With the holiday season fast approaching, multiplexes have begun filling up with the Nazi-themed award magnets that always seem to flood the market at the end of the year. However, amidst the plethora of films filled with series English actors in sharp Teutonic uniforms a single high budget, special effects crammed movie squeezed into theaters on December 12th. The Day The Earth Stood Still, a remake of the canonical 1951 science-fiction film, switches out a widowed secretary for an astrobiologist played by Jennifer Connelly, and attempts to earn the science in science-fiction. So, does the science hold up?
The movie opens with Jennifer Connelly teaching a biology class on bacteria. Right off that bat, something seems out of place for a laboratory, and that something is Connelly. With her role as an astrobiologist, Connelly joins the likes of Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby and Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough as a scientist way too attractive for her profession.
That small point aside, though, the science hits the mark.
Director Scott Derrickson took extreme lengths to ensure scientific accuracy on set. A senior astronomer from the SETI institute—Seth Shostak—was hired to work on the script for about a month and a half.
"The main character is a scientist," said Derrickson, explaining the importance of Shostak's role. "Having respect for the profession of the main character just seems paramount to me. It will have an effect on how Jennifer does the scene."
Derrickson continued: "I think the audience can tell. Whether it's the way a soldier holds a gun or the way a scientist explains something scientific, the audience can just feel it."
And indeed, Connelly's opening lecture focusing on extremophiles—the class of bacteria that can survive in environments that would kill most life forms—feels (and is) completely accurate. If we do ever find alien life, it will probably be an extremophile, as they can live in the high acidity, radiation scorched, oxygen-deprived environments found on other planets.
The next big science scene comes when Klaatu, the alien messenger played by Keanu Reeves, goes to meet a Nobel Prize winning scientist played by John Cleese. Cleese had left some equations up on a chalkboard in his living room, and Reeves begins to make some corrects on the board. The equations are elements of relativity, and Klaatu gives mankind a hand by solving the equations, unifying quantum mechanics and relativity. Obviously, the math resolving quantum mechanics with relativity isn't accurate, but the equations are actual relativity equations, provided by Marco Peloso, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota.
And part of Derrickson's reasoning for this level of accuracy comes down, simply, to: "respect for people's professions. My wife is a nurse, and I know how upset she gets when there are medical inaccuracies. She asks 'how hard is it to take five minutes and get it right?'"
Of course, then there's Gort, the 28-foot tall robot with the laser beam eye. Not a lot of science there, but hey, this isn't an episode of NOVA, right?
This looks very good! Can't wait to see it.
All i heard was that this movie was bad and not very faithful to the origanal, also the trailers show gort wreking havoc on millitary forces but in the origanal gort had no weapons, but simply vaporized other's weapons, and he was only around 7 or 8 ft tall
I'm afraid I have to protest. As a scientist myself, I can say with certainty that there are quite a number of very attractive female scientists, including some who put the likes of Jennifer Connelly to shame. Don't perpetuate old stereotypes of scientist males as shortsighted eggheads and scientist females as mousy bookworms. We take pride in our appearance and physical fitness these days!
It's a relief to hear that the film industry is finally taking science seriously after years of even Kubrick indulging in bloopers. It always struck me as weird that an industry that would bust a gut to ensure some period 5 hankie weepy would be correct to the last crinoline, would invariably have mental blackout the moment a white coat appeared.
Where I came from, real down & dirty scientists rarely wore white lab coats at all. Grime grey at best (with interesting stains and some dangerous-looking holes), but preferably blue coats or orange overalls, or mostly just jeans and a serviceable shirt.
The only time white coats appeared was if the Minister of Science or a film crew were on site.
Sorry but this was just another whinefest on global warming and polution. Two very hot topics just as the spectre of nuclear war was in the first version of the movie in the 50's.
Other than that the movie was fairly entertaining on a purely science fiction level. Nice effects and the acting wasn't bad at all.
Having seen the movie, I can certainly say that it is orientated on saving the planet or whatever. But the movie is also just darn cool, fun to watch, and certainly not a whine fest on global warming.