If the earth dies, you die. If you die, the earth survives.” So says Klaatu, an extraterrestrial representing a group of alien civilizations deeply concerned about the fate of the planet we call Earth.

Critics often look down upon remakes, and maybe this is why 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still has, so far, received mostly unfair reviews. The original film’s message supposedly made a considerable social impact on viewers during the 1950s, but apparently not enough. Since then we’ve ruined the ozone, destroyed millions of acres of forests, and contaminated more rivers than we can imagine. As we speed toward oblivion in an age of blind consumerism, perhaps more messages like this are just what we need.

The film opens with Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream) being forcibly escorted to a massive assembly of various experts. What they are told is terrifying: Something is approaching our planet at alarming speed, and is scheduled to hit Manhattan very soon. As it turns out, it’s a spacecraft, now hovering over the city in a fashion mildly reminiscent of Independence Day, but with a more complicated plan in mind. It lands politely in Central Park with minimal damage and out steps a mystifying being, in answer to one of humankind’s deepest questions. There is intelligent life out there, and Keanu Reeves is its spokesperson.

It’s not surprising that the government handles the situation as they would in real life: quite unreasonably. The uncompromising secretary of defense won’t even let the alien speak to the world-leaders as he wishes. She wants to sedate him, subject him to polygraphing, and keep him confined. When one of the scientists takes a sample of his DNA and remarks how people will be studying it for years to come, she begs to differ, because “it’s not theirs to study.” As for the alien, his message is simple: Earth is more important than we treat it. There aren’t many in the Universe like it, and it’s valuable to more than just one species. Humans must change or be destroyed, in order that life on Earth may flourish once again.

Unfortunately, the movie assumes that viewers already understand how we are a threat to our own planet. Sadly, not everyone is aware that ground contaminants and the nuclear weapons our countries threaten each other with are capable of ruining all future possibility of life on Earth. Also weak is the plot’s primary turning point, what most might consider the climax. The only person capable of canceling the already-in-effect plan somehow manages to do so in a way that doesn’t exactly meet alien interests. It’s unconvincing, and brings the movie to its ending all too quickly.

The rest, however, is superb. The character performances certainly aren’t highest-of-quality, but the story is exciting and unfolds with thrilling adventure and captivating action. Even with a chain of events that may be slightly predictable overall (especially in our time with the plethora of alien-invasion films released since the 1951 original), this remake offers plenty of mystery and suspense, keeping us involved and wondering just what will happen next. Visually, it stands out with an interesting style of its own. A nice, potent contrast is achieved between the consistently somber gray atmosphere and the vividly bright alien orbs.

This is a perfect film for a family’s night out at the movies.
There’s nothing inappropriate here–minimal violence, and no vulgar language. With dazzling special effects, enjoyable actors, and a fitting score, 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still is an entertaining remake of an old classic with a vital message for the human race. Can we slow down our careless destruction and begin caring for the welfare of future life? Certainly one film is not going to do the trick all on its own, but it’s definitely an important contribution. And as a Sci-Fi I would even dare to say that it belongs on the shelf of every family’s home library of remake-classics.