CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

It's already here: "War of the Worlds"

Hollywood has grudgingly acknowledged that 911 did
happen, if only in a subconscious way. Witness Steven
Spielberg's treatment of extra terrestrials. In his
previous films, ("Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind,"
"ET the Extraterrestrial" "A.I.. Artificial
Intelligence"), the aliens were seen as the saviors of
planet earth. In his adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel,
"War of the Worlds," the aliens are seen predators.

In direct contrast to "Close Encounters of the 3rd
Kind" is the issue of Dan Quayle's family values. The
father (Richard Dreyfus) abandoned his family for a
more fulfilling life with the aliens. "War of the
Worlds" features a father (Tom Cruise) who accepts
responsibility for saving his family. This contrast
reveals that in 28 years, the wunderkind film maker
has accepted his responsibility as an agent of popular
culture. Fortunately Spielberg has reclaimed his gift
for presenting a Summer Saturday Matinee movie with
all of his cinematic glory.

Jersey dock worker Ray (Cruise) is good at manual
labor and engines, but is the inept father of Rachel
(Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin). His
pregnant ex-wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) leaves their
kids with Ray for the weekend. The weekend is a tense
one symbolized by the Yankees-Red Sox baseball caps
that the father and son respectively wear.

One afternoon the weather conditions change rapidly
with abnormal thunderstorms and a bizarre electrical
blackout. When Ray investigates this commotion
downtown, earthquakes and mechanical tripods are
released from the earth's core. The war of the worlds
has begun and this father does everything he can to
save his dysfunctional family from destruction.

After viewing "War of the Worlds," South Florida
locals will recall the claustrophobic moments from the
four hurricanes of last September. Spielberg
truthfully captures the quiet anxiety of terrors
unseen in both day and night. As Tom Cruise runs away
from his initial encounter with the aliens, the
echoes of the people fleeing the fall of the twin
towers is remembered. Spielberg excels in both these
loud and quiet scenes of desperation. Special effects
junkies will not be disappointed, but the actor's
ensemble of Cruise, Fanning and Tim Robbins in a
extended cameo appearance keep the low keyed scenes

The spirit of author H.G. Wells is felt though out the
movie. Whereas the science fiction novelist wrote "War
of the Worlds" as a satirical look of the British
Empire, Spielberg's movie pay homage to both Orson
Wells radio broadcast of 1938 and 1953 cinematic
version starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. Barry
and Robinson contribute a very satisfactory cameo appearance
toward the end of the film.

There are plot holes that diminishes "War of the
Worlds" from greatness. One must wonder why the Tom
Cruise family finds electrical power while the rest of
civilization has to resort to barbaric behavior. Some
will be disappointed that this new version of "War of the
Worlds" has a lame ending. Yet the conclusion is
closer to H.G. Wells intention and Spielberg needs to
be commended in avoiding the overkill ending so common
with recent action movie releases. Overall, "War of
the Worlds" satisfies the Summer Saturday matinee
desire for science fiction entertainment.
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