Skip to comments.War of the Worlds : Spielberg and Wells on War, Revolutions, Occupations, and Christianity
Posted on 07/05/2005 7:47:27 PM PDT by CaptIsaacDavis
War of the Worlds: Steven Spielberg and H.G. Wells on War, Revolutions, Occupations, and Christianity
New Republican Archive. Movie Reviews. July 4, 2005.
The new Tom Cruise vehicle titled War of the Worlds is not only a tense portrayal of the terror and horror of war, particularly for those on the losing side of a modern one, but also a deeply political film. Director Steven Spielberg has gone to great lengths to "spin" this classic story with contemporary political allegories. What else should we expect from a film directed by Spielberg and co-starring Tim Robbins? Indeed, we should expect nothing less from a movie version of a book written in 1898 by H.G. Wells, who was a famous socialist (briefly Fabian Socialist), met with Lenin, rejected Stalinism, and was a vigorous proponent of a single world government. Wells original critiques of empire (British) and class warfare themes were set aside for the famous Americanized film version of 1953. Along with a more chilling sound effect for the alien tripods, Spielberg has updated that film by incorporating some of Wells original themes. We shall explore here if Spielberg is also reviving, in this age of the International Criminal Court (something Wells would have welcomed) and both environmental and "globalist" activism, Wells advocacy of a world government, attacks on nativism and conservative politics in general, and even Wells critique of Christianity. The following is only one mans attempt to decipher the "back story" to this film.
First off, Tom Cruises character is clearly a representation of a working class guy from urbanized New Jersey. Cruise actually manages to pull off "average Joe" after a few scenes. He has an early scene in which he jokes he cant meet the rich-kid demands of his children, who now live in comparative luxury with "Tim" and his ex-wife (and who are only being dropped off with their real "Dad" for the July 4 weekend [in a related critique of "American" social values in this age of "empire"]). The class rhetoric of the film doesnt become wholly transparent until, after seeing the full impact of the war on his home and family, we see Tom Cruise walking with co-star Dakota Fanning towards a fancy townhouse of Boston (the mothers house of his characters ex-wife) that is the only building hes seen since before the war that hasnt been destroyed. The wealthy elites of Boston got to effectively sit it out, while the whole world collapsed around them, and Cruise and others had to walk through Hell (complete with alien blood-soaked weeds) and valleys of death. The only benefit to Cruise's character was that the war itself eliminated the corruptions of money and selfishness in his relationship with his children. It was Wells intent, reflected in this latest film as well, to illustrate that the costs of war and occupation are the burden of the working class whose blood litters the soil of empires and fuels their spread of influence (like weeds), while the rich "capitalists" generally find ways to avoid the direct consequences of war and terror, and/or profit from them.
An early scene showing Cruise working on a dock seemed contrived towards that end, that is, until one sees the tripod machines and considers that Tom Cruises character was just shown driving a huge rig like that. The "alien" tripods are shaped like the aliens themselves (three-legged), and with a tricorner (Minuteman hat-like) head (and triangular command pod), with mechanical arms flailing about like so many slung/holstered weapons for a soldier. When viewed in the context of Dakota Fannings character talking about her body pushing out a splinter in due time, like the tripods emerging from the ground, it becomes clear very quickly that the viewer is being asked to consider that the tripods are a painful part of nature, much like the viruses we "earned the right" to live with through a billion deaths (reads narrator Morgan Freeman at the end), and an extension of something that is inside us as Americans. The aliens force us to face the horror and terror of what a war between "men and maggots" (of the technologically superior vs. the occupied) feels like. That is, we are seemingly asked to consider what it must have felt like for those in Tasmania in the 19th century (in Wells original book), Poland in 1939 or Iraq in 1991-2005 in hiding, with much of the wars duration spent peering out through small slits in basements and bunkers. There is even a scene in a bombed out house with Tim Robbins, who plays a creepy man that Cruises character eventually has to kill, desperately trying to dig a spider-hole like the one Saddam Hussein was found in all the while proclaiming that "occupations" always fail. Actually, hes "dead set on" being wrong about that last claim, but thats a history lesson for another time and place.
Herbert George Wells views on Christianity rear their ugly heads in this film literally, in the form of a tripod that Cruise gets to watch coming up from a street right next to a church. While approaching the site of lightning strikes the preferred method of travel for the occupiers, who appear out of the sky, Cruises character is approached by a local who immediately says (to paraphrase from recollection):"God is punishing the people of this neighborhood." Gee whiz, what happens next is that the machine comes up from the ground at the corner of "Merchant" (the aliens are good little capitalists, after all [how does that saying go?: it never hurts to be too thin, too tall, or too rich?]) and "New..." streets and topples the steeple of a Christian Church. In the 1953 film the director had the evil uncivilized aliens torch a priest. In this adaptation, the aliens appear transformed into symbols of the church rising up from the roots upon which modern Christianity and the church were founded. One couldnt help but notice that church steeple the Old North Church? -- still standing behind the characters in the last scene in which Cruise appears on the streets of Boston. It was the only tall thing left standing in Boston after the tripods were finished.
The tripod itself is a symbol of what Wells argued was the primary fault in Christian faith the adoption of the doctrine of the Trinity. This was a theme he was famous during his life for debating publicly, and addressing in God the Invisible King (1917) and his Outline of History. Wells take on faith was that God is an "Invisible King," whereby personal redemption or salvation with the help of any Church was not in the cards so why bother? It was all in Gods "hidden" hands, and in particular via Darwinian natural selection (a theme central to Wells original War of the Worlds, where the aliens themselves are scrawny and come to represent what will become of man after eons of technological supremacy). Thus, the "tripod" is not some "natural" symbol or random "choice" for the aliens it was a loud and booming critique of Christianity and all of "Gods creatures" affected or transformed by it through social Darwinism.
Here, in War of the Worlds, the theme is one of human "power" and nation-states being utterly powerless in the face of Gods hidden hands. Those hands come in the form of a superior race of tripods (with "legs" that operate like three-fingered hands), both living and machine, that have been here on Earth long before man ever built a road (to bury the machines a "million years" ago says Tim Robbins character). Those tripods, of course, symbolize Wells hatred for the Holy Trinity [Wells himself, the ardent socialist, later published a non-fiction work purporting Christian roots for modern totalitarian nightmares called "The Holy Terror" (1939)]. Little wonder they first pop up beneath a church. They are a "natural" power that can wipe out the greatest power and nation-state on earth in a couple of days. Hence, the U.S.A. seems to bear the brunt of the attacks in this film. Talk about what is going on in other parts of the world is purely speculative and contradictory, as shown in the march to the dock sequence.
Spielberg seems to be driving at a point here -- about American empire. First, the film is set on a July 4 weekend, released on a July 4 weekend, has Tom Cruise exclaim that the lightning, Gods Darwinian wrath we learn later, is like a July 4 fireworks show, has real U.S. military troops and equipment as extras in some spectacular battle sequences (probably on the debatable premise that the film is a patriotic one), and then ends in Boston around a statue of a Minuteman (not a real one, but one tailor-made for the film). The most important scene is the one involving the statue, covered in dying red weeds, which is the films climax, since it appears right next to the first fallen tripod. Cruises character tears away part of the dead weed strangling the statue and crushes it in a scene framed with the Minuteman statue behind him, while he proclaims that "they" are dying.
Who are "they?" THEY are destroyers in nature, part of Gods plan (but who face Gods wrath in a Darwinian turn of events at the end of the film), the spreaders of influence fueled by the spilled blood of man, technologically superior, but utterly without morality (showing no mercy or remorse as the aliens in one scene become curious about the photo of a woman in a bombed out house, that is, a photo of a creature they had either just drank the blood of or sprayed like fertilizer in a "war of extermination"). THEY are the aliens with heads like tricorner Minuteman hats. Perhaps "they" are metaphorical Christian American imperialists triggering a natural reaction in the form of devastation and chaos that mirrors the War on Terror (a standard radical Left-wing explanation of 9/11). Indeed, the reaction, like a rash of splinters being pushed out of Gods hand (His Earth), launched by the aliens comes in the form of an attack in which Cruise is covered with ash and soot, much like survivors of 9/11 in New York City, followed by another near-miss on "Tims" house by a crashed airliner.
So who or what is dying? A left-wing cinematic and Sci-Fi vision of American empire is dying. The same empire that former President Martin Van Buren slowed the spread of by blocking the annexation of Texas. In the opening "torch" sequence, Cruise is seen running past a street named "Van Buren," which is likely named after the famous New Yorker and President (1836-1840) Martin Van Buren. Its the aliens (American imperialists) that want none of that, and blast through Van Buren street in the following sequences. Coincidence? It is the technologically superior Americans who have grown too comfortable with their supremacy, and who have lost sight of humility and humanity while spreading their weeds, tentacles, and empires to the loud boom and chorus of the Holy Trinity. As H.G. Wells wrote about often (in more than just World of the Worlds), it is at the very moment of an animals or empires supremacy that nature, Gods hidden hand, finds a way to ensure its complete overthrow. Rome, Britain, the Soviet Union, and many other empires have experienced that fate. The same thing could happen to our "empire," or is happening to our "empire," is the propaganda message of this film.
War of the Worlds has been broadcast and told in many variations, often in a very timely and prescient manner (from 1938s radio broadcast on the eve of World War II to the 1953 Cold War version [with an anti-nuclear theme] for the theaters). Here, in this version, the "evil" is a Sci-Fi (a very "American" approach in its own right) spawn of American empire. Spielbergs explicit allegory is France trying to civilize Algeria. In this film, Cruises character has a son with a school report due on the French experience in Algeria, which they repeat over and over in different contexts. We got the point already! Yes, our war in Iraq is like Frances attempt to subdue Islamic radicals in Algeria, and they failed. We know that. That is, most of us, with the apparent exception of Bill OReilly, who published a review of this film that tried to "spin" it as a rousing battle against alien al-Qaeda (a simplistic interpretation that ignores countless other allegories in the work, and Wells original intent). Lets move on. When we see Tim Robbins exclaiming how occupations always fail, it becomes clear that the audience is supposed to be considering what its like to be on the receiving end of the wars in Iraq (with left-wing propaganda in the real world purporting that it is on the level of an "extermination").
So who really saves the day? In Spielbergs version, the anti-imperialists are hardy revolutionaries coming up from the "Underground," from under houses and Tim Robbins "subways" for "resistance" (Cruise ends up taking a machine out after he finally gets the guts to fight back) to Cruises direction of a counter-attack from under an enclosed concrete walkway. They are the heirs to the spirit of the Minuteman statue breaking free of the strangling grasp of the red weed. In that respect it is a universalist, anti-imperialist and anti-war (left-wing) "patriotism" motivating the resistance. Breaking free, that is, to control their own blood, and not have it sacrificed for some destructive imperial force. Finally, the film ends with what appears to be a geographically impossible shot of a tree with a small green bud filled with our naturalist "allies" in the counter-attack against environmental destroyers -- the viruses (and the birds who spread them, like the flu, to the aliens and red weeds they feast on). Residents of Boston may have noticed that the final sequence, which shows the former Fleet Center and Bunker Hill Bridge in the distance, has a vantage point comparable to that of the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. That is, it is the view of Patriots who held the line and delivered a stunning blow to the British empire and, here, its allegorical heirs.
Only this time, the anti-imperialists are out-matched. The great power of our nation is not enough. Even the intense desire of the son in this picture to "get back at them" is pointless. They cannot win the war alone. It is the globalists (one-worlders), our environmental friends (birds and viruses, and all of Gods creatures), who really save the day.
With all that having been said, this film was not entertaining in the least. It was enough to give nightmares to small kids and fits of apoplexy to adults sick and tired of Left-wing propaganda as "back stories" to Hollywood spectacles. I suppose if one just ignored the symbolism and allegories, it might seem like an "enjoyable" ride -- through Hell. Perhaps that explains why there was not a single clap after the end of the film (not even in victory) in the crowded and large theater that this reviewer saw it in: a theater located in a suburb of Boston roughly the distance from the city that you see the people marching towards down a highway in one scene.
I have my own interpretation. The aliens are Liberals and other anti-American revolutionaries wearing the camouflage of the Trinity and tri-cornered hats, and as cold-blooded as the creatures and weeds drinking the blood of patriots to keep warm. They wrap themselves around our country (and our patriotic monuments) like weeds. After all, it is the radical Left that made 9/11 possible with "open borders," political correctness in the FBI, and opposition to wars of preemptive extermination. Maybe its time to push those splinters out.
Its a great movie that can be interpeted any old way. It's one of the best adaptations of a classic SF novel ever made.
I am glad someone explained to me the beauty of the new "War of the Worlds". I thought the movie just sucked.
It's a grm, humorless spectacle. Tom Cruise plays every scene as if he has tiny dentists working on the inside of his mouth. And if they little girl screamed one more time I would have yelled, "toss her to the tripods!"
What didn't you like? It was very faithul to the novel.
Maybe it would have been better if I saw it in a ghetto theater where people yell. I'm convinced that some movies are best watched in those theaters -- hell, I'm convinced some movies are made specifically to be watched in ghetto theaters.
So did Laura Ingraham, but I thought it was really well done. Taut, suspensful, frightening... I was really into it. But then that's one way the lovely Mrs. Kezekiel and I differ: I don't pay any attention to what the director or actors think or what they said on some silly awards show. If I did, I'd never be able to enjoy most movies, music or tv shows.
Exactly. 'Taut suspenseful and frightening' was all it set out to be. It's Spielberg's shortest film in 17 years and very apprpirately so. The audience wasn't supposed to applaud at the end. This isn't about fighting back ala Independence Day its about surviving against a seemingly insurmountable enemy. Just holding on to human life at whatever cost.
I thought he was doing that to get its attention to it so it would pull him up where his daughter was.
BTW I thought it sucked also
It was about three or four special effects "set pieces" held together by lame references to previous Spielberg movies and dialogue that makes Russ Meyer look like Shakespeare.
Actually, it was the tripods that the aliens were inside of that were undefeatable with our weapons, not the aliens themselves.
Compared to Sith THIS was Shakespeare. The dialgoue worked well enough. But the ebb and flow of tension and the way societal breakdown is established is nothing short of masterly.
Weird aliens blow up stuff, but we survive after they catch colds, the end.
"We saw in the blackened distance a group of three people running down a side street towards the river, but otherwise it seemed deserted. Up the hill Richmond town was burning briskly; outside the town of Richmond there was no trace of the Black Smoke.
"Then suddenly, as we approached Kew, came a number of people running, and the upperworks of a Martian fighting-machine loomed in sight over the housetops, not a hundred yards away from us. We stood aghast at our danger, and had the Martian looked down we must immediately have perished. We were so terrified that we dared not go on, but turned aside and hid in a shed in a garden. There the curate crouched, weeping silently and refused to stir again.
"That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did. For it was manifest the Martians were about us. No sooner had the curate overtaken me than we saw either the fighting-machine we had seen before or another, far away across the meadows in the direction of Kew Lodge. Four or five little black figures hurried before it across the green-grey of the field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian pursued them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently he tossed them into the great metallic carrier which projected behind him, much as a workman's basket hangs over his shoulder.
"It was the first time I realised that the Martians might have any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity. We stood for a moment petrified, then turned and fled through a gate behind us into a walled garden, fell into, rather than found, a fortunate ditch, and lay there scarce daring to whisper to each other until the stars were out." -- from The War Of The Worlds, by H. G. Wells, first published in 1898.
THE GIANT OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE GIANT OF SCIENCE FICTION
First introduced in the United States on June 23rd, at a New York City premiere, Steven Spielberg's rendition of the H.G. Wells classic novel, The War Of The Worlds was released simultaneously from Argentina to the United Arab Emirates on June 29, 2005. News reports in the mainstream media pegged the film's overall budget at more than $ 200 million with another $ 40 million being spent on advertising and promotion. The ambitious release plan also speaks of an almost superhuman effort to get this film from Paramount and Dreamworks SKG out to the largest potential audience on the same day. Moviegoers in Japan were treated to an early release ( June 13th ), as were selected premieres in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Macedonia on separate days following.
Bearing in mind that Mr. Spielberg has directed some of the most extraordinary movies ever to come out of Hollywood -- including "The Sugarland Express," ( 1974 ), "Jaws" ( 1975 ), "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" ( 1981 ), and "Saving Private Ryan" ( 1998 ), anyone thinking of going to see "The War Of The Worlds" might be forgiven for expecting to see dramatic action on a grand scale with a cast of unforgettable characters. His choices of Tom Cruise for the leading role of Ray Ferrier and Dakota Fanning as his lovable, quirky, high-strung daughter, might also seem to be consistent with the Spielberg legend. The pre-release promotion for this movie was, itself, something of a spectacular event as Tom Cruise bubbled and gurgled about his new love-interest, Katie Holmes, to anyone who would listen.
Steven Spielberg was assisted in the making of "The War Of The Worlds" by screenwriters David Koepp and Josh Friedman. The original novel by H.G. Wells is easily available in any used book store and in numerous editions. It remains a classic in the literature of the English language and is essentially the first of the truly great science-fiction novels.
In the new version of "The War Of The Worlds," just about the only recognizable element of Wells' ingenious story occurs when the alien fighting-machines begin to pick up the humans who scatter before them in their onslaught. As in the passage quoted above, the giant machines use octopus-like mechanical arms to peer into structures and to snatch people as they run.
In every other respect, this movie is simply dreadful.
WHEN THERE IS NOTHING MUCH TO SAY, BE SURE TO SAY IT VERY LOUD
The new movie version of The War Of The Worlds, for reasons unknown, has taken a giant leap into the realm of science fiction for Know-nothings. In the 1953 version of Wells' tale of two planets, the heroic scientist Clayton Forrester is the leading man, played with panache and style by Gene Barry. He's the fly-fishing bachelor who is on holiday with other scientists in the mountains of California, when the first Martian cylinders land nearby. Naturally, as was mandatory in the science-fiction of the early '50s, his love-interest is a bright, beautiful, and appropriately demure young lady. Sylvia Van Buren ( played by Ann Robinson ), was the midwestern girl from a large family who went west to live with her uncle, a gentle preacher with a generous heart.
For reasons which are just as obscure as the appalling dialogue in Spielberg's "The War Of The Worlds," both Gene Barry and Ann Robinson have cameo appearances in this new movie. They play the maternal grandparents of Ray Ferrier's children, who live well in Boston, in a nice neighborhood which the alien invaders conveniently forget to destroy. Neither Barry, who was superb in the 1953 movie, nor Ann Robinson ( who was simply beautiful in '53 ), contribute anything of consequence to this hackneyed running-from-the-aliens extravaganza.
It is truly a dreadful movie with a deafening soundtrack. It might be worthwhile to sit through something so darned loud if there was ANYTHING AT ALL TO LEARN FROM THE CHARACTERS. Usually, when a movie fan thinks of seeing a film where a lot of beautiful people wander around with nothing much to say, they think of Woody Allen ( after "Bananas" of course ). But to say the name of Spielberg as director, is to bring up the unforgettable Indiana Jones, the tragic Oskar Schindler, or Captain John Miller, Ranger, on the beach on D-Day.
Talented, magnetic, clever, and experienced, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV has worked with Steven Spielberg before and they've done very well. "Minority Report" from 2002 proves that. Remember, this is the actor who brought class to "Top Gun" and style to "Mission Impossible" and romantic dash to "Jerry Maguire" !! He is badly cheated in this anti-human, anti-masculine, anti-family cinematic catastrophe.
The script puts Tom Cruise into the position of being a character who is an arrogant lower-middle class unionized Cad. It is, in fact, a kind of parody of your basic NASCAR afficionado as seen from the tall spires of the upper West Side of Manhattan. There is flat-out nothing at all to like about this guy, this Ray Ferrier. He's not violent, or vicious, or opinionated, he's just clueless in a world where clues abound. Maybe it comes from living in New Jersey.
He's divorced, his ex-wife ( who is pregnant ), has custody of their teen-aged boy and their young girl, both of whom are being spoiled by their new step-father. The forsaken Dad has nothing going on, apparently no girl-friend, no real hobbies, and only a few friends in the neighborhood. He's not clever, he is not really resourceful and he's not a forward-thinking survivor except for being a good swimmer.
There is ... in fact ... almost no science in the film at all. The alien forces have buried their war machines all over the world, and apparently a long time before the present civilization rose to electronic glory. After the 'lightning storm' which is a cover for the introduction of their pilot warriors ... who literally shoot down on cold lightning, into the ground ... the aliens fire up their bizarre looking Tripods and begin killing and destroying.
As noted, Ray Ferrier ( Cruise ), is very nearly clueless.
The one really exciting part of this Demonstration of Wretched Excess In Hollywood comes at the beginning, when a peculiar lightning storm begins to disrupt communications around the world, beginning in Ukraine. The sequence where the lightning storm arrives over New Jersey is exceptionally well-done and the audience is drawn right into the mystery ( even though we all know it something created by the aliens ). Tom Cruise reacts beautifully to the violent lightning strikes and at that moment he seems like Everyman. Soon enough, however, he becomes Mr. Nobody Home and that really doesn't compute ....
The character Tom Cruise plays is qualified to operate a vertical crane for loading and unloading container ships. It is a very highly skilled job, requiring a deft touch and a thorough knowledge of how giant machinery works. These facts are established in the very beginning of Spielberg's "The War Of The Worlds" and then relinquished. His obvious talents and physical dexterity mean nothing in the rest of the movie. He's clueless.
However Ray Ferrier does realize that he has to get his estranged son and finicky daughter out of their New Jersey row-house neighborhood and fast. This is the result of witnessing one of the alien invaders' giant machines rising up and erupting from the center of a street in that New Jersey town. The special effects employed are superb, so not all of that money was wasted: but special effects and violent deaths of innocent people ( being incinerated by the alien's particle beam weapon ), do not constitute a plot with human elements.
As it happens, all of the cars and all of the electronics which are on when the lightning storm begins over New Jersey are EMP fried. Nothing will work, no lights, no automobiles, only a van which is under repair when the aliens arrive with their lightning can be driven. And some guy's digital video camera ( yes, go figure, every techie and Nerd from Nerdistan knows that Electro-Magnetic Pulses can fry circuit boards too ). Ferrier hijacks the van from the mechanic who's working on it, a guy who has even less of a clue than he does. The escape sequence is dynamic. Cruise pilots this old van through a maze of stalled out cars and trucks with thousands of people milling about in confusion. Again, the staging is superb, just what the fans of Spielberg have come to expect from his films.
The rest of "The War Of The Worlds" consists of confusing and disagreeable episodes of shouting and Dakota Fanning screeching. There really is no science at all in this landmark of science-fiction. Ferrier's son Robbie ( played by Justin Chatwin ), is an annoyance. A spoiled rotten Generation Reject kid who is nearly as selfish as his estranged father.
He -- Ray Ferrier -- is simply a terrible caricature of a modern American father. He's not a druggie nor an alcoholic but he is so selfish and so strident that you want to hate him right off. The shock of seeing people massacreed by the aliens doesn't generate any sympathy either, either in the character Cruise plays or on the part of the audience for his character.
Ferrier is a mechanic as well as a union crane operator. He is rebuilding an engine in his kitchen/dining room. He doesn't have any food on hand even though he knows ( as is presented in the first moments of the film ), that his two kids are coming to stay with him for a week-end. He's presented as being a selfish dolt. It is truly insulting to both union guys and divorced fathers, but that's consistent with the way that Hollywood views NASCAR-land, even in urban New Jersey.
Towards the end of the middle of this cinematic disaster, Cruise and his daughter -- having been separated from Robbie -- take refuge in a farmhouse owned by a survivalist ( Tim Robbins ). Mr. Robbins must need the work because this character is just about the most loathsome loner ever imagined.
In another sequence borrowed from Wells' book, an alien war machine crashes into the farmhouse and settles near-by. In a matter of a few hours Robbins' character ( Ogilvy, another sop to the Wells story ), goes from semi-deranged to completely mad and unable to control himself or keep quiet. Then, in a totally anti-human sequence, Ferrier separates from his daughter and apparently beats Oglivy to death to keep him from making any more noises. It's grotesque.
After the initial excitement and scene-setting introductions in Spielberg's "The War Of The Worlds," the entire movie degenerates and fast. The massive alien war machines rampage at will and nothing much seems to work against them. The panic which ensues shows that Americans will not help each other, much, in such times. Common sense is the first thing to disappear and Ray Ferrier is unable to think ahead, unable to relate to his son in this brutal crisis, unable to comfort him, or lead him, and unable to do anything of consequence except hug his daughter. There is one exception to that indictment, but the audience has to sit through more than 2/3rds of the wretchedness in this movie to see Cruise-as-Ferrier finally getting smart. That's a lot to ask.
At the end, in this movie as in the 1953 version, bacteria takes its toll on the mighty alien invaders. For Wells, the aliens were Martians who came with giant machines piloted down from outer space. For Spielberg, the aliens are something entirely different and their war-machines have been buried here for centuries if not longer. They're not Martians and Mars is never mentioned. Being that this is a Hollywood movie, it has a happy Hollywood ending, which is somewhat consistent with the original novel. Gone, however, are soaring and lyrical phrases that Wells used, that Wells packed into almost every paragraph on every page of his 1898 novel.
"I stood staring into the pit, and my heart lightened gloriously, even as the rising sun struck the world to fire about me with his rays. The pit was still in darkness; the mighty engines, so great and wonderful in their power and complexity, so unearthly in their torturous forms, rose weird and vague and strange out of the shadows towards the light.
"A multitude of dogs, I could hear, fought over the bodies that lay darkly in the depth of the pit, far below me. Across the pit on its farther lip, flat and vast and strange, lay the great flying-machine with which they had been experimenting upon our denser atmosphere when decay and death arrested them.
"Death had come not a day too soon. At the sound of a cawing overhead I looked up at the huge fighting-machine that would fight no more for ever, at the tattered red shreds of flesh that dripped down upon the overturned seats on the summit of Primrose Hill.
"For a moment I believed that the destruction of Sennacherib had been repeated, that God had repented, that the Angel of Death had slain [the Martians] in the night.
"The torment was over." -- from "Dead London", in H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds.
There is no such lyricism in the new version of Wells' story, no lofty sentiments or emotionally-charged confessions of feeling fear, abject terror, or the hopelessness of being trapped in a ruined house with a man of the cloth for two long weeks. A man so traumatized by the death and disorder of alien fighting-machines killing hundreds of people at a time, with their heat-rays or their poisonous Black Smoke, that he cannot even speak. The narrator of Wells' novel believes that his wife has been killed and is ready to give himself up to death, too, when the bacteria begin to kill the Martians.
Spielberg's Ray Ferrier comes to the end of this loud, brutal and desolating journey in Boston. That is where he hands over the children he's saved from horrible death, to the ex-wife and her parents and to their step-father. Yes, his son now calls him "Dad" and is glad to be alive but that's all the 'victory' there is for Ray in this disturbing, dark fantasy. The film reduces his evident masculinity from fatherhood to the role of being a chauffeur with a blood kinship to his daughter and son. He's not any smarter, not any stronger, not any more understanding or less self-centered than when the story began.
MILLIONS FOR SPECIAL EFFECTS ! FARTHINGS FOR A BELIEVABLE SCRIPT
This movie is worse than a waste of time. It's poisonous. It is insulting to the spirit of a father's love for his children, which is supposed to be a pillar of American society. It is as if Gloria Steinem was the ghost-writer here. "The War Of The Worlds", 2005, is nihilistic. It's disagreeable and demeaning and somebody needs to ask Mr. Steven Spielberg the seminal question of the Twentieth Century, now passed, concerning his version of "The War Of The Worlds" --
"Was This Trip Really Necessary ?"
Saw it today in Corsicana, Texas, where any ticket before 6PM is $2.
Gad! Was I overcharged for this POS!
Why didn't Spielberg just do it as written by Wells set in the years just before World War One? That could have been a great film, but no... We get this phony photoplay of Tom Cruise and his three emotions of the week.