Original vs. Remake: The Day The Earth Stood Still
This is a new feature on the blog where I compare a movie and its remake to determine which is better. Today I’ll take a look at the 1951 science-fiction classic The Day The Earth Stood Still starring Michael Rennie and the 2008 remake starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly.
An alien named Klaatu arrives on Earth and is attacked and captured by the US government who consider him a threat. He escapes and joins a group of average humans in order to covertly accomplish his goals. In both versions Klaatu is accompanied by a destructive robot named Gort.
Original: The reason why Klaatu appears human is never disclosed.
Remake: Klaatu takes the appearance of a mountaineer who encounters an alien pod-ship. It is established that Klaatu’s race has had another member on Earth, disguised as an Asian man who Klaatu meets later in the film.
Original: Klaatu’s space-ship resembles a traditional flying saucer and the ship is more technological in design.
Remake: Klaatu’s ship is spherical and his technology appears more organic.
Original: Klaatu acts like a polite person with heavy concerns for mankind’s development, especially the development of their nuclear weapons.
Remake: Klaatu shows less emotions and is on a mission to save Earth’s animals while wiping out mankind, who he sees as a threat to the planet’s survival.
Original: Klaatu befriends a human family when he lodges at their boarding house.
Remake: Klaatu seeks out the astro-biologist Helen Benson who stood in his defense when he is shot by soldiers.
Original: Klaatu does not display any special abilities beyond extensive scientific knowledge.
Remake: Klaatu has the ability to control mechanical objects as well as reanimate dead persons, though he only appears to do so when he has been forced to kill them against his will.
Original: Gort does not attack humans except for when they first attack Klaatu and when he later orders Gort to knock out the soldiers guarding his space-ship. Gort has an eye-laser which can disintegrate weapons but he only uses it a few times. The words “Klaatu Barata Nikto” are used by Helen Benson to stop Gort when Klaatu is wounded.
Remake: Gort is a gigantic robot with the same eye-beam abilities. “Klaatu Barata Nikto” is said by Klaatu when he is hit by bullets and Helen Benson comes to aid him. Gort is later shown to actually be composed of destructive nano-machines which eat their way through the facility where Gort gets transported.
Original: The titular Day the Earth Stood Still is a show of might from Klaatu. With no other way to get his message through, Klaatu cuts power to every electrical device on the planet except for hospitals and aeroplanes in flight.
Remake: When Klaatu is shown that mankind is worth saving he stops his nano-machines from destroying the planet. Their deactivation causes a massive pulse (possibly an EMP) which causes everything electrical on the planet to stop working.
How is it Better?
Original: The dialogue is more engaging and the film has a very warm, homely feeling. There is no overt peril and despite its somewhat clichéd sci-fi aspects, the story is well written and has great meaning to it.
Remake: The film is more suspenseful and action-oriented. It’s also more impressive special effects wise. The sharply contrasting character relations add more drama to the film.
How is it worse?
Original: The film can be a little dull at times. Unnecessary Christian insertion towards the end of the film.
Remake: Keanu Reeves keeps insisting that “[He] must get back to the city” for much of the movie, which is repetitive. Some of the CGI rendered destruction and especially Gort blowing up army jets feels a little excessive.
Final Verdict – Which One To See?
Both – The remake doesn’t spoil or ruin the original. Both films have deeply contrasting story-motives though they achieve them in very similar ways. The newer film is flashier and feels more like a contemporary sci-fi film, but the original impresses with its acting and dialogue. Neither version has a decisive edge over the other because of their stylistic differences and I frankly love both films.