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Movie Review:  The War of the Worlds

July 3rd 2005

War of the Worlds

With the recent media blitz involving various aspects of Tom Cruise’s life, one might wonder if War of the Worlds, a film that forces us to watch this actor for two hours, is even remotely bearable.  Rest assured, the thought of the Tom Cruise hoopla gets vaporized along with almost everyone in the film.  From the instant the first Tripod emerges from the ground and emits a foghorn like battle cry (quite possibly the most terrifying sound in the history of film) until the instant the last machine collapses in a pathetic staggering defeat, Steven Spielberg skillfully shakes our survival instincts and draws the conclusion that their truly is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Spielberg, the director of classic and memorable alien films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, once more brings us intriguing and unforgettable creatures from another world.  Only this time instead of entertaining us with a musical language or a cute obsession with Reese’s pieces, they are here to exterminate the human race.  Not so cute, is it?  However, this change in presentation of our inter-planetary neighbors is an easy walk in space for Spielberg, perhaps due to his long repertoire of other viscous creature films such as Jaws and Jurassic Park. Come to think of it, Aliens seem to be about the only creature, before this film at least, that he has consistently portrayed in a positive light!


Dakota Fanning once more experiences other worldly beings along side Spielberg (the TV mini series “Taken” being their last “close encounter”), in a roll that is both far beyond her years and helplessly child-like.  The only unpleasant performance arises out of Justin Chatwin (another “Taken” alumni) who plays the roll of a teenager with the typical maddening angst that seems to appear in so many different movies.  One wonders if there was nothing he could do to make the character more unique.  Perhaps I’m just stung by the terribly sappy and incredibly cliché ending, which made me curse at writer, Josh Friedman, for how he can let such an obvious lack of originality make it to the screen.

For a good hour and a half we are taken on a frightening survival epic that successfully sends chills down our spines.  That delivers us to a heart-pounding game of hide and seek that may last too long for the week of heart.  The last sequence, though, is quite possibly the only turn off of the film.  Through much of the film, Friedman’s adaptation of HG Well’s classic is interesting and unique.  While retaining enough of Well’s material to enliven old fans and tell the marvelous story, Friedman updates it with a modern day setting, political references, and a slight tweak on minor details to make the film exciting, if not unexpectedly brilliant.  Perhaps all of the brilliance fried poor Friedman’s brain, as the last scene seems like it could have been directly lifted from any family catastrophe movie in existence.  Character relationships are pushed, predictable and unwanted twists are revealed, and it is all topped off with lots of hugs.

Despite the disappointingly unoriginal ending scene, this film is a must for the summer season.  It’s the epitome of action, fright, and horror.  It’s the essence of the distraction from our relaxing summer days.  It’s the embodiment of what Spielberg sorely needed in his list of alien flicks.  All in all, this film is guaranteed to send a tremor down the spine of even the most avid thriller aficionado, even if it’s only due to the Tripod’s dreaded battle cry.  Anyone who says otherwise must have been wearing earplugs. 

Rating: B+


By Stephanie Wilson
Freelance Writer






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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Sunday, July 11, 2010 01:19 AM