War of the Worlds

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2005, Paramount/DreamWorks
Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto
Steven Spielberg
MPAA Rating:
[PG-13] sci-fi violence, language
Science Fiction/Thriller
116 minutes

Synopsis (provided by Paramount)

Watch the trailer and new TV spot for War of the Worlds

A contemporary retelling of H.G. Wells's seminal classic, the sci-fi adventure thriller reveals the extraordinary battle for the future of humankind through the eyes of one American family fighting to survive it.

Our Take (no real spoilers)
Commentary by Andrew Manning (July 2005)

In Steven Spielberg's cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells' sci-fi classic War of the Worlds, an irresponsible father (Tom Cruise) fights for the survival of himself, his little girl (Dakota Fanning), and his teenage son (Justin Chatwin) amidst the chaos of a violent extraterrestrial invasion.

There has been a lot of noise generated by some viewers about how true this movie is to the message of Wells' original story. But considering that this film is Spielberg in blockbuster entertainment mode, I choose to view it and measure it in broadly superficial terms. I went in expecting an alien invasion flick offering copious amounts of devastation, and I went out feeling that those expectations had been sufficiently met. Granted, telling the story from the perspective of an everyday Joe and his two kids was as scripted and formulaic as Titanic focusing on a pair of starcrossed lovers. But as I said, this was Spielberg merely delivering entertainment--nothing more, nothing less. There is little point in dissecting this thing for deeper meaning or highlighting the inconsistencies.

The ending, while not ideal, is remarkably better than most other disaster flicks that put humanity in peril on a global scale. When you position the entire planet for annihilation, it's hard to wrap things up. And for anyone who had issue with War of the Worlds' conclusion, I'll be quick to point out that it is far more satisfying and acceptable than that disappointing crapfest that was 1996's Independence Day. Hey, at least Tom Cruise didn't take out the unstoppable alien armada with a fricken Apple virus!

War of the Worlds is somewhat repetitious (Cruise is constantly on the run a la Minority Report), and it could have benefited from additional scrimmages between the military and the aliens. But there are also some spectacular scenes of destruction, and watching the invaders dust people into ash was quite fun. And how cool was it that Morgan Freeman was the narrator at the film's beginning and end, reciting lines derived directly from the text of the original novel? When you need someone to class up your deal with narration, wise advice, or narration that conveys wise advice, Freeman's the lock.

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