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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