Reginald D. Garrard | Camilla, GA USA | 07/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"H. G. Wells wrote the novel over a century ago and Steven Spielberg has done a fantastic job of incorporating some of the literary tale's elements into his version: the tripods and their ear-shattering "ULLA!", the heat ray, the retaining baskets, the growth of the "red weed," the demented "Ogilvey" (Tim Robbins), the devastating onslaught from the invaders, man's futile efforts to defend himself, and the final "solution," among other parts familiar to fans of the book.
The director also paid tribute to producer George Pal's 1953 Technicolor classic by using a similar "probe" into the basement occupied by Cruise and daughter Fanning, the destruction of a church, an American setting, and a brief appearance by the earlier film's stars: Gene Barry and Ann Robinson.
There are many tense scenes, making this film not quite suitable for younger audiences. The sound is loud and abrasive, befitting the on-screen destruction. Surprisingly, John Williams's score is quite subtle and, on occasions, is barely audible.
Actingwise, Cruise, contrary to his behavior off-screen, asserts himself well as the estranged father of two kids who must now do all that he can to save his children, as well as himself. Fanning's strong performance shows why she is one of most popular child performers today. And Robbins is appropriately creepy as the man with the plan to bring down the invaders.
While megahit "Independence Day" toured similar ground, "War of the Worlds" is more the work of a master storyteller and his name is Steven Spielberg.
That alone makes it a film not to be missed! "
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 07/25/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The War of the Worlds is a great novel and Spielberg is a director of exceptional talent and accomplishment, so I had been hoping for a lot from this film. In the event, I have got part of what I was hoping for. Very occasionally, a novel can be 'walked' straight on to the screen (The Big Sleep, with a script by Faulkner, is a striking case), and I found myself wondering whether this novel might not have benefited from the same treatment. Some of Spielberg's changes are perfectly reasonable, others less so in my own opinion. It makes perfectly good sense to bring the action forward by a century into the present day, for instance. I suppose there's no harm either in changing the main actors from Wells's scientist with a wife and a brother to a dysfunctional American family, as this may provide enhanced 'human interest' or some such benefit for all I would know. Again, I have no real problem with the way the film combines the roles of the curate and the artilleryman in the book into the single persona of the former ambulance-driver, and I can well understand that Spielberg would have thought it prudent to tone down the socialistic elements in this aspect of the story in order to avoid setting off the wrong types of reaction in American audiences. What I do have a major problem with is the appearance of the Martians themselves. I'm sorry to report that these have far too much in common with a certain wretched TV series. The author's own description is one that stays in the memory, to say the very least, and Wells's Martians look the way they do for very clear reasons that he provides. What was gained by going downmarket in the way Spielberg chooses to do? Nothing that I can think of except perhaps better audience figures from harking back to that ghastly broadcast series.
In fact the best things in the film come directly from Wells. Even one of the best lines, where the statement that the invaders come from somewhere else is met with the question 'Where - Europe?' is a very clever adaptation of a good joke in the book comparing the attitudes of Mrs Elphinstone to the Martians on the one hand and the French on the other. The Martian tripods are simply terrific, their appearance lifted more or less exactly from the book. However The War of the Worlds is a work of political and social philosophy and speculation, not just some science-fiction yarn. I really would have liked Spielberg to be a bit more ambitious and reflect this more than he seems to have felt like doing. For one thing, the Martians are invading the earth because their own smaller planet is cooling and dying around them. Wells explicitly says that there is no reason to suppose them 'pitiless'. They have come for pressing practical reasons connected with their own very survival. We know now, as Wells did not, that all they were going to find on Venus is a searing hell under the rolling white clouds, so it would be more than likely, as Wells says again, that they would learn from the failure of their first expedition and come back to the earth better prepared the next time rather than stake everything on one throw, which is what the film seems to be suggesting. The last gesture of the Martians in the film is an expression indicative of hatred, which doesn't even make sense considering they saw us as their food source. What consumer of beef makes hostile faces at beef-herds? The Martians' purpose can't have been 'extermination' as someone is made to say in the film, only subjugation, another matter perfectly clear from the novel.
More survives of the view Wells takes of the behaviour of humanity itself, and Spielberg handles the mob-scenes rather well. However what he tones down more than I would have wished is the reflections, in the novel expressed via the persona of the artilleryman, on the likely behaviour of human beings towards one another once the Martian dominion was hypothetically established. The artilleryman's predictions are class-based like the vision of the Eloi and Morlocks in the Time-Machine, but they are far from endorsing Marxism and there is no reason to see them as any firm viewpoint held by the author himself.
Perhaps the very best things in the entire film are to be found in the voiceovers right at the start and right at the end. The words are lifted almost verbatim from the novel itself at these points, and they are simply awesome, the first page in particular of The War of the Worlds being surely one of the greatest in all English fiction with the last page not far behind it in that respect. The exquisite irony of the fact that the Martians, who might have viewed us as we view micro-organisms in a laboratory were in their turn thwarted and destroyed by just such organisms when nothing humanity could do availed in the least is obviously not lost on the director. I just wish he had raised his game more consistently to something like the level of the theme he was taking on."
MartinP | Nijmegen, The Netherlands | 11/12/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"* Contains spoilers *
I didn't see this one in the cinema because of the very mixed reviews. But I remained curious, so eventually saw it on DVD. Some aspects of this movie are rather refreshing, I found. For once, the story of an invasion by an evil, alien force is not told from the perspective of scientists, generals and presidents who have to solve the problem, but from the point of view of ordinary people overwhelmed by something huge and incomprehensible. Yet this very incomprehensibility makes for an unsatisfying movie experience. Whereas many films suffer from the problem that they want to explain everything, this one hardly explains anything at all. The only explanations we get are given through the archaic and out of place device of an anonymous voice over, citing some sentences from Wells's novel. Otherwise, you might say that this film is actually plotless. Terrible machines pop up out of nowhere and start killing and devastating; one and a half hours later they just collapse and that's it. Who these aliens are, what exactly motivates them, where they came from - we're not told any of this. All we get are a few hints, and these cause more confuison rather than less. We are are led to believe that the tripods were planted underground before mankind even began; "They planned all of this millions of years ago". The notion is of course ludicrous: it`s like 21st century mankind going to war in a horse-and-chariot. Moreover, why did the aliens not invade right away then? They could have spared themselves the trouble of having to deal with billions of obnoxious humans. For an intelligence supposedly so far developed, the method chosen for the extermination of eartlings also seems rather cumbersome and labour-intensive. And what's with the blood-drinking? If these creatures need human blood, where did they get it before? That such a superior intelligence, which has been planning its invasion for so long, would overlook the obvious danger of alien microbes is of course silly, and is the crucial weakness in the storyline, which it shares with Wells's original. Finally (and then I'll stop, though there is much more) we are told the aliens watched our planet with envy - yet as soon as they invade it they set about turning it into a horrible wasteland. Why?
So what's the good news? Mainly, that the special effects are generally first rate. Don't expect any great originality - the aliens are your average mushroom-headed, mirror-eyed, spidery-bodied Quasimodo's - but it's all done with gusto, and we get some signature Steven Spielberg weird stormy skies to boot. The film does contain a few images that are truly memorable, and the huge size of the tripods is believably rendered - often by not showing them directly, but, for instance, reflected in the wind-screen of a car. Unfortunately, once Earth's landscape is transformed by the aliens the viewer finds that despite the whole CGI magic box, no convincing alternative has yet been found for the old fashioned matte painting and blue screen. Also, some of the sets were strangely reminiscent of Tim Burton's recent Charly and the Chocolate Factory. There's not much to say about the acting. Tom Cruise does steer clear of his pretty boy imago and is fairly convincing as the somewhat dysfunctional father who suddenly actually has to take care of his brood. The spontaneous heroism of his unruly son, however, is almost as hard to understand as his miraculous reappearance in the final scene, after we saw him walking of into a blazing fire storm to go and fight the aliens. The obligatory, wide-eyed little girl (blonde, of course) seems rather more mature than her father and is rather more scary than the aliens; her insistent screaming is an absolute pest.
An intelligent action thriller? No, not quite. As far as I know there've been exactly two truly intelligent films about contact with aliens: Close Encouters, and Contact. Time spent with those is time much better spent than with this unsuccesful attempt."
2 cents | B.F.N. United Snakes | 10/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a dad is hard. The wife (and her new dorky husband) brings them over to your house when it's your weekend. You have to deal with so much nonsense. And on top of everything in this post 9-11 world things in America seem less certain than they used to. Spielberg cracks me up. Leave it to him to make a story about an alien invasion of the planet and the freakin' end of the world into a portrait of a man learning what it means to be a father to his kids. But of coarse, it's brilliant. As non-presidents and non-elites most of us would face disaster with the perspective of Tom Cruise's character and his family.
If you don't like the changes one of our greatest film directors made to the old story look -- WHATEVER TO THAT. Yea that reminds me of King hating THE SHINNING (at least he was the author of the book). Does it matter? NO. Who cares? NOBODY. Because it's a cinematic masterpiece and this Spielberg sci-fi flick is a real fine film.
I'd argue it's (at least) a minor sci-fi classic. Sci-fi combined with another genre sometimes produces the most incredible results: In this case we're treated to sci-fi/horror. And I've never seen an alien invasion portrayed this realistically. Your on the ground with regular people, running and getting trapped, barely missing getting zapped, or feed into a machine. It's great.
-----ALL THE NEGATIVE REVIEWS FOR THIS MOVIE SUCK-----.
*The special effects are great. *The acting is great. *The cinematography is excellent. *The directing -top notch-. *The movie is dark and very suspenseful. *The movie is ultra-realistic!"
War of the Worst.....
R. Kyle | USA | 07/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film had all the worst elements of a romance novel added to the worst elements of sci fi.
The alien tripods invade on the one weekend Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) gets custody of his car-stealing teenage son and his whiny brat daughter. He's your typical weekend Dad, self-absorbed and barely capable of taking care of his two kids: no clean sheets, no food, etc.
Then, aliens attack. This part of the film is pretty well-conceived. Spielberg's usual amazing special effects do bring H.G. Wells' tripods to life.
So, Cruise gathers up his kids and runs to Mama. THey're headed to Boston in the only functional civilian vehicle to get the kids to their Mom. Two thirds of this film is taken up with the little girl (Fanning) screaming and her older brother wanting to go off to join the Army and fight...
Matter of fact, we have a perfectly lovely fight scene spoiled by Ferrier and Son's fight over whether he should join the Army.
All this relational angst-a typical hallmark of romance. Cruise finally lets his son go his own way with the promise he'll rejoin the family in Boston. He and his daughter go on---only to meet the one interesting character in the whole film---Tim Robbins plays an ambulance driver who's just about to go 'round the bend over the attacks---the 15-20 minutes Cruise and Fanning spend in his company is the only spine tingling part of the film. The 'invasion' of Robbins' basement was amazing. Best effects in the film by far as well!
Cruise and family do reunite in Boston. Then we have to suffer the worst non-ending of any science fiction film yet.