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02 April 2006

War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise (Ray Ferrier), Dakota Fanning (Rachel Ferrier), Tim Robbins (Harlan Ogilvy)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Plot: Ray Ferrier is a working-class man living in New Jersey. He is self-centered and estranged from his family until his small town life is violently shaken by the arrival of destructive intruders. As aliens plow through the country in a wave of mass destruction and violence, Ray must come to the defense of his children while humanity struggles for its very survival.

I cannot think of a film more opposed to the movies I saw on Friday night (Sweet Land and Kinamand). This was 100% lame Hollywood schlock: overblown, inconsistent, implausible, and heartless. Spielberg had better make a decent film soon or I will be forced to concede that his importance and influence as a filmmaker is well ended. Not since Saving Private Ryan has he directed a movie worth watching.

Tom Cruise displayed a sort of genuine likeability in his last Spielberg pairing, Minority Report, but that quality was absent in this role. He harnessed the callous, aloof nature of his public face in order to create - perhaps unwittingly - an unsympathetic character that trod on our fondness for previous performances, much as the man he played, an ex-husband and irresponsible father, tried to win over his children. But his tricks are stale and tired. I rolled my eyes at his winning smile as often as did his on-screen kids.

I have been too busy with many projects to go into depth about the numerous and painful inconsistencies featured here. Suffice it to say they were distracting, illogical, and often downright laughable. I played MST3K right from the start. But I will suggest that the finale was so impossible that I was convinced, momentarily, that it was all a dream as Tom's sad dad breathed his last. But know. We were supposed to swallow that fairy tale ending whole. Perhaps John Anderton was still in his prison pod, dreaming of exoneration?

Yes, yes, Dakota Fanning has the biggest eyes in movies, but even she could not rouse my sympathies. If anyone knows anything about me, it is that pathetic, endangered little girls get the best of me (nearly) every time. Apparently, the silliness and excess of this picture immunized me against even the doe-eyed Miss Fanning's emotive potential.

Ultimately, in Spielberg's attempt to put a new spin on an old story, he created yet another loophole of illogic. If the aliens had buried their machines underground a million of years ago, they must have made contact with Earth's flora and fauna at some point - thereby providing them with an inoculating exposure to make them resistant the very bacteria that proved their downfall in Wells' novel. Novelty is not enough to sustain a picture, especially when it ruins the simple premise of the original.


But the flaming train was nice.

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