War of the Worlds

A 2005 movie starring Tom Cruise

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Technically Adept, but Emotionally Void

  • Jul 24, 2005
  • by
Rating:
+1
Pros: Technically flawless.

Cons: No emotional connection was established between us and the characters.

The Bottom Line: In the final analysis, War of the Worlds was mildly entertaining, but not at all thought-provoking, or partially profound.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

My wife is enamored with Tom Cruise and swears most women are as well. I however, can take or leave the man. Oh sure he is brilliant actor (sometimes), but lately off-screen he has turned into somewhat of a nut job; I am just waiting for the men in white coats to come take him away (with Katie smiling and giggling in the background swearing she’ll stand by her man). Not that nut-jobs don’t deserve their space—it takes all kinds to make a world after all—I just prefer they stay out of the lime-light, and refrain from making comments about subject they know next to nothing about. Tom Cruise speaking about port-partum depression, please, Tom, give us all a break!

But Tom’s recent predilection for theatrics off screen do not obscure his fine performance on-screen in Steven Spielberg’s retelling of the classic book, turned, radio drama, turned movie, turned re-made summer blockbuster, War of the Worlds. By now we are all familiar with the (basic) premise of War of the Worlds, so I will not bore you with a re-hashing of the plot. Sufficed to say, the world gets a shellacking, and this mass destruction is seen largely through the eyes of one man, one New Jersey longshoreman Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), a man whose sole motivation in life is to, well, just get by without a care, and that includes his two children: ten year old Rachel (Dakota will you ever grow up Fanning), and 15 year old Robbie (Justin Chatwin).

In this latest adaptation of the W. G. Wells classic, our (reluctant) protagonist is charged with watching his two children for the weekend, while his ex-wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto of Lord of the Rings fame) goes to Boston with her new husband in tow to visit her parents. We do not have to wait long for the action and mayhem to start as storm clouds gather and lighting strikes engulf the planet, seeming to strike at random but all hitting the same spot within their zone. The lighting strikes serve two purposes: to awaken and power the alien death machines that have been buried in their multitude all over the earth, and the send pilots down to man the machines.

One such strike is centered in the town in which Ray lives, and soon after they stop the destruction and extermination of mankind begins in earnest. We are never given a glimpse into the alien mindset other then a short narration at the beginning which I assume is straight from the novel (I never read the tome). The rest of the movie Ray is one the run with his children trying to save their lives, and his own of course.

My Thoughts

I vaguely remember seeing the original movie when I was a child, and it left no lasting impression, probably because I was just a child and happily devoid of any deep thoughts. Time and age have not change my visceral feelings after having viewed this updated version. My wife commented after seeing the movie, that she made no emotional connection to the characters on the screen, and could care less what happened to any of them, even cute little Rachel (Fanning). And while I do not share her un-empathic stance about the characters; I cared what happened to little Rachel, she is so cute how could you not—I came close.

Far too much time was spent running from the alien and not enough time was spent delving into their mindset. Perhaps if we had been treat to a behind-the-scenes look at the invasion force and their ultimate plans for our planet we could have mustered more sympathy for those being seared with such alacrity.

At one point in the movie, Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins) stoically tells Ray about the story unfolding in the film, "This isn’t a war; it's an extermination." He unwittingly hit upon the fatal flaw of this technically adept but emotionally unsatisfying adaptation. The big problem with the War of the Worlds here is that we don’t see a war at all (outside of one segment where foot soldiers try and take on the massive three-footed alien attack machines with tanks and fighter jets), but rather just an infestation that eventually runs its course and peters out. By seeing the carnage only through Ray’s eyes we miss the bigger picture, which is that mankind is fighting for his very existence all over the plant.

To his credit, director Steven Spielberg, working with screenwriters Josh Friedman and his Jurassic Park partner David Koepp, did a masterful job of detailing the movie and showing how hopeless our fates can in the face of such wanton cruelty. And how insignificant mankind is in the universal scheme of things. The machines this time around are large menacing and designed to shrike fear in the hearts of human kind. This they do.

As War of the Worlds unfolds and Ray throws off the shackles of selfishness and becomes single-minded in an all out effort to keep his children alive, Spielberg unapologetically shows the price of that survival. At one point Ray is forced to set upon Harlan (Tim Roberts) in order to protect his daughter, and there is another scene near the Hudson Ferry in which the savagery of men towards one another is unabashedly explored. There are times when people are willing to help one another, but when push comes to shove, human self-interest, and self-preservation always rules the day.

In the final analysis, War of the Worlds was mildly entertaining, but not at all thought-provoking, or partially profound. The performance was outstanding as far as they went, but here to were not give enough back-story about the main character to become emotionally vested in them. Seeing to those details would have made the movie more enjoyable and ultimately much more thought provoking.


Recommended:
Yes

Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More War of the Worlds (2005 movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2009
Interesting reimagining of the H.G. Wells classic - some underground antics and world destruction; I still like the Gene Barry version best.
review by . December 02, 2005
The movie is alright, I think they (preview, trailer, media, etc...) hype it up too much before it was released. The special effects are outstanding the scenes of the tripods ascending from the streets and rocking the city was amazing. There are also some classic lines, e.g., "...are we dead?" this is extermination!", "...are you your mother, or mine?", and "...they come in the lightning..." Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, but I was surprised at how small Miranda Otto's (Lord of the Rings) part was.    &nb …
review by . June 28, 2005
Pros: Nice Setup.     Cons: Lousy acting, weak FX, little action, paper thin plot.     The Bottom Line: With so much potential, it is hard to believe this went so far south.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. In a summer season of grand blockbusters, “War of the Worlds” is perhaps the biggest dud in years, and is a failure of epic proportions. The film is a remake of the classic 1953 film …
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Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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Wiki

Despite super effects, a huge budget, and the cinematic pedigree of alien-happy Steven Spielberg, this take on H.G. Wells's novel is basically a horror film packaged as a sci-fi thrill ride. Instead of a mad slasher, however, Spielberg (along with writers Josh Friedman & David Koepp) utilizes aliens hell-bent on quickly destroying humanity, and the terrifying results that prey upon adult fears, especially in the post-9/11 world. The realistic results could be a new genre, the grim popcorn thriller; often you feel like you're watching Schindler's List more than Spielberg's other thrill-machine movies (Jaws, Jurassic Park). The film centers on Ray Ferrier, a divorced father (Tom Cruise, oh so comfortable) who witnesses one giant craft destroy his New Jersey town and soon is on the road with his teen son (Justin Chatwin) and preteen daughter (Dakota Fanning) in tow, trying to keep ahead of the invasion. The film is, of course, impeccably designed and produced by Spielberg's usual crew of A-class talent. The aliens are genuinely scary, even when the film--like the novel--spends a good chunk of time in a basement. Readers of the book (or viewers of the deft 1953 adaptation) will note the variation of whom and how the aliens come to Earth, which poses some logistical problems. The film opens and closes with narration from the novel read by Morgan Freeman, but Spielberg could have adapted Orson Welles's words from the famous Halloween Eve 1938 radio ...
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