Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds

Long before the Summer Movie Season began, War Of The Worlds was one of the summer's highly anticipated films. Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg working together again seemed like a match made in heaven. However, despite the excellent pedigree, this movie turned out to be a disappointment. There are flashes of Spielberg's brilliance here and there but this movie could have been so much more.

This version of War Of The Worlds takes a ground-level approach. The film only focuses on Tom Cruise and his two children, a teenage boy and a young girl. This means that there are no scenes of historical landmarks being destroyed (like Independence Day) and only one scene that even hints at the scale of the devastation across the globe caused by the aliens. I kind of liked this approach because it assumed that the audience knew what was going on elsewhere. At the same time, I would have loved to see the aliens really attacking a big city. A scene like that could have been one of the best action scenes ever put to film.

While I really loved the action sequences, especially the first alien attack, I didn't really like the characters that much. The character I liked the most was Tom Cruise's absentee divorced dad turned family protector. It was refreshing to actually see a character who cared only about his family and couldn't care less about anyone else. He could've helped people many times in this film, but he was singularly focused on protecting his son and daughter. I couldn't stand the teenage son in this film. I personally wished that Tom Cruise had smacked him upside the head at least once. I also didn't really care for Tim Robbins as a crazy man. We know people do go off their rocker sometimes when really bad things happen but do we need to see that in every disaster film?

I'm a little conflicted as to how I really feel about this movie. On one hand, the action scenes are great. On the other hand, the rest of it left me wanting more. I liked how some disaster movie cliches were sidestepped, but I hated how the rest weren't. For example, when the first tripod appears, the people around (including Tom Cruise) don't run until it's too late. They don't run when the ground cracks and buildings crumble. They don't run when a large section of ground collapses and explodes. They still don't run when the tripod appears. They don't run until it starts vaporizing people. I also disliked how the movie ended. I will not spoil the ending for you but I will say that the movie avoided cheesiness...until the last minute or so. Ultimately, I don't think this movie lived up to the hype. It tried to but failed. Steven Spielberg is a brilliant director but I think Minority Report is the better of his two collaborations with Tom Cruise.

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