War of the Worlds

Well, I'll say this, Steven Spielberg certainly know how to entertain an audience...at least for an hour. After that, action and fun turns to holes and bore. Let's get the good stuff out of the way, cause it will be short.

       The acting: Tom Cruise - well done as usual. Regardless of his recent off-screen banter and publicity stunts, he still knows how to bring us into his character's world. What else can I say? He's the actor who appears most in my top 100 films of all time; and there's a reason for that. Dakota Fanning: probably the most gifted child actor that I can remember. Simply amazing for a kid. The rest of the people are extras and basically forgettable, but that's the way it is supposed to be. I can't decide if the dialogue was fun and witty or just stupid, i.e. "What is it dad? Is it the terrorists?"

       The first hour is great. The opening attack sequence is suspenseful and extremely realistic. Loved the lightning storms, although they could've been made much more intense than they were. Then the aliens attack and it's great action, suspense and spectacular special effects and sound. I must say, the aliens' "vehicles" are fantastic looking and actually pretty damn scary and intimidating. The characters leap from the frying pan into the fire several times and it was a joy to watch from a safe distance. But then, everything starts to fall apart as the story goes from big fun to small isolated pockets of dialogue and sub-plots. As soon as you see Tim Robbins enter the scene, run from the theater as fast as you can. Not a knock on Robbins; he is fine. The movie just starts to lag here...severely.

       I don't know why the original story was entitled "War of the Worlds." There is no war like in "Independence Day." It is an extermination with people just running for their lives and screaming the whole time. The armed forces are called in but we get to see very little of their battle; which is unfortunate. That was the part I was most looking forward to and it just wasn't there. Instead, we are constantly being carried along with the crowd of people running away from the action. And miraculously, it is always Cruise and family that are the only ones out of hundreds to make it away unscathed. This happens numerous times and begins to take a toll on my ability to suspend my disbelief.

A glimpse of the invaders
       Once again, Hollywood has made a film from the perspective of humans and completely underestimates the intelligence of aliens who are obviously far more advanced technologically than we are. In "Signs" the aliens did not have the knowledge or tools to break through a wooden door. In "Independence Day," aliens who have traveled millions of light years and eradicated thousands of worlds have never heard of Norton Anti-Virus. And the Death Star has this little point on it that can destroy the entire station if you shoot it. The aliens of this film are no exception. Besides the method of their ultimate demise, which is the same as in the orignal book and radio play, they apparently don't have cameras with sound or infrared vision. You'll understand if you actually bring yourself to sit through this entire movie.

       Holes holes holes. I can't even get into it very far without giving too much away; but here's a couple. Everything is "zapped out" by a giant EMP. NOTHING works; watches, cars, lights, anything remotely electrical. Yet, right during the attack, we get to see a neat shot of the aliens vaporizing people through the view finder of some guy's cam-corder. He must've had it shoved up Spielberg's ass as to protect it from the EMP. Two: the aliens have had these ships buried under the ground (even in the middle of the Bronx) for millions of years preparing to attack us. OK, maybe they had some kind of cloaking device so we didn't detect them - even though we built watermains, subways, miles of cables, etc down there...I stress maybe. But then, why would they wait millions of years to study us and attack us for our planet. Why wouldn't they just take it over in the first place? And it seems pretty convenient that these "tri-pods" are built especially for killing and detaining humans. I could go on and on about the B.S. in this movie but I fear I've given away too much already. Trust me though, there's more.

At this point, you'll wish the
aliens would just get it over with
       Probably the worst part of the film is the ending. Talk about anti-climactic! I knew basically what would happen and how it would be resolved, as I have read the original story, but I thought it still could've ended spectacularly. Alas, it does not. It just...ends. Starting with a drawn-out sequence in a basement to an Empire Strikes Back rip-off; complete with Morgan Freeman's boring narration and the most predictable ending scene ever. I just can't recommend this film at all...even for the uncritical. I was so disappointed; especially after the first 30-45 minutes was so great. Maybe you can talk the theater owner into letting you in for half the price for half the movie.

My favorite review I read by the Boston Globe's Ty Burr.
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