July 14, 2005

The War of the Worlds

Mark Steyn reviews War of the Worlds:

Spielberg’s adaptation manages to be very literally faithful — he recreates H.G. Wells’s original giant tripods, for example — while missing completely the point of the story. You can’t see the overall forest but there are very many pleasant computer-generated trees — Cruise emerging from a suburban basement into a blasted wasteland, a driverless train roaring down the track with every carriage ablaze, a mob suddenly swarming his lone vehicle. But they’re generic moments unrooted to any real narrative.

Worst of all is the director’s angle on the material. Cruise plays a dad disconnected from his teen son and younger daughter — until, happily, the aliens start slaughtering millions of people and provide our absentee pop with the perfect growth experience. For much of the film, it seems the obliteration of mankind is just a swell excuse for parental bonding. As Cruise traipses up the Hudson River and swings east to Boston, bickering with his alienated son and whiney daughter, Spielberg seems to be reversing the priorities of Casablanca: this crazy world doesn’t amount to a hill of beans next to the problems of three little people. Cruise’s character doesn’t have a lot to do, except run while holding his daughter (and even then he gives off the vague air of a somewhat disengaged child-minder), and he only belatedly turns into any kind of an action hero after being holed up in a cellar for a couple of nights with loopy survivalist Tim Robbins, which admittedly would drive anyone bananas. Otherwise, Spielberg’s entire take on the story is suffused in a fey passivity.

I would agree. The film was well done from a technological perspective. The special effects were great and action scenes in the movie were well put together. From my perspective, however, the real problem with the film is the lack of characterization...quite frankly, none of the characters are developed - I have no reason to care for any of the people in the film. The script was weak and there are gaping story flaws. Finally, the ending is really stupid and unbelievable. I am not talking about the death of the aliens - it is faithful to the book (although you would think that aliens, who studied our planet for millions of years in anticipation of invading the planet, would have thought to study whether they could live in our atmosphere or whether they could handle the bacteria on Earth)- but the ending with respect to Tom Cruise and his family. I will avoid any spoilers for those who want to go see the film.
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