War of the Worlds
- Steven Spielberg
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Wells’ novel has been updated to the present day, and focuses on an everyman, Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), whose ex-wife (Miranda Otto) drops their kids with him for a day or two: Teenage Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and ten-year-old Rachel (Dakota Fanning), who aren’t too close to their father… because he isn’t a very good one.
However, something will force the trio to spend a lot of time together: After some weird meteorological events, a series of gigantic machines that stand and walk on tripods start wiping out every human being that stands in their way, and they walk all around. Running away, just making it in time, Ray and the kids get to know what hell is all about—as the world tries to figure out a way to fight these machines, which seems a pretty hopeless attempt.
Despite this being a fine film, it’s pretty obvious that Spielberg didn’t take it all too seriously, and kind of wanted to make it and get it out of his system without spending too much energy on it. I say this because it’s obviously not a very personal film, and even in its poignant aspects it doesn’t go too deep; if it does, it’s on the actors’ account anyway. Nevertheless, I was continuously surprised by the director’s execution. Several scenes took me off-guard and came off amazing in every single aspect, from camera movement to camera angle to continuity to timing. Kudos to everyone involved in making the final result so outstanding.
I guess by now no one gets really scared by the idea of an alien invasion. That went off with Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of this novel in the 1930s, and with the 1950’s sci-fi craze and general paranoia. Plus, just like the film points out, Americans mainly worry about terrorists these days. Josh Friedman and David Koepp took care of making this film look and feel like the real thing probably would these days, obviously removing the reference to “Martians” all around, and giving the characters credible reactions and shocks. However, and even though I did like the main character and his family, I found several things involving them pretty implausible. Like, for instance, how every road is clear for them to drive around, or how they’re always at the front row during every important milestone surrounding them. Maybe Spielberg now shares Tom Cruise’s anxiety to be such a showoff, but placing him on center stage all the time is ridiculous, even for the hero of the film. This and several clichés really marred the script and the final result.
As for the characters, Ray and Rachel are pretty good ones, and their performers are excellent. Fanning is especially effective as the little girl who has to face so much. The son is mostly one-note, but I didn’t mind. That masterful narrator, Morgan Freeman, provides the bookends. The character of Ogilvy however, who has a cameo in the film (expertly played by Tim Robbins), is completely out of place and his subplot doesn’t work. This is all too easy to ignore though, as the section involving him contains a Jurassic Park (1993) reference (one of a couple inside the film) which is a nail-biter to say the least. Matter of fact, the whole film has you in stitches. I had rarely felt so intense emotions at the movies during the last few months.
By the way, it’s funny how the most grabbing scene doesn’t involve the aliens at all: the life or death struggle to get a working car, taking it away from whoever has it if necessary; can’t get it out of my head. Plus, the director made sure to include lots of symbolism of the holocaust. This is one race wiping out another, and there’s a lot to play with. And it works and is quite touchy.
Spielberg regular John Williams wrote an unmemorable score this time, which also shows how the director’s heart wasn’t necessarily in this project. Another regular however, photographer Janusz Kaminski, added his unique touch and made every scene a treat to the eye; awesome work there. The breathtaking visual effects complete the circle to perfection.
Overall a fun piece, if unessential, but sure worth a look.
“This isn’t any more a war than there’s a war between man and maggots. This is an extermination.”
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Other reviews of War of the Worlds (2005): Morris