|War of the Worlds (2005)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto
Director: Steven Spielberg
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
After months of watching Tom Cruise parade around with an apprehensive Katie Holmes attached to his hand during the promotion of Steven Spielberg’s latest sci-fi blockbuster, it’s safe to say that the film is certainly one big WOW. That’s not a compliment, but rather the abbreviation for the over-produced adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” which trades in every positive aspect of Spielberg’s past work for lots of flashy CGI effects. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t look good, because it does, and will surely nab a nomination for Best Effects when awards time comes around, but what about the story, Steven? And what about your integrity?
Tom Cruise is all smiles (as usual) as New Jersey dockworker Ray Ferrier, but when his ex-wife (Miranda Otto) leaves the kids at his place for the weekend, it’s clear that he’s not up to the task of his fatherly duties, let alone an alien invasion. But an alien invasion he gets; what's more, they rise from the ground in giant, tripod-like war machines that vaporize everything in sight. Apparently, these aliens have been planning the invasion for millions of years, and have buried their vehicles of destruction deep beneath the Earth’s surface. Ray doesn’t waste any time in packing the essentials (like ketchup and Worchester sauce) and promptly hits the road with his teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and 10-year-old daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning).
The first half of “War of the Worlds” is a blast to sit through, with awe-inspiring visuals and a city full of supporting characters that enrich Cruise’s otherwise dull performance. Once the film hits the midway mark, though, the audience is subjected to watching the same two-step formula over and over again. Watch in excitement as Cruise and Co. run and hide, and then run and hide some more! And just when you think that the humans will begin to fight back, they run and hide again! Youngster Justin Chatwin delivers the only redeemable performance in the film as the adolescent rebel Robbie, but Tim Robbins is also a treat in the near-cameo role of Ogilvy, a man who may, or may not, have gone crazy on account of the attacks.
“War of the Worlds” delivers one giant insult to any fan of Spielberg, and frankly, to anyone in the human race. It wasn’t very long ago that the acclaimed director (who may just be the definitive source on harmless extraterrestrials) declared he would never make a film about malicious aliens. And now, years later, the finished product is the talk of the town. I also, personally, don’t enjoy paying ten bucks to see the human race get ripped to pieces for nearly two hours, only to suffer through an even weaker, hastily assembled conclusion.
I know, I know. But what about the aliens? Aren’t the aliens the big surprise that kept the project so top secret, even Spielberg was denied the use of his cell phone during the world premiere two days ago? If this is the only reason you still absolutely need to see this film, I’ll drop you a hint: If you’ve seen “Independence Day,” then you’ve seen “War of the Worlds.”
The two-disc widescreen DVD release of Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” offers a nice selection of extras for fans of the film, but the lack of any audio commentary track, as usual, is very disturbing. Among the material you can find includes four production diaries and six featurettes including an introduction by Spielberg himself.