Wednesday, July 13, 2005

War of the Worlds, The Review

It has been brought to my attention that I never followed up my earlier post with my thoughts on the Steven Spielberg film.
I know, how can their be plot spoilers when we all know how the movie will end, but in this case Spielberg manages to place several new elements into the movie, so please read on only at your own risk.
In one word, the movie was great, despite several plot flaws that, while glaring, did no serious damage to film enjoyment factor. As described in the earlier reviews, by other less esteemed reviewers, the action started pretty quick and basically never stopped. Tom Cruise did a commendable job coming off as a lunk-head, blue collar guy who happens to be a simply terrible father. This is no mean feat for such a pretty boy. Dakota Fanning as his daughter was very good and an excellent screamer, always an essential ingredient for scary flicks.
The aliens are kind of gruesome, not as slimy as in Aliens, but acceptable. Their walker/attack craft hark back to HG Wells original description with long spidery legs and not to the 1950s movie where the looked more like flying saucers. Another very brief scene showed Spielberg did his homework. While searching for Cruise and company in an old basement one of the aliens takes a drink of water, as we all know Wells' Martians attacked Earth because their planet was drying out. However, that is not the reason these guys came knocking.
It is never exactly explained why they came this time. (Actually their walkers were already in place and waiting for their crews to arrive.) I believe this is omitted on purpose. Spielberg limited the amount of information available about what was going on away from the central actors. An interesting idea that he pulled off. The entire frame of the movie is centered on Cruise and his family as they struggle through Connecticut up to Boston to find the Cruise's ex-wife.
The aliens do not waste any time getting down to business. They blast their way through Bayonne, NJ, blowing the humans into dust. Their bodies disappeared, leaving shredded clothing lying around. Later the aliens take to capturing people and using them as fertilizer, as far as I could tell, to feed some kind of gross red stuff that starts growing all over the place. I suppose the aliens were terraforming the planet to suit their needs.
Cruise manages to destroy one walker with a move he stole from Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. After being caught, he is getting sucked into a machine and he throws a couple of grenades into the opening. Not to original, but effective.
Tim Robbins, a person I loathe for his ridiculous political views, plays a crazed survivor type to good effect in an extended scene that may or may not have really been needed. Overall, it did not bring much to the film other then several jump out and make you scream moments. I think the time could have been better spent filling in the big picture of what was going on outside. Then this would have conflicted with how the movie was presented. Who am I to tell Steven how to direct?
Cruise and his entourage find themselves continuously confronted by the aliens at every turn. We see what must have been a disastrous attack my several army units, although except for a few burning Hummers, we do not see any destruction. The Hummers have the odd ability to drive away from the fight while burning from top to bottom. One of the parts of the movie that just did not seem probable.
And that brings me to the end of the movie and its rather disjointed ending. Cruise and Dakota make it to the Boston suburbs, his son left during the army attack to check out the action running into what had to be a cauldron of Earthly/Alien weapons fire. At this point the common Earth germs start to have their impact on the Aliens. The icky red stuff growing all over the place starts to turn to dust and the shields that protected the alien walkers come down allowing the soldiers, from the famous 10th Mountain Division, to nail them with several Javelin anti-tank rockets.
We next see cruise walking up to where his wife is staying on a block totally untouched by the carnage that has visited every hamlet and town from NJ to Mass. The lights are on, the wife and her parents looked concerned, but not particularly terrified. Next, why are they there and not running for their lives like everyone else? Does their block have special dispensation from the aliens? Then, on top of it all, the son is waiting in the doorway too. No word on how he got through the aliens and walked the 100 or so miles to Boston.
For that matter how long did all this happen? It is impossible to judge time from the movie. It could have all taken place in two or three days or maybe two weeks. There is no time reference at all, which is somewhat annoying.
The entire end of the film truly seems tacked on, as if Spielberg said, "OK, we are out of money and time, let's end this thing now."
Despite this the movie is enjoyable. The special effects do not overwhelm the movie, unlike the new Star Wars, but instead take a back seat to the actors and the story. So if you haven't done so already check it out, it is well worth your time.


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