Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence.

Length: 104 minutes

Grade: CCCC=C

Budget: $80 million

Box Office: $245 million (79 U.S., 151 Intl., 15 DVD)

Written by: David Scarpa (Modern screenplay, The Last Castle) and Edmund H. North (1951 screenplay, Meteor, Patton)

Directed by: Scott Derrickson (Exorcism of Emily Rose, Hellraiser Inferno)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connely, Kathy Bates, and Jaden Smith.


An alien in human form with a giant robot for a bodyguard comes to the Earth for reasons that are not immediately clear but seem threatening. While here, he encounters hostility and warmth and tries to understand the paradox of human nature.

Entertainment Value: C

I love a good action film, and I am particularly fond of sci-fi action films. But I want movies that make sense, follow rules I can comprehend, and then don’t make silly mistakes. For me, the enjoyability of this film suffered from a thousand paper cuts of things that just didn’t make sense, such as the initial shooting or how the parasites can eat a football stadium in seconds but don’t quite do anything to people hiding in a park tunnel and allow a man to walk fully across a field. It just seemed full of such stuff. But it was still good enough to balance out for an average grade.

Superficial Content: C

Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C, Language B, Illegality A

This is pretty tame for a PG-13, with the only real issue being violence such as a man being shot, parasites killing people (implied, not shown), and people being hurt by piercing noises. I guess the PG-13 comes from the general tone of the movie and the “menace” of aliens threatening the Earth.

Significant Content: C Humans have the capacity for great evil and also great good. A quick examination turns up a very negative verdict, but a longer, more intimate exam would lead to an endorsement of our value. The planet has value far beyond the particular value of the human species so often responsible for destroying it. People (individuals or collectively) change when they reach a point of crisis which threatens to destroy them if they don’t. Nothing dies, it is just transformed into another manifestation. The Earth belongs to all species. We assume we have tremendous power, but in the face of real power, humans don’t seem so strong.

Artistic/Thought Value: C

Unlike great art, I felt a bit like this movie was over-blunt in its presentation of its ideas. On the one hand, the discourse on human nature is good but made so obvious that we can’t enjoy drawing it out. On the other hand, the environmentalism of the movie made me want to retch both for its silliness and for its obviousness.

Discussion Questions:

~Is it easier to love humanity in general or particular humans? What does this movie say? Consider those who claim to be acting in the interests of people (in general) but do great harm in the process.

~Two of the great themes of the Bible are the holiness and judgment of God and the intimate personal love of God. How are these themes represented in this movie? Is the alien a Christ figure? How so? Does he offer a personal relationship and salvation by his own work in us? Compare the aliens to God. Does the robot represent anything about God? Is this a religious movie? Compare the standards used to evaluate humans in this movie with those God uses.

~Are humans merely another species on planet Earth? To what degree does the Earth belong to us in particular?

~Are humans parasites? Are we a rationally justifiable species? If there were a trial on this question, how might it proceed? Is our belief that we are special just a byproduct of us being so powerful within this limited context of this particular planet?

~Is our treatment of the environment a manifestation of the same issues in our nature that are shown in our predilection toward violence and warfare?

~If the aliens knew that this day was coming, what do you think of their refusal to give us any advance warning of the fact. By contrast, what does this say about the Christian God?

Overall Grade: C
Acceptable, but rather disappointing for being only that.

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