War of the Worlds

"OK"

War of the Worlds Review


Steven Spielberg's huge-budget update of "The Warof the Worlds," H.G. Wells' seminal alien-invasion novel from 1898,is a problematic blockbuster with one essential saving grace: It's profoundlyfrightening in a way that few directors have the talent to capture.

I'm not talking about masked-psycho-with-a-chainsaw scary.That's kids' stuff. This is a slow, relentless, meticulous fear. It's thefear of uncertainty, the fear of grand-scale devastation that humanityis powerless to stop. It's a fear that fills the air like a storm and creepsup your spine in a way that's hard to shake. It is a fear not unlike whatevery American felt on September 11, 2001 -- but divorced from fact andrealigned as entertainment through the subconsciously reassuring comfortof a movie theater seat and a tub of popcorn.

It's visceral, it's psychological, and it comes more fromthe terrified performances of Tom Cruise and the remarkable Dakota Fanning(the angelic 10-year-old from "Hide& Seek" and "Manon Fire") -- as a dock-worker deadbeatdad and his daughter on the run from 100-foot alien killing machines --than from the film's hyper-realistic special effects and monsters (whicharen't that different from the ones in the shamelessly corny "Warof the Worlds" rip-off "Independence Day").

The film is worth seeing just to experience this fear,which is a testament to the power of cinema.

Unfortunately, if you look beyond this seat-gripping scarefactor and the spectacular imagery of the Earth under siege by towering,tentacled, three-legged alien tanks that fire building-leveling, human-crispingheat-rays -- if you look at the script and characters at its core -- this"War of the Worlds" starts falling apart from its opening voice-over.

One of the few elements lifted directly from Wells in thisadaptation written by David Koepp ("Spider-Man," "Mission:Impossible"), the book's first sentence (as read ominously by an uncreditedMorgan Freeman) doesn't make a scrap of sense when removed from its 19thcentury context: "No one would have believed in the first years ofthe 21st century that this world was being watched keenly and closely byintelligences greater than man's..."

Huh? In 2005, everyone in the civilized world could easilybelieve aliens might be watching us. The notion has been a part of ourpop culture since, well, H.G. Wells -- and the passages read from the novelthat bookend this film are conspicuously incongruent with everything inbetween.

Koepp and Spielberg cherry-pick what they like from Wells'story (the aliens are no longer from Mars), but many of their changes resultin gaping plot holes, like the fact that the hundreds of thousands of thegiant, high-tech extraterrestrial "tripods" have supposedly beenburied on Earth for millennia.

How is it that not one of these things has ever been unearthedby thousands of years of erosion, plate tectonics, excavation and construction-- or detected by modern, ground-probing sonar equipment used to find fossilsand oil? Why didn't the aliens stay here when they brought all this equipmentin the first place? Do they just go around the universe burying weaponson planets they might want to invade someday?

Apparently so, and in this movie, the aliens return inwhat appear to be massive lightning storms all over the world, includingin the blue-collar neighborhood where Cruise's ex-wife (Miranda Otto) hasjust dropped off her kids (Fanning and a petulant teenage brother) fora visit with their selfish, irresponsible dad. When the inevitable panicensues, Cruise must learn typical Spielbergian lessons of fatherhood (thedirector's films often revolve around characters with major daddy issues)while spiriting his children to safety.

Despite the logical gaffes (and there are many, many more)and the heavy-handed emotionalism, Spielberg keeps a tight grip on thefilm's nail-biting atmosphere by never leaving his central characters'points of view. There is no B-story here about the military battle ragingjust over the next hill as Cruise and family flee in the opposite direction,and the invasion is all the more distressing and disorienting as a result.(This is not unlike what M. Night Shyamalan did in 2002's "Signs.")But by the same token, this often leaves Cruise's emerging parental responsibilitystanding between the audience and the action.

This "War of the Worlds" is further underminedby Spielberg's preposterously sanguine last scene and by Wells' originalfinale, which works perfectly on the page (and which was at the cuttingedge of science 100 years ago), but is anti-climactic in a Hollywood "eventmovie" -- especially when it has to be explained in Freeman's floridclosing narration before the ending becomes clear.

Steven Spielberg's masterful filmmaking (his blend of modernspecial effects with stylistic homages to classic science fiction filmsis just what this material called for) and the picture's resulting powerto twist your gut in a knot are not enough to overcome the flaws of "TheWar of the Worlds." But they are enough to distract you from thoseflaws long enough to have a goosepimpling good time at the movies.



War of the Worlds

Facts and Figures

Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 29th June 2005

Box Office USA: $234.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $591.7M

Budget: $132M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG, Amblin Entertainment, Cruise/Wagner Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 186 Rotten: 65

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Ray Ferrier, as Rachel Ferrier, as Mary-Ann, as Robbie Ferrier, as Harlan Ogilvy, Camillia Sanes as News Producer, John Scurti as Ferry Captain, as Narrator (Voice), Takayo Fischer as Older Woman, as Julio, Ann Robinson as Grandmother, as Grandfather

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.