Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Go To

A 2008 remakenote  of the 1951 scifi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). It was directed by Scott Derrickson and starred Keanu Reeves in the role of Klaatu and Jennifer Connelly as the female protagonist.

This film provides examples of:

  • Act of True Love: In the climax Helen selflessly asks Klaatu to save her son with no regards to her own fate.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Unlike the short story or the original film, Klaatu explicitly comes intending to destroy humanity with Grey Goo. In the original, his concern was that humans were warlike and would threaten other worlds when they achieved space travel, and he came to try and reason with rather than kill them.
    • In the original, GORT was an enforcer of peace and only threatening when Klaatu was in danger. In the remake, he's the Grey Goo the aliens plan to use to erase humanity.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The aliens are committing genocide against a sentient race to protect a planet which is in no appreciable danger. Even if we wipe ourselves out, life will go on, and CO2 and methane scrubbing bacteria and plants will come in and clean up after us. At best, they're concerned about the other, non-sentient species of life on Earth going extinct from humanity's actions... but we'll either kill ourselves off or wise up before too long - again, life will go on, whether we're here or not. But even so, their plan is to just kill all humans flat out instead of just giving them more eco-friendly technology.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Used, but not thoroughly. Even though the aliens had been studying the Earth for a while, Klaatu had apparently never heard Bach before.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. Gort, in the form of a Grey Goo, take out roughly a third of the US. Klaatu stops it with a pulse, presumably wiping out at least tens of thousands more relying on electricity. If the pulse is permanent, then it may be a Class 2.
  • The Ark: Other alien Spheres of various sizes scattered all over the Earth "summon" and collect every possible species of fauna and flora and then lift off before the "Process" commences; humans are excluded from joining.
  • Artistic License: For the EMP at the end. Realistically speaking, an EMP would not be able to disable all electrical systems on Earth. Many military systems are already heavily shielded to withstand an EMP and many more also use analog technology.
  • Artistic License Biology: "His life-support suit was similar to a placenta." "That makes sense, because a placenta sustains life."
  • Attack Backfire: Every attack on the nanite swarm only increases its size and spread.
  • Attack Drone: The military uses two drones to attack Gort. Gort destroys the missiles with lasers and then takes control of the drones to destroy some nearby tanks.
  • Avengers Assemble: Gathering the team.
  • Back from the Dead: Klaatu kills a cop threatening him then uses some of the goo from his suit and the charge from the cop car's battery to heal and revive him. Jacob tries to get him to do the same with his dead father later, but that is beyond Klaatu's power.
  • Big Applesauce: The remake is set in New York, even though the original was set in Washington D.C.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Presumably Klaatu's actions aren't as hypocritical to him as they are to us.
  • Broken Aesop: We're destroying the other species on our planet, and aliens think that's bad. Fine. So why does Helen's love for Jacob change Klaatu's mind? A mother's love for a child of her own species, while charming, doesn't really show anything except a desire to perpetuate her species. It'd be more valid if she showed love for an animal, perhaps something completely dissimilar to humans. Instead, The Power of Love conquers all. Perhaps it's the fact that Jacob is her husband's biological son and not hers?
  • Brown Note: Both Klaatu and GORT demonstrate the ability to create debilitating sound in earpieces, disabling or knocking out their foes.
  • Creepy Monotone: Klaatu speaks with very little, if any emotional inflection in his voice, making his revelation of what's in store for humanity all the more chilling.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Gort has a single glowing red eye behind the visor there's a good moment when one of the characters realizes the eye is following him as he walks across the room.
  • Dull Surprise: Reeves plays an alien whose affect is chilly and inhuman, and is wonderfully natural in the part.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • When the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) figures out that the alien spheres are collecting animals from all over the world:
      Secretary Of Defense: It's an Ark; they're saving as many species as they can.
      Agent: But if that's an Ark, then what comes next is...
      Secretary Of Defense: The Flood.
    • Helen gets one as well, when she finally pieces together Klaatu's true intentions: "You came to save the Earth. From us."
  • Fantastically Challenging Patient: When Klaatu is shot by a panicked soldier, a group of doctors perform surgery, and remove the bullet, then Klaatu himself uses a salve to quickly heal the wound.
  • Faux Fluency: Keanu Reeves' Klaatu speaks to an elderly man (who is really an alien disguised in human form) in Mandarin Chinese. It's a valiant effort, but still pretty bad.
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: Klaatu is injured and taken to a human lab for treatment. The scientists cut away the placenta suit he's wearing, revealing a partially developed human form underneath. Once the suit is completely removed, he curls into a fetal position to finish the transformation into Keanu Reeves.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Klaatu's human form was grown within his placenta-like spacesuit to allow him to survive on Earth. He states that his true form "would only frighten [humans]". Specifically, Klaatu takes the form of a human that encountered one of his people's spheres in 1928.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The US government decides Klaatu's robot buddy is Genetically Organized Robotic Technology—apparently, just having Klaatu say "Gort" at some point wasn't remakey enough.
  • Good Stepmother: Helen's love for her stepson Jacob convinces Klatuu that humanity is redeemable after all.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We never see anyone getting totally disintegrated by the metal insects that make up Gort. The worst we see is a technician get a nosebleed and then fall over dead.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese. Keanu Reeves tries really hard, but still doesn't get it quite right.
  • Grey Goo: How GORT was going to wipe out humanity, dissolving into a cloud of nanites that devour everything in their path.
  • Healing Potion: Klaatu applies a salve from his suit that instantly heals his bullet wound; an added Call-Back detail from the 1951 film.
  • Human Aliens: Justified, as Klaatu's human form was grown to interact with humans and survive in their environment.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Mr. Wu is an alien sleeper agent who's been living among us for 70 years, to give an informed assessment about the human race. His official report to Klaatu is that humans are destructive by nature and will not change even after being fully aware that they are heading into a path of self-destruction, which cements the ultimate judgment to cleanse the planet from our threat. He also asks Klaatu to be left on Earth, because after so many years of hardships (he admits that "human life is difficult") he's grown to deeply love humanity and would rather die with us.
  • Humanity on Trial: Klaatu had authority to judge Earth. In the original, Klaatu's mission parameters exclusively covered delivering the message. The message being that humanity could either join the galactic civilization or stay on Earth. If we stayed on Earth, then we would be left alone. But if we decided to join, then we would be expected to obey their rules, and be annihilated unless we gave up our warlike ways.
  • I Come in Peace: Like in the original film, Klaatu steps out of his ship in the presence of roughly half the U.S. military, who are already a bit jumpy on account of the aforementioned spaceship. Instead of holding an alien device in their direction (which was a gift being offered), here he wordlessly holds out a hand towards the first human before him, and somebody twitches and shoots.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: The government lets Klaatu know that he doesn't have any rights they are under obligation to respect specifically because he (Klaatu) is not a human being regardless of what body he's wearing currently.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Klaatu visits Earth because our self-destructive nature is endangering the ecosystem of the Earth. Life is so rare in the universe that the alien community considers the biosphere of a planet far more valuable than any single product of that ecosystem. And so as punishment he tries to wipe out all life on the planet himself in order to "restart" the ecosystem, but this time without those pesky humans getting in the way.
  • Kill It with Fire: The containment chamber being used to study GORT has a flash protocol that superheats the room to kill anything inside that might breach containment. It utterly fails to harm GORT.
  • Klaatu Barada Nikto: The line is spoken once, by Klaatu himself to stop his robot's defenses from destroying everything when he is shot by a nervous soldier. However he was in alien form at the time and the line is so garbled and distorted you really have to listen closely to discern the famous words.
  • Knight Templar: Klaatu.
  • The Men in Black: Like in the original, Klaatu steals a suit which happens to fit him perfectly when he escapes from custody and to blend in unnoticed. The suit here is black and was taken off a government spook.
  • No Conservation of Energy: The space ship must have had some nice phlebotinum to decelerate that fast without creating enough waste heat to completely level the UN.
  • Oh, Crap!: Driscoll attempts to flee when GORT turns into a swarm of nanites in the flash chamber, only to be told that the facility is locked down. It soon becomes to a Mass "Oh, Crap!" once the nanites break through the glass and destroy everything as everyone but the colonel that accompanies them, who decides to Face Death with Dignity, tries to make a break for it.
  • Product Placement: So blatant that it's distracting.
  • Red Alert: A variation; when Klaatu is shot and Gort emerges, the Sphere ship's glow changes from green to orange.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When Gort takes any action, his visor opens and reveals a single glowing red light.
  • The Remake: Of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
  • Restored My Faith in Humanity: Seeing Helen selflessly asking to spare her son's life, Klaatu comes to the conclusion that humans are worth saving after all.
  • Sickly Green Glow: The giant Sphere of Doom shines with a dirty green light.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The aliens are depicted as ecoterrorists, who want to wipe out human civilization and infrastructure to preserve the biosphere. Klaatu ended up with a change of heart, but before that his mission was not to warn anyone, but to skip straight to the EXTERMINATE-part. He did try to speak with Earth's leaders, but as in the original the U.S. government decides they'd rather play it private and with hardball.
  • Spheroid Dropship: In the place of the classic movie's Flying Saucer.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: There's one in the background when Regina Jackson argues over the phone that there's still time to try and talk Klaatu out of destroying everything.
  • Starfish Aliens: Klaatu noted that he was assuming A Form You Are Comfortable With to interact with the humans. Upon being asked by Helen what his true form was, he refused, stating, "It would only frighten you".
  • The Swarm: The metal insects that comprise Gort.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Professor Barnhardt's conversation with Klaatu.
  • Technopath: Klaatu can remotely operate virtually any technology, such as tapping into the security cameras in the base to plan his escape or knocking out two attack helicopters with a gesture.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The military, law enforcement, and the government in general, though all of government in all of fiction is guilty of this trope, and it's not an unexpected reaction to aliens being suddenly real. Klaatu comes to Earth and reaches out his hand to the protagonists. Clearly, putting a bullet in him is the appropriate response. Only later do they realize he was able to shut down their defense network on a whim, and so they decide imprisoning and (implicitly) torturing him is a good idea. Klaatu's decision, after consulting a spy on Earth, is naturally that Humans Are Bastards and have to go, thus the swarm of nanobots begins devouring every man-made object in its path. The military bombs it, only to see it grow larger. The Secretary of Defense at least grows a brain at this point, but the president orders even more bombing as if the opinion of his military adviser isn't worth considering.
    • Klatuu's people deserve extra stupidity points as well. Consider that their entire motivation for destroying humanity is to preserve the non-human portions of Earth's biosphere. They then set their nanotech-based weapon on "Dissolve Everything", including rocks and trees! In the immortal words of Robert Asprin, "Very inferior as superior beings go."
  • Trapped in Containment: A government agent does this to a scientist who is contaminated while investigating a caged alien artifact. Naturally he is less pleased when the contamination starts eating through the windows and his room is the next to be sealed and sacrificed.
  • Uncanny Valley: Used deliberately with Klaatu. He has little or no texture on his face, and Keanu pulls off the role of an alien learning human behavior and getting it just close enough (but not perfect) to be unsettling brilliantly.
  • Walk on Water: Klaatu shortly demonstrates this.
  • Wham Line: "It's not your planet."
  • You Won't Feel a Thing!: Speaking to a cop he's about to (temporarily) kill, Klaatu says "the pain will only be momentary" before ramming him with a car and killing him almost instantly.