Dr Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), a biologist with a young stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), is bundled into a government car and taken to a rendezvous. Along with dozens of other scientists, she is told that an object is approaching Earth at great speed. It will crash into Manhattan’s Central Park in less than 90 minutes.
The object, a giant glowing sphere, lands and an alien walks out. Just as Helen is about to make physical contact with the alien, it is shot by one of the police or soldiers surrounding the sphere. As soon as the alien falls to the ground, a giant robot comes out of the sphere and emits a high-pitched sound that causes everyone to fall to the ground stunned. At this point, the alien gives a command and the robot shuts down.
The alien is rushed to hospital where the bullet is removed, and he takes on human form (Keanu Reeves). The alien’s name is Klaatu. He represents a delegation of planetary leaders and wishes to speak to our world leaders. Rather than taking Klaatu to meet with world leaders, the Secretary of Defence, Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates), instructs Helen to drug him so that he can be taken to a secure location. Helen secretly assists the alien to escape.
It turns out that Klaatu is here not to save the human race but to save the Earth and its animals by ridding the Earth of humans. Helen begs him to give her a chance to prove that humans can change and takes him to meet her mentor, Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese). Professor Barnhardt attempts to sway Klaatu’s opinion by arguing that humans will evolve when faced with crisis. The authorities arrive and Klaatu, Helen and Jacob flee into the forest.
Meanwhile, Klaatu’s protector, the giant robot, which the military has dubbed GORT (Genetically Organic Robotic Technology), has been moved to a secret underground location where the military attempt to find out what makes it work. GORT responds by transforming into a swarm of billions of metallic insect-like creatures, which destroy everything in their path.
The film becomes a race against time as Helen tries to convince Klaatu to give humankind a second chance before it is too late.
Extraterrestrial beings; the end of humankind
The Day the Earth Stood Still contains violence throughout, including mass destruction and battle violence, some brutal violence, and some low-level blood and gore. For example:
- Helen is taken against her will from her home by American federal agents who act in an intimidating manner. Helen appears disturbed by their presence and manner.
- When the giant alien sphere lands in Manhattan’s Central Park, people panic and run, knocking others over in their stampede. The landing of the sphere causes cyclonic winds that blow people over, and we see a baby snatched from its pram just before the pram is swept away in the wind.
- Dozens of military vehicles fitted with large machineguns, along with hundreds of armed soldiers and police officers, surround the alien sphere after it lands. Soldiers are positioned on rooftops, aiming their weapons at the sphere.
- The alien walks out of a giant sphere and reaches out to Helen, who is dressed in a protective suit. Blood splatters across Helen’s face shield and the alien falls to the ground. Immediately following the shooting of the alien, the sphere emits a high-pitched sound, which stuns everyone nearby. A giant robot emerges from the sphere.
- In hospital, a doctor who attempts to defibrillate the alien’s heart appears to receive a shock and is thrown across the room.
- Following the removal of the bullet from the alien, we see the alien inside a plastic tube, kicking and hitting the sides of the tube as if panicking.
- The alien is strapped to a wheelchair and placed in an interrogation room with a man with a lie detector machine. Wires are placed on the alien’s forehead and he is asked questions by the man operating the lie detector. After several questions, the man controlling the machine touches the machine and appears to be electrocuted by the machine, falling back in his chair. When the man sits up, he appears to be in a trance and answers several of the alien’s questions. He slumps forward unconscious or dead. During the same scene, dozens of guards hold their ears and fall down unconscious after hearing a high-pitched sound.
- Several remote-controlled fighter jets, helicopters and army tanks approach and attack the robot GORT. The jets fire missiles, but GORT causes the missiles to destroy themselves. GORT then takes control of the jets and crashes them into the tanks. The helicopters crash to the ground, exploding in flames.
- In a couple of scenes, people riot, loot and smash shop windows. Also, riot police confront civilians.
- A police officer points a gun at Klaatu, who uses his alien powers to crush the police officer between two cars. The cars collide and we see the policeman lying dead on the ground with a small amount of blood seeping from his mouth. Klaatu smears some ointment on the inside of the dead policeman’s mouth then touches the policeman. This causes the policeman’s body to convulse and start breathing again.
- Helen, Klaatu and Jacob run into a forest while being chased by three army helicopters. Helen is snatched from the ground by a soldier and winched aboard a helicopter.
- Two army helicopters target Klaatu. Two red laser dots appear on his body. We see a look of concentration on Klaatu’s face and then hear a loud high-pitched sound. After this, the two helicopters crash into each other and explode in flames.
- Helen, Klaatu, Jacob and another man in a car crash through an army barricade with soldiers jumping out of the car’s path. Soldiers are given orders to fire on the car and the car is thrown through the air. When it comes to rest, the driver lies dead in his seat with his eyes open.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight. For example:
- Several people wearing biohazard suits walk though an eerie fog surrounded by dozens of dead trees.
- Several scenes contain images of a giant alien sphere filled with swirling gas and smaller spheres that appear to be sucking in various kinds of animal and marine life. The spheres are likened to Noah’s ark and there is worried talk about the possibility of the coming flood.
- The robot GORT is a giant menacing machine with a Cyclops-like eye in the centre of his helmeted head.
- While Klaatu is looking at himself in a mirror, several spots of blood appear on his shirt front. He watches the spots of blood for a few seconds and then collapses to the ground unconscious.
- Jacob looks scared, runs away from Klaatu and crosses a narrow rickety bridge that has a raging torrent of water beneath. Jacob overbalances and almost falls in. Klaatu reaches out and saves Jacob from falling.
- A soldier wearing a protective suit is fixing machinery next to GORT when GORT begins to transform into billions of microscopic metal bugs. Tiny holes begin to form in the man’s protective suit. He panics and tries to leave the room, which has now sealed shut. Tiny bloody holes begin to appear in the flesh of the man’s face. He screams in terror and falls to the ground dead. The metal bugs then attack the protective glass of an observation booth and a soldier pushes a button that causes the room to incinerate. The glass forms cracks and explodes. People run away and are thrown through the air.
- A giant swarm of metal bugs comes out of an army complex and descends on the troops. The army fires rockets and other weapons at the swarm. Later, we learn the swarm killed all the soldiers.
- Helen, Klaatu and Jacob walk through a swarm of metal bugs. Blood drips from Jacob’s nose and he collapses on the ground. Klaatu tells Helen that Jacob is dying. He takes hold of Jacob’s hand and tiny bugs begin to crawl off Jacob’s hand and onto Klaatu’s hand, as if Klaatu is drawing the bugs into his own body. Jacob opens his eyes and sits up uninjured.
- Klaatu walks into a giant swarm of bugs, reaches up, touches a giant glowing sphere and disappears.
- Jacob is upset and crying at his father’s grave. He tells Klaatu that he is afraid of being left all alone and that he resents his father leaving him alone.
Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above and by the idea of the destruction of humankind.
Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the idea of the destruction of humankind.
None of concern
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is some use of substances in this movie. For example:
- Klaatu and Jacob ride in the back of a pick-up truck. When they are dropped off, a woman holding a can of beer hangs her head and shoulders out of the truck’s window in an intoxicated manner and shouts at them before the truck speeds away.
- We hear talk about sedating Klaatu and see a woman holding a drug vial with Classified written on it. A woman gives Klaatu an injection without his consent.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including a nude man lying on his side, who is shown from behind.
The following products are displayed or used in this movie:
- LG phones and computers
- action figures based on a computer game (Halo).
None of concern
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remake of a 1951 sci-fi classic. Although the film has the advantages of modern day CGI effects, sci-fi fans may be disappointed.
The main messages from this movie are that:
- Humans are self-destructive and can be their own worst enemies.
- Humans are capable of making life-altering behavioural changes, but need to be faced with crisis or extinction to be moved enough to make the changes. This process is part of our evolution.
Values in this movie that you might wish to reinforce with your children include:
- love and empathy, as shown by Helen towards her frightened and angry stepson, Jacob
- mercy and compassion, as shown by Klaatu several times when he saves human lives
- understanding, trust and friendship, as shown in Jacob’s developing relationship with Klaatu.
You could also talk about:
- the relationship of humans to planet Earth
- the idea that human civilisations must reach crisis point before they can evolve to deal with problems.