Directed by Steven Spielberg (2005)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Jun 29 2005
There were two huge obstacles Steven Spielberg faced when making this film. The first is that H.G. Wells' novel does not have an exciting ending. It works great when reading it, but not in terms of cinematic visuals. So right off the bat, you are making a "summer blockbuster" that won't/can't deliver a knockout punch climax that blows the audience away. So to make up for this, you are going to have to offer some great character development and performances. Here is where the second obstacle comes into play. Spielberg is Spielberg and because of that, we as an audience know that a "Spielbergian" ending is coming. What do I mean by "Spielbergian"? Simply put, the little kids live and everybody lives happily ever after. This has been a major criticism of Spielberg in the past and it is especially glaring in this film because it renders all of Tom Cruise's histrionics and wide eyed stares moot. You can't really feel for, or believe in, his character when you already know that his kid won't really "be dead" when he disappears for thirty minutes, and will just show up in the last frame to bring the "Spielbergian Universe" back into its safe and happy alignment. Worlds is typical, cliched, "Spielbergian" cinema at its finest...or lousiest in this case.
War of the Worlds is without a doubt one of the crappiest films Spielberg has directed. Sure, it looks great and Spielberg utilizes his constantly moving camera for some great pan and tracking shots, but there isn't any real substance to anything going on. The elaborate shots are more of a distraction than anything else and seems to be Spielberg saying "Hey! Look what I can do!" rather than supporting the non existant narrative.
For long stretches, the film commits the ultimate sin: Boredom. It's hard to believe that aliens + Spielberg + $200,000,000 would equal the cinematic equivalent of Nytol, but amazingly he achieves it during long stretches where nothing happens, and with a cast that looks completely uninterested in the story. To his credit, Cruise delivers a pretty solid performance but it is still littered with bad dialogue delivery and campy moments. On the bright side, Spielberg shows that he didn't totally mail in this gig by giving us some good character scenes between Cruise and his kids, but ultimately they don't mean much to the film.
As far as the aliens go, you won't find any Independence Day style action in this film. In all actuality, most of the really cool fx shots are in the trailers. Spielberg makes the stupid decision to not show much of the Tripods or them wreaking havoc across the globe. Generally, other than some establishing shots, the fx were really weak and didn't deliver on the "goods" I was hoping for. One particularly aggravating scene involved dozens of military aircraft streaking across the sky, firing missiles at a Tripod...we don't get to see it though. You see, there's a big hill in the way. What makes it even more ridiculous is that Cruise's kid "dies" because he tells his dad "I HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!" Yeah, I'd like to see it as well, too bad that damn hill was in the way...Independence Day this ain't.
Bottom line: This film sucks. Ok, maybe it's not that bad, but it is easily one of Spielberg's worst and doesn't deliver on any of the punch or excitement that the advertising suggests. I think I'm going to go watch Independence Day now to get my cgi alien invader fix.