Monday, January 7, 2008

War of the Worlds (2005)

"Are we still alive?"
- Rachel (Dakota Fanning)

"Those machines, those tripods they got? They buried ‘em…right under our feet…since before there were even people here. They’ve been planning this for a million years. We’re beat to shit."
- Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins)

A divorced man and loose cannon (Tom Cruise) takes weekend custody of his disgruntled teenage son and younger daughter just as aliens attack the earth. Sending lightning-like electro-magnetic pulses, they quickly disable all machines and communication systems. Initially, this looked like it was going to be another straight ‘hero film’ for Cruise: he nabs the only working car and manages to stay ahead of the aliens for while. But before long, an angry mob takes the car away at gunpoint, and he and his family have to become just another one of the hopeless people, wandering and fleeing. Stevn Spielberg’s ambitious sci-fi epic is flawed but has so much to offer.

Once upon a time, in a simpler age, movies were made about people and aliens. But of course, nowadays, Hollywood can’t make any disaster movie without making the focal point a totally dysfunctional family that will ‘bond’ because of the experience they go through. Armed with this supposed ‘positive’ spin, movie-makers believe that gives them carte-blanche to torture their subjects wantonly. After all, the more pain, the more bonding, right? And because of that ‘War or the Worlds is sometimes excessively cruel, especially when the victim is a young girl.

On the plus side, it was great to see Tom Cruise show some vulnerability. There are also some great special effects, an effective appearance by Tim Robbins, and a long, nail-biting sequence in a cellar involving various aliens creeping around while Cruise and friends manage to hide.

Are people really that stupid to just move back a few inches when the earth is splitting and massive alien machine/beings are emerging from holes? In fact, this is one of the recurring ‘jokes’ in the film: every time something bad is happening, the characters always stop to watch one or two more bad things happen before running/swimming.

Why is it that when a plane crashes right next to a house, there is still a vehicle-wide path, relatively free of debris, that the car can use to get out? Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 13 Oct 2007

Factual error (from Ray tells the mechanic to change the solenoid, which would be fried if hit with an EMP, due to the fact that it had electricity flowing through it (which is why the solenoid and all solenoids not already installed in cars would work.) The only problem with this is that any car not running during the EMP, wouldn't have been effected by it, and would have started.

"We knew Spielberg had action chops, but didn't know he had this in him. This anti-E.T. is so rigorously realized it makes Independence Day look like Finding Neverland."
- Bruce Westbrook (Houston Chronicle)

"96% of the movie works so damn well that you'll be more than willing to forgive the 4% that does not."
- Scott Weinberg (

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