I’ve never walked out of a movie hall after a Spielberg flick like this, so untouched. Coming from H.G.Wells novel of the same name, War of the Worlds fails to impress because of it’s loose knitted screenplay and the influence of numerous movies that have stemmed over the years on alien attack. Considered to be the Mother of Alien Attack fiction, this HG Wells book is best read with its context in place than to be seen. Spielberg fails to impress, leaving a die-hard fan think, whether summer blockbusters are made just for seizing the box-office.
We have this husky voice-over of Morgan Freeman, quoting first few lines from the book and after that the camera briefly pans over the post-9/11 skyline hinting us on the social/political metaphors, the movie is set to deliver. When the aliens [not essentially our favored Martians] attack through the tripods [not IPODs], buried under the earth’s crust some million years back, the day on earth is July 4th. As the world slowly succumbs to the alien invasion, a father tries to save his kids from the terror and in the process fights for the survival of human race. All this and more masterfully told by Spielberg from one man’s point of view, just as the original story of HG Wells.
Instead of the thrilling dialogues and clichéd super-hero characters of the Independence Day types, War of the Worlds feature a rather unassuming divorced dad who runs from/after the alien creatures to save his kids. In the process of saving his family, he emerges as an unsung hero by making on-the-fly moral decisions, at times of catastrophe. Ever alien attack movie, including this, doesn’t even outline the reason for their attack, leaving the audience to ponder. As the dock worker, Ray Ferrier [Tom Cruise] tries to ‘baby sit’ his teenage kids over the weekend, he has the slightest clue of what terror is. Even as he looks up to the sky, he is puzzled by the weird movement of leaves moving to the eye of a storm. When he witnesses, the tripods plunging from the earth and breaking buildings with a practiced ease, he knows his kids are in danger. And as the tripods send rays of light to just evaporate people, leaving their clothes flying in air, he knows they are under attack.
With the grey dust on his coats and panic stricken people running on streets, Spielberg subtly reminds of the 9/11 attacks and the makes a statement on how men on earth, wage wars-of-survival at times like these. There are no worlds involved here. Just a single family’s witnessing of the Armageddon and its aftermath is misnamed as War of the Worlds. We see the blood sucking tripods and the creepy creatures called aliens walking into a house to inspect it and how a young girl kid watches it with open jaws. This long sequence has Spielberg’s brilliance except that I wished he never showed the aliens on screen like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey. The family also gets into trouble because an unruly mob attacks them. This is one silent yet powerful sequence displaying the mental attitude of a panic-driven mob.
While there are sensational episodes all over, the movie as a whole fails to impress. The sweet ending framed for the summer blockbuster is a true let down. While I was largely excited by major part of the movie, it fails to deliver in the end. It’s an intelligent move for Spielberg to stick with one man’s point of view in the movie and that by itself should be able to grip the audience. It’s the screenplay that doesn’t allow the audience to cuddle up with the movie. It’s detached at various fronts, especially due to the characterization of Tom Cruise. Also logical errors prevent from getting related to the story.
Tom Cruise is missing while Dakota Fanning as his daughter is impressive. But the impressive of all is the Justin Chatwin as Robbie, a teenaged rebellious son of Tom Cruise. Not to forget the impressive short note of Tim Robbins as the man with the gun. The special effects are as brilliant as any other Spielberg flick and one reason why the movie has to be watched in a big screen. Vivid images of the dead bodies seeping through water, a speeding-burning train, blood sucking of the tripods and ofcouse the human sucked by laser with their clothes flying on air, show the doomsday without any pretensions. John Williams scores the music just like every other Spielberg film and this one has some extraordinary BGMs with a classical tone. This movie is one good example of what digital film-making is capable of. Yet another long timer with Spielberg, Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography scintillates just like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
Though the movie is set to be a summer blockbuster and money spinner at box-office, this isn’t the best of Spielberg. While I am sure, I could identify Spielberg in his next coming films, hugely missing him in this one, will be a long-running nightmare for me. Again, I’ve never walked out of a movie hall after a Spielberg flick like this, so untouched.