Keanu Reeves, The Day the Earth Stood Still
Credit: WETA

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Release date: December 12

Take a 1950s science-fiction cult classic. Replace its Cold War subtext with modern political anxieties. Infuse it with A-listers and 21st-century effects, and take it to the bank. At least that was the paradigm before The Invasion, 2007’s star-studded remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, crashed and burned.

So director Scott Derrickson’s redo of the 1951 Robert Wise landmark The Day the Earth Stood Still is emphasizing the story’s more human elements. As in the original, an alien named Klaatu (Reeves) visits Earth to warn of imminent self-inflicted doom and befriends a boy. In this go-around, though, the boy (Jaden Smith) and his astrobiologist stepmother (Connelly) play more prominent roles. ”Jennifer is the backbone of the film,” says Reeves, who returns to the action sci-fi genre for the first time since the Matrix sequels. ”And Jaden had to reach places for a young person that I imagine would be very difficult, like a cemetery scene where he has to talk about his dead father.” While Connelly adored Wise’s version, she welcomed the family-oriented focus of David Scarpa’s script. ”There’s a lot of me and Jaden trying to work out our relationship,” says the Oscar winner, ”so most of the time it felt like we were just working on a drama.”

That’s not to say the film has gone soft. Reeves describes his character as much more ”sinister” than Michael Rennie’s original Klaatu, and the trailer hints at far more extensive onscreen carnage. But the original’s hopeful message remains, as does the hulking alien Gort and the immortal quote ”Klaatu barada nikto.” As Reeves notes, ”To not have that line would be like doing a remake of The Wizard of Oz and not saying ‘We’re off to see the wizard.”’

The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Movie
  • Robert Wise