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War of the Worlds (2005)

  Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Josh Friedman, David Koepp, H.G. Wells
Starring: Justin Chatwin, Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins
Links: War of the Worlds on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Book
Genre: Sci-Fi

This movie gets: 4.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 158th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Ready to suspend all disbelief?" - a review by pearly

Blockbusters aren't my thing. Often, I'll watch them because even though I am quite sure I'll leave disappointed, I just need to know whether this one is actually worthy of all the hype it's been getting. War of the Worlds is an example of this. It's also an example of a film which isn't worth any hype.

War of the Worlds is a sci-fi, but it's the sort of sci-fi where you, as the audience member, are meant to believe absolutely anything that happens. You're a dumb consumer, with your 3 tonne of popcorn, your 7 litres of Coca-Cola®, your choc-mint choc top (definitely overtaken the boysenberry as my current favourite, by the way), and your Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier action figurine, which you have purchased an additional seat for, so that he can sit next to you and enjoy the action with his very own miniature-sized popcorn, cola, and choc top.

Well, I'm not buying it. As far as blockbusters released in the early part of the 2005/2006 financial year go, I suggest you see Batman Begins (2005). It's a far superior movie, which will provide much more entertainment for your dollar, and you don't have to pretend that you've got an exceptionally low I.Q. to enjoy yourself whilst watching it.

This version of War of the Worlds is a remake of The War of the Worlds (1953), which is an adaptation of the book of the same name by H.G. Wells. This latest monstrosity is a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. Now, I don't think that Cruise is quite up to the huge amounts of praise that are consistently heaped onto him, and I'm also pretty far from Spielberg's biggest fan, but put them together and add in Dakota Fanning, and I'm at least going to give the film a chance. Unfortunately, the two men seem to have foregone all common sense when putting this film together. I guess most of the blame should be heaped firmly onto the shoulders of Josh Friedman and David Koepp, the screenwriters, because it is the terrible storyline that is most responsible for making my blood boil whilst watching this. As an audience, we are given absolutely no credit, and everything is so Hollywood, in the worst possible way. There is almost nothing salvageable here.

Cruise plays Ray, a devil-may-care guy who has a selfish attitude towards everything, including his two children, Rachel (Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin). As a result of this, the children don't really like him, and their mother (Ray's ex-wife, played by Miranda Otto) doesn't trust him with them (or anything). But on this particular day, none of that will matter, because the aliens have landed on Earth, and Ray will have to forget all the stupid things that used to matter to him, and fight just to stay alive, and to learn a pretty important life lesson.

Yuck. Just typing out the plot description annoyed me. Spielberg is the real person who needs to learn a life lesson - the lesson being that not every film needs to contain such a blatant moral lesson as its conclusion. But worse than this was the fact that the film contained so many huge stretches of reality that there was no chance of escaping into the film. I'm happy enough to forgive any number of plotholes in a decent film, but when the result is anything like War of the Worlds, then gaping holes only serve to increase my anger. One really stupid example that I'll give as it doesn't in any way count as a spoiler (where other more serious ones would), was that, towards the start of the film, when the aliens first arrive, they manage to screw up all of Earth's technologies. Cruise is shown walking around his house trying light switches, remote controls, even his old-school watch - and none of them work. Yet, moments later, he's outside trying to figure out what's going on, and there are two people, one with a digital still camera, and one with a video camera, both happily recording the exploits of the aliens on these devices, which are in perfect working order. Stupid.

It's all downhill from there. There's only so much that all these big names can do when the basis of the story is so terrible. If you're into things like special effects (I'm not), then you'll probably get more out of this than I did. But if you actually want to be told a story that you can escape into, believe, and feel something about, i.e. have some sort of vested interest in the thing, then I doubt War of the Worlds will give it to you. Let's hope Fanning's next turn will be a decent film in which she can flourish, like I Am Sam (2001), rather than her more recent work being the best thing in a bunch of bad films.

pearly gives this movie 3 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 14 Jul 2005

"A chilling vision of things to come" - a review by andy-j

War of the Worlds depicts a hostile attempt by aliens to overtake the planet Earth by wiping out the entire human race. The creatures control mechanical tripods several storeys high that destroy everything in sight. They come up from the ground after some spectacular lightning storms. They are pretty much everywhere, and are seemingly indestructable. Prospects for the human race are almost hopeless. The film focuses on Ray Ferrier, an ordinary, everyday loser, separated from his wife, who has the kids for the weekend. His two children, Robbie and Rachel, don't think too much of their father at all. So when they are forced to flee the alien attacks, Ray struggles to keep control of his children while attempting to keep the three of them alive.

Director Steven Spielberg has teamed up with Tom Cruise again for this blockbuster film. The last film they did together was Minority Report (2002), which was a really great film in some respects, and lacking in others. The thing is, Spielberg is really good at what he does. He really does know how to create impact. When the aliens first appear, he does an absolutely fantastic job of shifting the atmosphere from curiousity to confusion to shock to total panic. He uses jerky handheld cameras coupled with very tight shots to emphasise panic. That's really great to see this 'budget' technique being used in a film with such a massive budget. But then there are times when things just drag. A scene where the aliens are combing through wreckage and the main characters are trying to avoid detection goes on for about five minutes too long, for example. It bears similarities to a far more tense and effective scene in Jurassic Park (1993), another huge Spielberg film. Spielberg seems to have a habit of making films with inconsistent pacing.

The special effects in War of the Worlds are totally amazing. As is often the case with modern-day big budget blockbusters, the effects are the real star. They don't disappoint here - they are flawless, overwhelming and, for the most part, imaginative. I guess people just love to see the odds stacked against the good guys, as long as there isn't too much violence. On the topic, one thing that really bugged me about the effects in this movie is how wimpy the aliens ended up looking. It really was a letdown. We get massive machines causing no end of destruction... being run by cute little generic thingys with big puppy-dog eyes scampering around the place. Awww how adorable! I want one as a pet.

Tom Cruise is fine, but he's not great. Partly this is due to a script that doesn't really give him enough freedom or depth, and partly it's because he's a bit of a dick. He's kinda hard to swallow as an ordinary everyday loser. He actually starts out ok - the film takes a bit of time to establish his character, but then it starts to forget about this and focuses on driving the story forward. His character starts to become compromised, and soon we begin to lose what started out as a solid character. Dakota Fanning does well with what she is given, but it isn't enough. If you were an eight year-old girl and the world was ending, wouldn't you be totally freaking out, bawling your eyes out and screaming at the top of your lungs? She gets to, for about 10 seconds, which made me go "whoa! This is really intense and realistic", then she is quietened right down, and that's pretty much the best we get out of her. It really is a shame that we weren't given more.

One major problem with films such as these is that their impact and credability just goes out the window when they are sugarcoated to Hollywood standards. An ending doesn't have to mean a perfectly happy ending, it just needs to mean some sort of resolution. There were lots of convenient inconsistencies with the plot and far too many coincidences and lucky breaks. It got ridiculous. Additionally, breathtaking special effects go a fair way in captivating an audience's emotions and drawing them into a film. Great characters with emotional depth, who are well developed and who react realistically in a given situation are way more important. They make you give a shit. So why can't we have both? The cast is certainly capable. The film goes part-way, then loses it and doesn't really recover. The final scenes made me want to throw up. All in all Spielberg does a reasonable job here (compare it to Signs (2002), for example - it's scarier, more tense and gives us more of what we want), but it's a shame that the whole thing just doesn't give us everything that it could have.

andy-j gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 8 Jul 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 4.50
Lowest rating: 3 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 6 (by andy-j)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. I think the ratings on this movie have been unfairly low, just because it's a Spielburgo movie starring the scary Tom Cruise. This is the most thrilling movie i've seen come out in the past few years and it held me all the way to the end (the biggest disappointment of the movie). I liked how the movie focussed on the people as well as the bangs and explosions.

    Rating given: 7

    A comment from Kim on Thu 14 Jul 2005 13:41 #

  2. I for one welcome our new Alien Cruise/Speilberg Hybrid Overlords...

    A comment from m1k3y ( on Thu 14 Jul 2005 19:38 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 7.00 (1 rating)

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