"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mid-release Film Review: The War of the Worlds

Grandma was in town and could watch kids, wife was on call, Grandpa and I slipped out to the local cineplex for the latest Spielberg offering. Among his blockbusters, I think The War of the Worlds is the least interesting. Bad word of mouth is going to make this film tail off rather quickly. It will still make a lot of money, but not mega-money and not massive DVD sales.

Tom Cruise has talent. He and Dakota Fanning make a convincing pair as they flee the devastation consuming both city and countryside around them. His scene with Tim Robbins is good and gives one a sense of small scale human drama in the midst of annihilation. One can't complain about the acting.

What one can complain about is the plot. It is absolutely full of holes. I don't want to put spoilers in the review, so I'll simply report that the willing suspension of disbelief is severely strained by a lot of "Yeah, but what about x?" from the viewer. Spielberg generates terror, but not compelling terror because there are too many pieces that don't fit.

I have to agree with S.T. Karnick that the film was unnecessary, and since we already know the ending, lacks even the punch that the Twilight Zone style twist would provide. I'd say skip it, but if you're a movie fan, there isn't much else out there right now.

11 comments:

S. T. Karnick said...

I agree with your assessment, Hunter. The film is terrible. It makes no sense at all. The logic of how the aliens' various machines work is extremely weak, making it clear that, as usual, Spielberg is so interested in creating interesting visual effects that he throws common sense out the window. The logic of the aliens' strategy, in geographic terms, is also extremely shaky. Why does it take them so grotesquely long to attack the ferry? Because Spielberg wishes to build suspense. Likewise the scene with the probe and subsequently the aliens themselves entering the basement where the main characters are hiding. Why didn't they just destroy the farmhouse immediately? In the Pal film, which is so far superior to this one as to make comparison laughable, the scene is well paced and highly effective; it's apparent that the aliens are looking around in the house because they hope to figure out some things about us, which will help them destroy us more efficiently. And as soon as they realize that the probe has been ruined, they destroy the house immediately. In this one, the scene takes forever and strains credibility: the film makes it clear that the aliens already know everything there is to know about us, and even if we assume that the probe has some unexplained reason to be in there so long, it would surely see them at some point.

And why is the probe equipped with a hearing device that is so easily fooled? Today we have radar, heat sensors, and all sorts of other devices that can easily find a human being in hiding, but these highly advanced beings don't have anything analogous? And this barely scratches the surface of the things that don't make sense in this film. Awful.

Hunter Baker said...

I found myself wondering how these creatures who have been studying us for a million years would have no idea of how to deal with viruses. Guess they didn't study very hard.

S. T. Karnick said...

Yes, in the Wells novel and Pal film the Martians have studied us from a distance, and it was plausible that they would not know about how viruses and bacteria affect us. That was especially true in Wells's time, when these matters were not so fully understood, but also at least plausible during the early 1950s setting of the Pal film, given that the aliens do not reach the earth until they begin the actual invasion. In the Spielberg film, given that the aliens have planted probes on the earth thousands of years ago, their ignorance of this danger is simply impossible to credit.

Hunter Baker said...

Another question is this: Why are aliens willy nilly vaporizing human beings in the early scenes and then appear to be carefully harvesting them for their blood in later scenes?

David Sae said...

Another question is this: Why are aliens willy nilly vaporizing human beings in the early scenes and then appear to be carefully harvesting them for their blood in later scenes?

Not only that, Hunter, the aliens putting human inside the “hanging containers” makes no sense. And somehow Tom Curise could be pulled from that tube before the hand grenades explode again makes no sense, unless these are some timer-hand grenades.

Fanning is by far the best actor on the film. When Tim Robbins came on, people burst out laughing.

S. T. Karnick said...

Mr. Sae: I agree with all of your points here. Very good observations.

John Huisman said...

I think all of you guys are being too harsh in your assessments of this movie. The one factor that you're all forgetting is that the story is being told from the point of view of a single individual caught up in the attach. We are not given a "view from above." Omly a "view from below."

John Huisman said...

I Accidently published my comment above before I was done. Sorry.

My point is that because the movie's perspective is from below it reveals the confusion individuals would have. No doubt if there actually were an invasion, poor schlubs such as ourselves would have no clue as to why things were playing out in certain ways, why alien machines worked as they do, or what their ultimate intentions were.

Hunter Baker said...

Of course, we do get the God's eye view from the eerily cheery voice of Morgan Freeman both at the beginning and end of the film. Maybe he ratifies Tom Cruise's experience.

The best part of the film was the beginning. I thought it was really cool when Tom Cruise was running from the tripod while people on every side of him were being turned into dust. Very scary, urgent-feeling stuff.

Joh Huisman said...

The beginning was the best part. I loved how long it took Cruise to figure out and then express what was actually happening.

ChETHB said...

I managed to see the film at matinee prices and was very glad afterwards that I didn't have to pay full price. (My wife and I were the only people in the theater - another hint as to the perceived quality of the movie.) I thought the film was slow and uninteresting because of the factors already mentioned. We asked the young lady at the ticket window if it was a good movie and her response was less than enthusiastic so that should have been a warning to see something else. She personally had not seen the film but said that her boss had the described it as being similar to "Independence Day". My wife and I didn't feel that this film was at all similar to "Independence Day". I don't particularly like Tom Cruise because I think he overplays his roles. The young lady who played his daughter, I thought, carried the film.