The original 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the all time great classical Hollywood films. It was the first significant Hollywood science fiction film and one of the first films to ideologically engage with the political climate at the time by tackling anti-Communist/Cold War paranoia. Despite its big budget it was a narrative driven film with more emphasis placed on dramatic action rather than spectacle and effects. The eclectic and reliable director Robert Wise, who began his career in film as the editor for Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941), directed the film and the legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann wrote the music. Herrmann’s use of the theremin for the music in The Day the Earth Stood Still was hugely influential, making the theremin the standard sound for all science fiction soundtracks throughout the 1950s. The idea of remaking such a definitive and important film seems at first glance to be incredibly foolhardy, however this new 2008 film should not be automatically dismissed. It is by no means as good as the original but by taking the central premise of the original and maintaining its core ideology in order to address contemporary issues, this remake becomes a film that is worth considering.
Contribution to The Question Spielberg: A Symposium
The films of Steven Spielberg are often derided for their populist appeal. However this quick judgement is often made without an attempt to examine why Spielberg has maintained such a high level of box office success over the past three decades. Prominent in Spielberg’s filmic style is his mastery of techniques of cinematic manipulation, techniques that paradoxically have made his work both commercially successful and critically undervalued. Yet Spielberg’s trademark use of swelling music, emotive dialogue and intimate close-ups, and his thematic concern with family trauma, innocent children in a hostile world, and the child who never grew up, contribute to a powerfully engaging and satisfying filmic experience.