The Day the Earth Stood Still (Blu-ray)

Based on the short story Farewell to the Master by Henry Bates, The Day the Earth Stood Still tries to modernize the 1951 classic with modern special effects and a new take on the story. Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) and his robot Gort emerge from a spaceship in Central Park, whereupon he's shot by a nervous soldier. Klaatu is then rushed to a military hospital for surgery, and once he's patched up, he is visited by the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates), who denies his request for a meeting with the UN. With the help of Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), Klaatu escapes, and the two end up spending the majority of their time together as all hell breaks loose.

The original film captured the spirit of the Cold War and McCarthyism in the 1950s, while this modern take focuses on the United States' supposed military ineptitude and how we humans pollute the earth at the expense of other species. The original is a classic because it assumes you have a brain and can connect the dots, whereas this modern take shoves its message in your face with no room for any other interpretation of Klaatu's message. The role of Klaatu is tailor-made for the wooden Keanu Reeves, but Kathy Bates is so miscast, it was painful to watch with the subpar dialog.

Home Theater editor Shane Buettner once told me the quality of a film's video transfer is inversely proportional to the quality of the movie, and this is a great example of that premise. The AVC encode is perfect, with striking detail, inky blacks, and three-dimensional shadow detail. The special effects are perfectly rendered and blend seamlessly into the live footage—a rare feat on Blu-ray—while the drab, muted colors befit the topic.

Shane's assertion regarding the video applies equally well to the audio—the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is very impressive in its own right. The active soundfield utilizes every speaker, with seamless discrete effects flying to and fro and infrasonic bass that shakes the foundation. Dialog never takes a back seat to the action and is always intelligible, although with the poor script, this may not be a good thing. Regardless, if you're looking for a new demo showpiece, this certainly fits the bill.

The three-disc special edition contains the Blu-ray of the film and all the bonus features, a second Blu-ray with the 1951 classic (sans the bonus features found on the retail copy of the disc), and the third disc holds a digital copy. Quite a value indeed! The supplements on the first disc include an audio commentary, a PIP track, and a "Build your own Gort" interactive experience. Additional goodies, all in HD, include deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes featurettes, an interesting piece on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)with segments of the film spliced in-between the interviews, a featurette showing how "green" the set was, still galleries, and the theatrical trailer.

The first act is great and had me intrigued, but once the thin plot started to unravel, so did the film. The production value is top-notch with great special effects and sound design, but the story lacks the magic of the original. Unless you're looking for a new demo disc to showcase your home theater, even renting this stinker may be a stretch.

Release Date: April 7, 2009
Studio: Fox

Movie: 4/10
Picture: 10/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics