Wednesday, March 29, 2017
War of the Worlds (2005)
Loosely based on the novel by H.G. Wells, this time the aliens don't arrive from Mars, but have buried killing machines under the ground, ready to be activated by pilots who come to Earth during a lightning storm. Regular divorced guy Tom Cruise, a terrible dad who is watching his kids for the weekend, after witnessing people being incinerated by the tripods, grabs his son and daughter and flees.
Okay, a few things that have bothered me ever since I saw this film (and it came out while I was working at a movie theater, so I saw it many times, at least in parts). How could an alien race bury machines under the surface thousands of years ago and humankind didn't happen to find one putting in a water main or subway tunnel? We've dug pretty deep into the Earth, and since the machines were all over, the odds are good we would have found one. Secondly, why tripods? Why didn't they fly? Didn't they see how useless the Walkers were in Star Wars?
So Cruise and his kids find the only working car in Jersey and head for Boston to the kids' mom. Why they think Boston will be safe I don't know, but I guess I wouldn't know what to do, either. They have to cross the Hudson, though, and manage to get aboard a ferry. A tripod knocks the ferry over and they swim to shore. This is where Cruise's teenage son (Justin Chatwick) leaves to join the fight with the military. Cruise can't stop him from leaving, so he is left with his younger daughter (Dakota Fanning, who is great but basically just has to act scared).
The best scene is when Cruise and Fanning find an abandoned house that is occupied by Tim Robbins, whose cheese has slid off his cracker. It seems great at first, as he has plenty of food to share, but Robbins talks about fighting back and is increasingly loony. Then the aliens send a probe into the house, a mechanical eye on a long snake-like tube. It's a bit like the raptor-in-the-kitchen scene in Jurassic Park, and you find yourself holding your breath during the scene.
But again, I have questions. Do the aliens really have that much time and resources to be doing house-to-house searches? Especially when they get to Boston to find a whole series of rowhouses untouched? What did Boston do to get preferential treatment?
The biggest complaint (Spoiler alert, even though the movie is over ten years old) was when Chatwick was revealed to be alive and safe. But come on, there's no way Spielberg is going to kill a kid, even though this film is pretty brutal for him (the aliens eat up humans and use their blood to make some kind of tendrils--it's unclear--and if they eat them, why did they incinerate them at first? It's like burning your dinner).
The ending matches Wells' ending, which is an elegant solution and much better than Independence Day's computer virus. They should have made a sequel just to show how long it took to rebuild everything.