.
This is an alien EMP we're talking about. Who knows how powerful that was. Could have been even worse than any one that could have been generated by humans.
Thi is probably not sensible, such an EMP would be much more destructive, and would not be something Klaatu would have used to save the Earth...

There are studies that show that even high altitude EMPs unde a certain limit could leave many cars operative, as much as 60-80%. Also other infrastructure. Still, I'm speculating that Klaatu's change of heart may have made the other aliens reconsider, so a cooperation of sorts, not a police state would exist...although yes, ultimately under some sort of judgment by the aliens.



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