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Thread: The War of the Worlds

  1. #1
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    The War of the Worlds

    ********WARNING: Spoilers in the content of this review********

    War of the Worlds (2005) – A film by Steven Speilberg

    Intense. That is the best word to describe this film to anyone who hasn’t seen it. This film is intense, very intense. Gone are the red-scare tainted images of the George Pal version from the 1950’s, with spacecraft suspended on wires, or the minister casting out the demon. Also missing is Well’s simplistic vision from the novel (invaders from Mars). Speilberg has learned from his elders and brought us a fine tale of suspenseful tension and a microcosmic look at what it feels like to be a refugee of war. America has been a very privileged nation. There have been only two wars fought on our soil (arguable). The first was the revolutionary. The second was the Civil War.

    We have never been without our conveniences. In one of the very first scenes in the film, the main character, played quite well by mister screwball himself, Tom Cruise, reaches for the light switch, the telephone, the refrigerator, even the cell phone; none of them work. He steps outside. The cars are dead. Nothing that uses electricity works. As humans who’ve become dependent on our things, its amazing to see how quickly we turn back into uncivil animals when we no longer have them, running around scared, frightened, and friendless. Neighborhoods degenerate into survival of the fittest.

    Speilberg covers all that territory and more in this newest adaptation of H. G. Well’s science fiction book, including the famous opening and closing narration to help explain the setting and the finish, a trick Well’s managed to pull off in the book. The scale of this war would have to match one modern audiences would find exciting. This is nothing less than Armageddon. As in the original story, armies of unstoppable creatures set about wiping mankind from the face of the Earth. That’s the obvious part.

    Steven only starts with those images. The real story is one of survival. Given these circumstances, where do you go? What do you do? Well, with a bit of luck, and a mechanic next door, you hop into the only car that works in Yonkers (or wherever they are) and head for the hills away from the city. Unfortunately for deadbeat dad Cruise (his weekend to watch the kids), he must drag along a stubborn teen currently hating his father, and an unbelieving eight-year-old girl, one who never stops asking questions.

    It turns out they can’t run fast enough, and eventually, the war catches back up with them. In a series of very intense (there’s that word again) scenes, people run for their lives from the onslaught. Some people chose to be heroic, helping others; while other greedy people shoot each other for necessities. Cruise and his family are forced to flee in whatever way they can and end up in the basement of a farmhouse (this scene also taken from the book). There is a twist as a rather fanatical Tim Robbins already occupies the basement. In a very tension filled seven-minute scene, the aliens probe the house, looking for whatever they can find useful. Humans it turns out are naturally useful as food. Aren’t we always?

    Cruise is constantly being torn by having to fight for his children’s survival versus saving others around him. This conflict continues through the film, even at the end. Speilberg’s use of conflict helps to drive the story forward while maintaining an air of tension, although most of us know the famous ending. Did he change the end from the book? I can’t give that away. That would be unforgivable. However I will mention one other thing about the technical part of the film.

    As usual, Speilberg has the same technical people helping on every film. Michael Kahn, A.C.E. cuts action sequences in a way that paces the film rather evenly throughout with a fine balance between the quiet and the spastic. John Williams score is both bizarre and mundane. There is nothing that distinguishes itself (no soaring violins, no melodies to whistle). The score does underlie the material in a very supportive fashion, harking back to Williams’ earlier days when he was dubbed the composer to the disaster movies, as could easily be labeled this time, too. Dennis Muren, who gave Speilberg his aliens and his dinosaurs, returns to create menacing but beautiful ships, with creepy tentacles, and fog horns that blast before they annihilate.

    War of the Worlds is a fantastic tale of science fiction, told with stark realism, and often showing brutal fearful images of mutilation. This is no film a child should see. When Cruise falls on top of his daughter to save her life, my son cried out to me in the darkness of the theater, “Dad, this is too much.” He covered his eyes. I felt guilty dragging him to see such terrifying images of people being reduced to dust or having their bodies sucked dry. When we stepped outside, I turned to apologize, only to see his smiling face say, “Wow! That was soooo good!” I’ll still make sure he doesn’t eat pizza tonight!

  2. #2
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    Unbelievable Literally

    *Real Spoilers*

    This remake, update just doesn't make a lot of sense. There's too many holes in the storyline and the apparent manipulative formula of the scenes seem almost forced. Even from the beginning of the invasion the semi-mechanical tripods (an attempt to honor likely the H.G. Wells image of our invaders seems awkward in a way. The original movie actually seems more modern and updated than in some cases this movie attempt to work backwards. The aliens seem almost retro at some points without the knowledge of infrared scanners like those used in the television series 24 by the counter terrorist unit, cages for people without force fields.

    The manipulative storyline begins to drag the movie where coincidence builds upon unlikely coincidence as Tom Cruise tries to for some fantastic reason reunite his children with their mother (who has divorced him) and lives in Boston. He finds a van that runs after an electromagnetic pulse wipes out any electronic device. He is able to negotiate around the freeways at ease while all the other vehicles are conveniently mostly out of his path. There's the required mob scene. There's the how do one's get to be the last family on the ferry which of course is later capsided. We have a young daughter who needs to go and relieve herself but even after her experience with dead people, suddenly these no time to actually go...(I probably would have shit in my pants right there and then). Then there's the son who seems for no real good explanation has this death wish who actually survives at the end (a tribute to the good, happy American ending).

    The absence of any focus on the military effort to counter-attack the invasion (quite the opposite of the original movie version) is an interesting decision, making the whole military counter-offensive look uncoordinated and confusing...nobody seems to no what their are doing and where they are going throughout the movie - more like zombies without intelligence.

    Perhaps initially what was encouraging about this remake at the beginning was the interesting family dynamics and the infantile Tom Cruise having to grow up some in the during. The interaction between Tom Cruise, his movie ex-wife, her new boyfriend and even the children are good, yet this family dynamic gets a bit ragged, especially where the son is concerned. What I did like was Tom Cruise's character in terms of his vulnerability as a father that actually carried through much of the movie - some realism for a change.

    The creepiness was there, but unfortuately, this movie came across not as a horror/thriller but more like a science fiction action movie. The eerie red color was effective. The overall texture of the movie, the disaster sequences powerful, yet all this is let down by the actual unfolding of the substance of the movie itself.

    Six out of Ten Stars or B-

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    I believe Cruise' character (Ray Ferrier) was being driven by the need to keep his children together. He felt helpless to do that himself. Yet, when he saw people being vaporized around him, he focused on the comment his daughter made, simply "take me to mom." It all made sense to me. The frustrating part was how Speilberg built the tension between the father and the son. Ray Ferrier demonstrated that clearly when he forced his son to play catch (what should have been an act of bonding) and then disciplined him with the fastball, which his son quickly rejected and walked away. The alienation obviously had taken place long before the film started, prompted by Ray himself, as in the engine in the center of the room, which took precedence over the children. Even his son pointed out to him how self-centered he behaved.

    Granted the obstacles on the freeway were conveniently absent. But I thought the crowd pushing in on them later was very effective, acting as a metaphor for the world pressing in on them. I also like the scene where Ray held his daughter while he watched his son heroically rescue dangling people trying to get on the boat. The tie-in with the original at the very end (for those of you who spot it) was very trivial, as when Donner put the original Lois on the train in Superman. There was also a major goof caught by most people (the working camcorder). I completely missed that (as did Speilberg, evidently).

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    Originally posted in "Last Film You've Seen"

    The first half is very good. Very scary. Very despairing. Kind of a mix between "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" and "Schindler's List".

    The second half is not as good, but still worth watching. Basically a series of cliffhangers in which uber-TomCruise rescues his daughter in a series of increasingly resourceful ways. Some of these set pieces seem to have been copied from "Jurassic Park" (though there are images from just about every Spielberg film; the fillm's like an hommage he's paying to himself).

    Cruise's and co-star Dakota Fanning's acting skills are slightly above competent. Stronger leads would've helped.

    Excellent special effects. The most chilling: a runaway passenger train with flames shooting through each window.

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    More Disappointments

    *Spoilers*

    Both my wife and I were in disbelief as to how at the very end in the climax that the whole family was brought back together so conveniently including the ex-wife and his husband and their parents at exactly the place where they had gone to in Boston as if nobody else were displaced or killed. The likelihood of this happening was so remote as to make the ending just another American - feel good ending without substance or belief. It was a big let down for me. And then to have the son miraculously survive it really put the movie into a children's fantasy movie genre where everything turns out ok which really did not. The only redeeming value was the fact that Tom Cruise didn't get to be sole survivor and his ex-wife's husband survives to allow the earlier dysfunctional issues to be addressed that were actually one of the most powerful components of this movie in the beginning. I would have preferred to see how both Tom Cruise's character and the ex-wife sought to bring their children back together (thus perhaps having the ex-wife having the son and the attempt to bring both their daughter and son back together). There really wasn't any female angle to this movie except for Dakota Fanning and that draw isn't powerful enough to bring in older adult women. This supposedly blockbuster left out a key demographic.

    There were no bodies in the huge plane crash. Again another impossible scene considering we see so many bodies later in a river. I know perhaps there were all vaporized, but somehow the crash scene didn't look real - the wreckage itself was too compact and not spread out as in real scenes.

    The runaway passenger train was chilling, but yet so had an image from The Polar Express for some reason, something about being emotionally empty - zombies. While this scene was chilling, it just seemed to me another conveniently placed coicidence designed for shock value as if the director went around trying to come up with interesting scenes that haven't been seen before and just found a place to put it in. I thought oh no, another one of those inserts that really didn't involve Tom Cruise or Dakota Fanning - it was as if they could of just stayed home and then somehow watch as many strange occurrences happen to them (as if this movie itself became one of those composite characters in a movie that supposed to represent the everyman or everywoman because it's impossible to have every character in a movie).

    The crowd pressing around the car scene just seemed to be one of those cliches from barely a problem to a hugely a problem and this is odd considering how Tom Cruise's character is almost paranoid in the beginning about even leaving the car alone in the sparsely populated scene. It would be unrealistic to think that Tom hadn't given his son a BIG lecture about avoiding large crowded places. Again, this scene just seemed to be another attempt at shocking the audience because it's been done before and this movie was about incorporating all these scenes into this movie, one shock after another just for the sake of doing them. Strangely, enough it seemed that the town was too small for such a large crowd - it felt that the crowd would just have continued on somewhere else. Even the gun scene didn't seem too realistic, I don't think Tom Cruise's character would have been able to obtain the crowd reaction as he did...instead of the crowd immediately running away, it was so dense that the reaction would have been just to continue pressing in and just crush him regardless of the gun.

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    I'm inclined largely to agree on the ending. Even more maudlin were the perfectly groomed smiling grandparents, sticking their heads around Mom like a Norman Rockwell painting. Tim Robbin's prediction of "more coming" would have been better, if the aliens made some attempt at adaptation, just as their species must have done on their homeworld.

    The book's ending was very different. The protagonist was surprised as anyone when the aliens began to drop like flies. He stood amid the wreckage of a city and prayed. Boston, for some odd reason was left untouched. That seems highly unlikely, if humans were indeed their main source of food.

    We've argued endlessly about how books are changed for film. Speilberg left some of the plot points intact, but neglected to leave in the purpose of the story about human routine breeding complacency. Perhaps Wells saw how vulnerable England was to outside invasion and feared there was no defense for it. He used the Martian invasion as an allegory. Speilberg's focus is on a grand scale using visual impact versus human intimacy and often loses sight of his overall audience (as he did in A.I.).

    Roger Ebert did not like most aspects of the film (paraphrase "...why would an alien race vaporize humans only to suck their blood out and harvest them later?" and "How could spacecraft be left underground in a city full of subway lines, sewers and gaslines?"). He also did not care for the spaceships: ("Everyone knows that a craft on three spindly thin legs is inherently unstable.") He cared for a few of the images and how they were carefully constructed, but otherwise, he felt the entire premise of the film weak. "Kubrick was right not to show aliens in 2001. The actual aliens are anticlimatic."

    I did find the film entertaining but there are certainly a number of flaws, as if Speilberg were in a hurry to release the film, and after a while, he just didn't care what the end product look like as long as it made money.

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    Perhaps Wells saw how vulnerable England was to outside invasion and feared there was no defense for it.

    The original book was an attack on British colonialisation of other countries and the fact that the British Empire bled those countries dry as did the French, Italians etc. Slightly comparable with what the US is doing now.

    Cheers Trev.

    Last edited by trevor826; 07-17-2005 at 06:41 PM.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Please Say More Trevor826

    Interesting...please expand on this connection. How does British colonization pertain to War of the Worlds? Are the aliens, the British and the beginnings of the loss of their empire an example of how the British began to die out in their conquered lands, much like the invaders from Mars did on earth in War of the Worlds?

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    Bore of the worlds

    Spielberg's re-make offered nothing new in terms of substance and threw out what I really liked about the original movie.

    Dakota Fanning is the William Shatner of child actors.

    Good effects and CGI. Sounds effects were fantastic.

    I liked the ships in the original far better even with their invisible tripod legs. These new martian ships seemed stolen from "The Matrix" refuse pile.

    Who else is sick to death of movies with spindly legged contraptions that are built less for function and more for looks?

    Even outside their ships, the actual aliens were lame clones of every other recent movie alien (Independence Day anyone?). Being monopedal was their only interesting feature. Wouldn't they be tripedal like their constructs? In the original their vision closely mimicked the three optical sensors on their machines.

    I suppose Hollywood thinks it is really clever by adding the element of cliched " dysfunctional family" to the mix. Yawn. Also, why replace the stud scientist with an everyman?

    Cruise seemed more concerned about what his kids were "exposed" to rather than their actual safety.

    I admit it was an interesting choice to have the character played by Tom Cruise decide to kill the crazed Tim Robbins character who posed a threat to himself and his daughter. The bodies floating down the river was a nice touch.

    The places where the movie succeeded was where the script and director paid homage to H.G. Wells such as the great voiceover work by Morgan Freeman in the beginning and the end of the film. It's refreshing to hear the english language written and spoken so clearly and concisely.

    It's too bad that the element of faith which was so prevalent in the 1953 version was totally lacking in this version.

    It was nice to see Gene Barry make a cameo at the end, but the reunion lacked any emotional resonance.

    I loved the surprise ending: Who would have guessed that Robbie was fire-proof?

    Let's all admit we wanted a re-creation of the scene in the 1953 version where Gene Barry plants some sharp, heavy tool into martian cranium and the thing runs off screaming. My older brother and I nearly wore out the rewind button of our Beta VCR on that scene.
    Last edited by stevetseitz; 07-06-2005 at 05:19 AM.

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    Well was it great? Hell no, but it was Spielberg. I knew what I was getting, and of course all the good guys had to make it. Techincally I do think the movie was better than most, but Spielberg generally does go a bit further than most filmmakers when it comes to making his films LOOK great. If the supporting cast was a little weak it was just so that Tom Cruise could seem stronger. I enjoyed the film, but very far from a work of art.

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    This survival tale delivers a series of spectacular images and visceral thrills that must be experienced at a theatre. Home viewing would diminish their impact considerably. Advancements in special effects technology and their expert application justify the remake. Some of the criticisms expressed here, including Ebert's, may be valid, but none impinged on my enjoyment of the movie-movie.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 07-17-2005 at 06:52 AM.

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    Home Viewing Debate

    oscar jubis: "This survival tale delivers a series of spectacular images and visceral thrills that must be experienced at a theatre. Home viewing would diminish their impact considerably. Advancements in special effects technology and their expert application justify the remake. Some of the criticisms expressed here, including Ebert's, may be valid, but none impinged on my enjoyment of the movie-movie."

    tabuno: With the increasing size of home wall screens and the great sound systems that a number of home theaters now have, I would have think that your argument that this movie must be seen in a theater has been weakened by the very technology and expert application that you have just mentioned. If criticisms of this movie are valid as you say, then you enjoyment of this movie must be based on some rather different criteria. For me storyline and characterization are essential components for enjoying a movie. One can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on special effects, but if the story and characters aren't compelling and interesting, consistent and believable, then I can't imagine anyone really enjoying this movie. I would think that most if not all the subscribing members would be more interested in a movie than just the spectcular images and visceral effects. If one really loves this stuff, I would offer my opinion that "Day After Tommorrow" (2004) offered the best spectaculer and visceral effects of a disaster/action/thiller movie.

  13. #13
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    Please Say More Trevor826

    Sorry I didn't check back on this thread, Wells saw the way the British were colonizing large areas of the world and ripping them of all their natural products, manpower and resources, he could also see that this was going to collapse in on itself (as it did) as countries would fight if need be for their right to independence. Some would call him prophetic, I just think he was an intelligent man who could see the obvious.

    Are the aliens, the British and the beginnings of the loss of their empire an example of how the British began to die out in their conquered lands, much like the invaders from Mars did on earth in War of the Worlds?

    Pretty much yes.

    Cheers Trev.
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    Inflection from without and within

    Trev826 thanks for your follow-up.

    Stretching war a little bit further, I am struck by the similarities between 9-11 and the United States fall out. While we were concerned about freedom, since the attack, Al Quaida, Iraq, I experience a similar impact of our American war on foreign lands and that in turn we have become infected ourselves in a significant loss of our own freedoms here in the United States, we have become our own enemies. While fighting a war to defend freedom, we at home are slowly losing more and more of our own. We invaded other lands and we have brought back an infection to our own country.

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    >>Stretching war a little bit further, I am struck by the similarities between 9-11 and the United States fall out.<<

    S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g is the key word here. I'm sorry but I must respond to this non movie-related diatribe.

    First of all, it isn't an "American" war on foreign soil. It's a coalition led by America who has been most vocal and active in the war on terror. There has been no significant loss of our "freedoms" here in the United States unless of course you are a radical, extremist muslim who supports terrorism. We haven't "invaded" other lands. I don't see anyone changing country names to "United States of Iraq" or "United States of Afghanistan".

    Our leaders have assessed the dangers posed to Americans and citizens of other free nations from certain terror friendly totalitarian regimes. They have mobilized military forces to root out some of the biggest agitators in a region plagued for centuries by instability which breeds poverty, exploitation and totalitarian regimes. If you don't drain the swamp you will never get rid of the mosquitoes.

    Terrorism from the Middle East is not a new phenomenon. This dates back to some 600 A.D. when Islam grew rapidly by the sword until it threatened the whole of the Middle East. The early Crusades were a response to the rapid expansion of Islam and were surprisingly successful considering how lucky the crusaders got and how many mistakes were made by the Muslim defenders.

    The Crusades and the current war on terror are both simply flare ups in a long standing "Cold War" between an aggresive and expanding Islam and a more passive Judeo-Christian "western" civilization.

    By the later Crusades, Muslim defenders became the aggressors taking back what ground was gained by the Crusaders and more.

    If not for the untimely death of powerful Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and fortuitous invasion of the Mongols from the East our maps and our culture (not to mention our high standard of living, value for human rights and free and democratic way of life) would be quite different.

    We have sought to provide more of the world the freedom that we take for granted here at home. In doing so, we improve the human rights conditions and create an environment in which democracy and capitalism can thrive.

    People often mistakenly think even a "just war" is ultimately evil and is the enemy of human life. Just looking at the numbers bears out a different conclusion: By comparison, totalitarianism is the truly the biggest murderer and beats out all armed conflict by a factor of three in terms of loss of human life.

    Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and Islamic theocracy have killed hundreds of MILLIONS.

    To allow these types of extremist idealogies to fester
    in any area of the world is irresponsible and cruel. To simple decide that certain people, because they live in a certain area or are of a certain ethnic background are not worthy of the freedoms and responsibilities we cherish is a subtle form of racism.

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