June 30, 2005

War of the Worlds

Any aliens that make little Dakota Fanning cry like that are no friends of yours.

Spielberg has taken the original “War of the Worlds” story (well, the one I remember from the original movie, anyhow) and swapped in some new characters, a few small twists, and a lot of warlike destruction to create a very impressive spectacle.

You already know the story, so no real spoilers are possible there. Still, I’ll stick to non-spoiler details. I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise, but he does a decent job of playing not-the-best-dad-in-the-world versus the aliens-who-want-to-sterilize-and-terraform-this-world.

Dakota Fanning is just great. It’s a typical Spielberg “precocious child” but it’s Dakota Fanning, so it’s believable. ANd when she’s scared, you’re concerned. And scared. Well, maybe that’s just me as a father talking. But, dammit, I was scared for her most of the movie.

Credit where it is due on Cruise’s part. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him playing overwhelmed and shell-shocked, and he pulled that off, I think.

He had plenty of opportunity. The movie wastes little time, because the aliens don’t waste their time. They arrive, start tearing the place up and suddenly Cruise, his son and Ms. Fanning are off and running. When a critical moment comes and he must choose between letting his son go (basically to his death, by his own choice) and protecting his daughter from becoming lost to him, it is an obvious metaphorical moment of a parent coming to terms with a teen maturing into a young adult.

The special effects are just plain great. No cheesy death/heat ray here. You get to see people go “poof” in a very startling, disconcerting way. People poof into dust. The message: “We don’t have to burn you up slowly. We’re just mowing through you.”

Unlike the systematic yet primal “wall of fire” in “Independence Day,” these aliens like to get their hands dirty. A line from the trailer says “This isn’t a war. It’s an extermination.” Well, maybe so, but it’s more like pulling up weeds than spraying for bugs. The wall of fire was upsetting like a tsunami is upsetting. It’s overwhelming to see that kind of raw power ripping through the city. It’s overwhelming and disheartening. But it’s downright creepy to see the aliens in War of the Worlds going about their work.And one twist I won’t ruin makes them especially creepy.

You already know how it ends. But I still found it a bit abrupt. Like there were a few scenes missing near the end. I’m not sure what ought to have been in those scenes, because the main characters had been through an awful l to already. Maybe just a more gradual approach to the resolution.

Also, how was one guy’s camcorder the only thing immune to the EM pulse? Maybe it only affects things that are on at the time? I dunno.

But what I do know is that this movie is going to do pretty well in the box office. It will be a blockbuster. Worth seeing? Probably yes if only to check out the aliens. But the theme of this reg’lar guy dad trying to suddenly deal with the unbelievable is not half bad.

I hope this review is coherent. It’s really late!

Posted by James at June 30, 2005 1:52 AM
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I noticed it too! They paid so much attention to some detail and they blew that. I even noticed another guy with a film camera and it had to be manually wound (it might have been disposable).

I always thought if there was an EMP the cars that were pre-electronic ignition would still go so I thought his older car might be okay.

Posted by: Gary LaPointe at July 3, 2005 3:50 PM

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