The 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still essentially tells the same story as the iconic 1951 sci-fi film about an alien sent to Earth, not to invade, but to warn them about the dangers of their own behavior. Characters have the same names, scenes parallel ones from the original, and it follows the same basic framework. Although, whenever a movie takes this kind of route, you really start to see the inefficiencies when they’re present.
There’s one moment in particular that serves the same purpose for both stories but plays out in a much different way in the remake. It’s when the Secretary of Defense first meets with Klaatu in the hospital. In both films, this is the point when the alien visitor realizes that his mission on Earth will be much different than he thought.
In the original, Michael Rennie’s Klaatu meets with the government representative, who leaves and comes back, providing him with letters to and from different world leaders—proof that they are not willing to cooperate with one another. Klaatu hints to the Secretary why he’s there, but never divulges the whole message. There’s an understanding made for why he wants all the leaders of the world gathered together. And moreover, we know why he’s waiting to give his warning.
In the remake, Kathy Bates plays the Defense Secretary role, and just simply denies Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) permission to meet with all governments herself, stating that he’s now property of the United States; she doesn’t want to share the “discovery.” Instead of being a messenger for humanity, she’s now the voice of humanity. Right off the bat it’s clear that this remake is less concerned with Klaatu learning about Earthlings than it is with his mission. He makes up his mind rather quickly to destroy the planet instead of wanting to learn about humans firsthand. He already seems to know about our tendencies, and so he doesn’t feel the need to observe us.