Review: War of the Worlds

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  June 29, 2005 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

So it's the end of the world, again. A concept we have been seeing in movies throughout history. But this time, legendary director Steven Spielberg examines one of the most classic of sci-fi stories that comes from the heart of science fiction itself.

Back in 1898, master sci-fi storyteller H.G. Wells created a story that shocked Victorian civilization. Wells chronicled man's last stand against an otherworldly menace from Mars. The book generated a following and has had one ever since.

In 1938, Orson Welles performed a dramatization of the novel which once again shocked a nation and became legendary. The radio program was so effective that it caused mass panic and hysteria. People actually believed that Martians were invading.

Now in 2005, Steven Spielberg tries to recreate the fascination with the classic story, making it more contemporary except maintaining the same impact the original story had on an unsuspecting audience way back when.

In the new adaptation, Tom Cruise stars as Ray Ferrier, a divorced blue-collar docks worker from New Jersey, who has his two kids for the weekend. Ray has fractured relationships with his teenage son, Robbie (Justin Chatwin), and 10-year old daughter, Rachel (Dakota Fanning). Ray isn't very good at being a father, but he keeps trying.

Ray's ability to be a father is put to the ultimate test when a major electrical storm rages across his hometown. Ray seems to be excited by the radical weather but his daughter Rachel is scared stiff.

After a calm in the storm, Ray locks his kids at home and journeys into town where some of the lightning struck. Cracks in the pavements start to appear and the ground gives way as a mechanical three-legged machine arises. The only thing on Ray's mind is that he has to get home and protect his children. Can Ray save his children from the greatest threat man has ever known? Where does the family flee to during such an over-whelming crisis?

Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds brings the classic story back into our minds by making it seem like it's about us, very similar to the way he was able to bring dinosaurs into our time. There are many throwbacks to Spielberg's Jurassic Park. The chills, the excitement, and fractured relationships are all here.

The film at times feels like an amalgamation of Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan. The destruction and battles felt very similar.

Even after recent breakdowns and romance with the media, Tom Cruise proves that this film lives up to the hype and then some. I just wish Cruise kept his mouth shut and that who he was dating wasn't the focus of the media blitz.

As for Cruise's performance in the film, he does a wonderful job as a fractured father and being scared to his wits end. His desperation and struggle is evident if you can get the word "TomKat" out of your head long enough to enjoy him.

Dakota Fanning is brilliant in no matter what she tackles, which is such an amazing accomplishment for someone so young. She is brilliant here as well. Her screaming did send shivers down my spine.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about Spielberg's direction of this picture is that it seemed so claustrophobic, and that feeling made the film feel even more like you were there. The effect was probably done for budget and time constraints for getting the picture done on time, but it actually helps the film's impact.

My only small complaint with the film was that the film itself is like a roller-coaster all the build up, the raw excitement, and then a sudden finish that make roller-coasters what they are. I wish the ending and eventual conclusion would have been drawn out some. And what was that whole "look at the birds" scene about?

The effects, the tension, the utter desperation throughout the film is utter majesty. Who can't relate to this man's struggle?

War of the Worlds firmly returns Spielberg back to the master of the blockbuster and even reminds us a lot of the great films he has made in the past. This film is probably his best since Saving Private Ryan. (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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