Image from 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' 2008 version







The new remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still is getting terrible reviews. But is there something more going on here? S. T. Karnick writes.



The new remake of Robert Wise’s excellent 1951 sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still opened fairly strongly at the U.S. box office this past weekend, finishing first with a total of $31 million in ticket sales in its first three days of release.

That pales compared with the same weekend last year, when I Am Legend premiered with an impressive $77.2 million and Alvin and the Chipmunks snagged $44.3 million. But Day’s opening weekend was certainly respectable, and Keanu Reeves’ star power, whatever may remain of it, probably helped garner some attention, as did the interesting trailer.

In fact, the film’s first weekend box office total can be seen as impressive given the absolutely terrible reviews the movie received. I haven’t seen the film yet, and the advance word suggesting that it has been turned into a message movie espousing something sounding very like radical, human-hating environmentalism sends a chill down the spine of all reasoning beings.

This is especially true for those of us who like the 1951 original directed by Robert Wise and starring Michael Rennie as Klaatu. In particular, I admire the original version’s intelligent and nuanced presentation of Christian ideas, and the idea of such a brilliant little film being turned into a big-budget vulgarity parroting fashionable antihuman radical nonsense is appalling.

But I wonder. Scott Derrickson, the director of the remake, is an avowed Christian and the director of an excellent small-budget film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, in which he showed great intelligence and taste. And the next film on which he is reported to be working is his self-proclaimed dream project: an adaptation of  John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.

I suppose it’s possible Derrickson turned in a horrendous clinker this time around, but maybe there’s more to the film than most critics are seeing. Or perhaps Derrickson has become one of those weird evangelical Christian environmental radicals. After all, everything happens in the Omniculture.

I’ll be interested in your opinions on this film, and will update this item next week when I can pry loose a couple of free hours to head to the local multiplex. In the meantime, here’s an interesting and perhaps terrifying comparison between the two film versions of the story, from USA Today.

—S. T. Karnick