Blu-ray Disc Review
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox (Searchlight)
Film Year: 2008
Film Length: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Video Codec: AVC @ 26.4MBPS
Disc Size: BD-50
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin
Film Rating: PG-13
Release Date: April 07, 2009
Starring: Keanu Reeves (Klaatu), Jennifer Connelly (Dr. Helen Benson), Jaden Smith (Jacob Benson), John Cleese (Professor Barnhardt), John Hamm (Michael Granier), Kathy Bates (SecDef Regina Jackson)
Screenplay by: David Scarpa
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
12.12.08 is the Day the Earth Stood Still
Not bringing home best picture – or best anything – is the remake of the 1951 science-fiction classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still. A special group of scientists are called upon by the government when a mysterious and giant sphere heads towards earth at a devastating speed. Instead of impacting, it lands in Central Park, Manhattan. From this sphere comes the alien Klaatu, who is then “accidentally” shot by military personnel and then rushed to save his life. But the Secretary of Defence, Regina Jackson, won’t let him leave the facility fearing the annihilation of the human race. But Dr. Benson decides to help this alien be set free and integrates him into society for a while where the decision to exterminate or save the human race is made.
This remake, no matter how good the intentions of the creators were, does not get a passing grade. Picking it apart is too easy; from sets that look much too staged and fake (opening Arctic sequence), to poor character establishment, development, and acting (relationship between Dr. Benson and her lethargic son doesn’t connect), and the failure for the film to instil fear and urgency to the audience (because that was the intention), this movie is a flop. I couldn’t get past the lifeless character of Klaatu, who had far more personality in 1951 (why not make this 2009 more slick and witty rather than dull and doom?) Kathy Bates’ character (and her made-for-TV acting) is poorly written as she, the one acting with most power, seems to have the most fear. But she comes across like a catty girl on a school playground bullying around the other girls, but doing it gently enough to not get noticed by the teachers. Just pick apart the staging at the 34 minute mark in chapter 9 when discussing what to do with Klaatu. The whole scene is awkward. Plus, any movie that starts off with top secret agents swooping in to take a person away for unknown reasons is just plain Hollywood Corn. It’s the same old, same old. These agents try to appear all tough with their stale performances and wires to their ears. It’s more laughable than serious. C’mon guys, get creative. Did you honestly think your movie was original over others?
Forced trailers are X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Quantum of Solace, Australia, and Taken.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4.5/5
The film looks about as good as any other new major film. A small, but unnecessary amount of edge enhancement is noticed from time to time spoiling an otherwise perfectly good looking transfer. The finished film, as represented on this video release, is a great looking BD release with the expected resolution bump over DVD, and without the compression and technological artefacts of the format. The Day the Earth Stood Still has a colour palette that sits comfortably with this viewer; it’s never objectionably too cold, and easy to accept based on the grim storytelling. This film is best viewed in the dark since many important scenes take place in the dark of night and will demand the necessary contrast ability from your viewing environment. Shadow detail is excellent. You won’t miss a bit of the action.
AUDIO QUALITY: 4.5/5
The 5.1 soundtrack, encoded with DTS-HDMA, is a bit bright on the top end and heavy in the bottom without re-EQ. Since we have no idea which soundtracks are re-EQ’d for home releases, I always need to use my best judgement (so hopefully I don’t re-EQ a soundtrack already re-EQ’d for home playback!) Bass is still heavy in the LFE giving the constant low rumble and frequency down-sweeps throughout. There is some low frequency action in the main channels, but not as much as one would expect. The dialogue is noticeably ADR and not always spacious, although a bit of on set dialogue can be distinguished. The rest of the soundtrack (music/effects) is energized in the main channels and active throughout. Nano-alien effects, helicopter pans, and explosive action all play out destructively as the end of the world nears. This soundtrack can play loud but not irritatingly so. Crank ‘er up!
TACTILE FUN!!: 3/5
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
Using a bass shaker enhances the viewing experience. It might even offset some of the disappointment for the way the story is presented. Even more, the BD has D-Box motion code embedded. I’m glad Fox still supports D-Box because the technology is bound to reach the masses someday and the software will be ready when that happens. All one needs to do is look in their current collection!
SPECIAL FEATURES: 3.5/5
To top all of these features off with a cherry, Fox has also wisely included the BD of the original 1951 classic of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which I previously reviewed here What a great way to get a new generation of people into classic films! If it’s included it will be watched, otherwise it probably go by unnoticed in the years ahead. Crack out those Theremins!
Lastly, this three disc set includes a digital copy of the film for portable devices. The movie industry sure knows how to survive in the digital age. Good job, Fox. The music industry to learn from you guys.
IN THE END...
The film is a disappointment but the Blu-ray disc makes great demo material. Good video (minus the edge enhancement) and great sound is what this Blu-ray experience is all about, even if the film remake falls short of expectations.
April 20, 2009.