War of the Worlds (8/10)
by Tony Medley
I have a theory. If the
Production Notes for a film are good, the film stinks and vice versa. The
Production Notes for “War of the Worlds” were virtually unreadable. The
film is exciting and involving until it gets to its Hollywood ending,
which is what kept me from giving it my top rating.
The acting of Tom Cruise (Ray)
and Dakota Fanning, his daughter Rachel, the special effects, and the
directing of Steven Spielberg keep this two hour movie moving along for
all but the last few minutes. I can’t for the life of me understand how
Spielberg could produce a film based on H.G. Wells’ fantasy and make it so
believable and compelling and then come up with such a puerile ending.
To his credit, this is the old
Spielberg of “Duel” (1971), “Jaws” (1975), and the Indiana Jones trilogy
when he was mainly interested in entertaining, before he became an
artiste and started making all those long, interminable, boring films.
The film is full of so many
plot holes that it would take a book to list them all. Many are raised by
the ending that defies the reality of what Spielberg has created in the
preceding 115 minutes. But there are holes even without the ending.
Electricity is out in some places attacked by the aliens; not so in
others. The aliens seem impervious to any of our weapons, but then they
aren’t. Oh, well, I’m not going to list them all because who cares? The
aliens are actually pretty believable and they are frightening. The person
accompanying me to the screening jumped and yelped and cringed throughout.
What makes it even more
frightening is that what we see on the screen can be projected into what
would happen if a terrorist exploded an atomic bomb in one of our major
cities. If you view this film as a metaphor, substituting brutal,
unsympathetic terrorists with a totalitarian medieval mindset for the
aliens, and realize that something like this could be in our future, this
is one of the scariest movies ever made. The point of this film and story
is that we take our civilization and society for granted. This shows what
could happen if disaster did strike and everything we take for granted
were to be destroyed.
Cruise and Fanning give
Oscar-caliber performances as they try to stay alive in the face of a
horrible onslaught from out of nowhere. The special effects are
mind-bogglingly effective. The film is scary but realistic. Although
scary, there are some funny lines that relieve the tension. In short,
until the unfortunate last few minutes, this film holds your interest and
keeps you on the edge of your seat, one of the best of the genre.
Running time 1 hour 57 minutes.
June 27, 2005