It’s one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and now that the trailer for “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has arrived online, fans everywhere are watching the footage with Zapruder-like intensity for clues to the remake’s vision. We went right to the source for a talk with director Scott Derrickson. Read our exclusive chat with him below, then watch the trailer for yourself (click here to see it in glorious HD) and let us know what you think of the film in the comments below.
The last shot in the trailer is a hero shot, although strangely not of Keanu Reeve’s character Klaatu, but of his trusty robot Gort. The look of the character deliberately recalls his look in the 1951 original.
“It was intentional,” Derrickson said. “I certainly took a lot of time to explore other possibilities. It wasn’t just a foregone conclusion in my mind that we would be sticking to the original. I tried looking at a lot of different possibilities, worked on a lot of different ideas with artists and just always a nagging sense that there was something right about the way the original, that there was something about this alien entity choosing a human form or being in a human form that had value even by modern standards, not by 1950 standards. I also am such a fan of the original film. You have to also just have some respect for Gort. Gort is Gort. There’s no question what we designed pays homage to the original.”
Klaatu sits in an interrogation room, hooked up to a lie-detector as a government official quizzes him on his purpose. Even in still frames, Keanu Reeves has a rigid, alien quality about his body language.
“One of the biggest challenges of this movie was whether or not audiences would really buy the whole idea — and there’s no question that you buy it, there’s no question that you believe Keanu’s performance. He really thinks through every moment and every beat with tremendous rigor. And he is very clear, I think, about what works for him and his physicality,” Derrickson said. “And yet it’s not like he’s doing things that are highly unusual or highly quirky. He’s not performing an alien like Jeff Bridges in ’Starman.’ What he’s doing is something that’s not quite so upfront and center or distracting, but it still really gives you a feel of alien-ness and keeps you aware of the fact that this being you’re walking through this movie with is not a human being.”
In an interview with MTV News in March, Reeves told us that Klaatu’s message to Earth was very different from the one in the original, that he was bringing with him a warning to stop destroying the environment. Here it looks like the environment is destroying us (or Giants Stadium, at any rate) — which is it?
“It’s both and even more,” Derrickson explained. “I think that this film in some ways is an attempt to address a number of issues that are amongst the most pressing issues for the human race. The original being a Cold War film was addressing what was clearly the greatest threat for the human race at that time, mutual nuclear destruction, and that’s not the most pressing threat that we face now. It’s also man vs. man. We are destroying each other as well. Our country’s at war right now. There is certainly the issue being addressed in the movie of our treatment of one another on the planet. I think it’s a movie about human nature as much as anything else and how human nature is acting itself out in the world right now.”
In the original, Klaatu finds the character of Helen after he escapes from custody. Here, she goes to him.
“She’s actually a professor at Princeton University and she’s a microbiologist and she’s recruited early in the movie for an event that’s clearly occurring. She’s recruited by the government whether she likes it or not, really,” Derrickson said. “Helen is probably an expanded role from the original film. Jennifer, of course, is a fantastic actress. She was always my first choice for the role so I’m elated that she’s in it.”
The original was a not-so-subtle allegory for Christ (the alien’s human name is Carpenter, he calls for peace, he is resurrected at the end, etc.). Is Derrickson’s version as overt?
“I don’t think you can really escape that metaphor,” Derrickson said. “I think the Christ-myth stories make great stories, whether it’s ’The Matrix’ or ’Braveheart,’ they all are tapping into some kind of deep myth in our DNA, and by myth I don’t necessarily mean false. I mean something that has mythological power and that’s definitely part of the story and part of what attracts me to it. My approach to that was to not discard that, but to be not quite as direct as the original.”
What do you think of the trailer? Excited for “The Day the Earth Stood Still”? “Klaatu barada nikto!” Sound off below.