War Of The Worlds

4 out of 10


A Waste Of The Words

Ever waited excitedly for Christmas? There's that present you so want awaiting under the tree and when the day comes...you discover its just a pair of socks that don't fit. When "War of the Worlds" was announced, everyone was so excited. With "Independence Day" already based upon HG Wells' work, everyone expected that Spielberg would be going back to make a faithful adaptation of the 1898 book, something that no-one had done. What a devastating disappointment!

The original book had featured an alien invasion seen through the eyes of a 19th Century journalist in England, it had some amazing scenes including a truly awesome sea battle as steam-driven battleships fight hopelessly hopelessly outgunned by the beam weaponry of the giant invasion craft, an army fighting aleins with mussle loading cannons and horse-mounted dragoons and the nation at the centre of the industrial revolution going into chaotic panic...BUT ALL OF THIS WAS NOT TO BE! Instead, Spielberg wheeled out the same old formula, the same old script that has been rehashed and chucked on our screens since the 1953 version with it all moved to modern-day America and from the perspective of America, using cutting edge American technology and it runs more like an upmarket version of a Japanese Godzilla flick.

An ordinary joe working at the dockyards, Ray Ferrier is the average disfunctional father, battling against the next electricity bill and fighting his ex-wife for time with his kids who have total contempt for him. Suddenly the streets erupt with giant alien tripod craft zapping everyone in sight to ash and he is faced with protecting his family as world around him begins to fall apart. As usual with a Spielberg film, the special effects are "out of this world". A truly chilling ominous set of deep tones greet the skyscraper-high alien craft as each time they appear, a huge jet engine at their front as they march inexorably across the countryside. The scenes of chaos are beyond impressive with death and destruction as a huge crowd is being slaughtered at the ferryboat station as they fight to climb aboard like the last plane out of Saigon before it's fall to the Viet Cong in 1975. Outgunned, the army take them on with Spielberg even hiring part of the actual US Army to ensure realism. It is truly a stunning multi-million dollar spectacular... it's just that this movie simply has none of the plot nor grace of the original. Looking like a poor version of "Independence Day", there's nothing but a boring void between each CGI packed action sequence other than the endless screaming of "Daddy, Daddy" by his daughter, played by Dakota Fanning who has already shown herself to be worthy of a role a hundredfold this in "Uptown Girls", and a tense scene in basement that's such a dead lift from M Night Shyamalan's "Signs", it's amazing Spielberg wasn't sued.

With Ray Ferrier critical to whatever story there is, Spielberg has sensibly brought back cultman Cruise. With his soul long since washed away by Scientology tripe, Tom has no problem into morphing into any role as he's needed for and seems genuine as the frantic father so hopelessly out of his depth. Voted "The Most Irritating Actor In The World" by Britsh moviegoers in a poll by Empire Magazine, Cruise's selection must have posed a certain dilemma for him. While the concept of aliens pre-existing man on the planet is core to his wacko ideas, a situation where those who hesitate are zapped by the alien disintegrator rays and "he who panics first is saved" is a clear demonstration of the importance of what he terms "the reactive mind", namely the part of us that triggers running away rather than stopping to think and die.

Traditionally, good science fiction provoked intelligent discussion about consequences of our current actions and unrealised threats that had not been considered. HG Wells' book is a truly amazing logical and graphic read that rattled a lot of cages. Indeed, Orson Wells' radio adeptation, broadcast on Oct 30th 1938 was so effective that hundreds of Americans fled to the mountains in real life, yet, from the start, Spielberg's "War Of The Worlds" makes not a blind bit of sense. In our world of subway systems, ring mains, sewers and deep shaft mining, the idea that aliens could have predicted exactly where our cities would stand a few million years ago and then bury their attack craft a few feet beneath the ground without one ever being discovered is utter nonsense. And so the crazy logic rolls on until an ending that's as flat as the Sea of Tranquility. What a waste of such an opportunity!

Despite being so crummy you should consider taking to the hills to avoid it, Spielberg's "War Of The Worlds" still grossed about a quarter of a billion dollars. My guess is that if Mr Spielberg offered us a 2-hour epic of "Paint Drying On A Wall", he'd still pack the theatres from coast to coast for a month or two.

Bore of the Worlds

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett