June 30th, 2005


War of the Worlds

All too often, movies don't show us what's happening. They tell us.

War of the Worlds shows us. It's wonderful. You have to actually pay attention to what's going on and pick up the clues. That doesn't happen in movies that much any more and I have to say, it's refreshing.

As engaging as watching the events unfold without an expository scientist character or television newscaster is, the effects are spectacular. Truly chilling in some places, as when a jumbo jet crashes onto a neighbourhood. And the alien ships? Although ripped from the cover of a 1954 issue of "Amazing Stories," they're malevolent rather than nostalgic. The story takes us from New York City to Boston...and yes, there is a baseball-related reference that was extremely well-received by the Boston preview audience.

It's not perfect: Spielberg seems to be running out of concepts and a few scenes reminded me of ET, AI and Minority Report (particularly that last one, though that could be Tom Cruise's fault). There are also a few errors of technical continuity. All mechanical and electronic machines stop working...except for the ones that don't. It's minor, sure...but you'll notice it. And of course it has the patented Spielberg HappyEnding™ and if you are prone to hyperglycemia you might want to bring along some insulin. But despite Tom Cruise's recent forays into BizarreCeleb land (usually inhabited by such notables as Michael Jackson and Andy Dick), he does quite well in this. He's believable and doesn't gorge himself on the scenery. Meanwhile, Dakota Fanning is becoming the Katherine Hepburn of the pre-teen set; let's hope she doesn't go the way of Macauley Culkin and Haley Joel Osment.

Even so, it's incredible to me that a story written over 100 years ago is still as compelling and immediate today in the post-atomic Technology Age as it was during the steam-powered Industrial Age.
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