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Steven Spielberg’s movie version of “War of the Worlds” goes a more family-driven route than the H.G. Wells novel.
The cinematic engagement one can get from “War of the Worlds” centers on its being a family story more than the alien invasion plot the title suggests. The narrative focuses more on family relationships while showing a glimpse of some American tanks and aircrafts mercilessly incinerated by three-legged, tripod-looking alien machines and extraterrestrial tentacles grabbing humans toward the worst end.
With some blatant 9/11 overtones, director Steven Spielberg immerses the audience with the confusion and panic the invasion brings in a more distinct fashion. He brings these conflicts through the point of view of a family fighting for survival. He also shows the external conditions of the people’s desperate fight as they mob around and hit and kill each other, just to save their lives from the impending doom.
This motion picture is a contemporary retelling of the 1898 classic novel of H. G. Wells, a sci-fi adventure thriller about a Martian invasion and the battle of the human race through the eyes of a simple American family struggling to survive it. It is worth noting though, that the film opted to feature aliens of unconfirmed origin.
A wave of mass destruction shakes a not so perfect father’s (Tom Cruise) small-town life. When a freak light storm happens, the ground cracks from deep beneath the earth and a simple New Jersey neighborhood turns into an incinerating space for laser attacks vaporizing every human body in sight.
“War of the Worlds” has a seemingly intended B-movie appeal amidst the obviously big budget for it. The cinematography renders that coldness, that fear, and that feeling of helplessness. The lightning storm looks palpable as the scenes unfold on screen. Clever shot construction and exploration are brilliantly executed. The visuals and the actions often look intense, especially the eerie, freaky, thrilling, and suspense-filled moments.
The catastrophic aliens haven’t evolved much with their varying roles in many movies for all these decades: extremely large eyes, domed-heads, insect-like appendages, and long skinny limbs. They are quite reminiscent of General Grievous from “Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.“
The zombie-like mob of desperate people fighting for survival creates a striking and gripping mood. The panic in the ravaged countryside looks emotionally striking. As Cruise defends himself and his children, that low-tone sound of menacing aliens signaling another attack effectively creates that dreaded fear of what’s next to come.
Cruise delivers a generally fine performance as a good father trying to somehow cover up as much violence and brutality for his small child. He and Dakota Fanning have good chemistry on screen. However, the rebellious teenage son’s character (Justin Chatwin) simply works as an inevitable cliché. His character adds nothing much to the story. Miranda Otto and Tim Robins simply live up to the scope of roles given to them.
The ending comes a bit sudden and without much explanation. The resolution directly comes in after the climax. Things end up just too quickly. Perhaps, this is the filmmaker’s intention and the appreciation for it is a matter of taste.
This sci-fi offering provides nothing new to the roster of alien invasion movies telling an extraordinary battle where the future of mankind is at stake. It is quite a heavy picture to watch. Nevertheless, many scenes have that fear factor charm that can possibly get its target viewers screaming at the edge of their seats.