looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

The War of the Worlds (2005)

Wow. I mean, Wow. If you had asked me if Spielberg could actually pull off the task of translating H.G. Wells' beloved 1898 novel onto celluloid and into the present day, I would have replied that it was an almost impossible task and he was bound to fail. Doubly so if Tom Cruise was involved.

Ask me again, for in my opinion Spielberg has done the impossible and created a perfect film - almost. Alas, I must subtract 2 points from a possible 10, but as I shall describe below, it is his own damn fault, and not that of the source material.

Indeed, he has followed the original story of the novel much more closely than I would have believed possible. Kudos to him - he makes it work. I have read some reviews from numbskulls who have clearly not read Wells' novel, to whom I say, sod off. You have no right complaining about the ending, or even the basic narrative. Read the book, then decide if you must that you don't like it. But don't dis Steven S. for accurately following the master story-teller.

Now, about the Cruise thing. Spielberg gets around the fact that Cruise - an over-rated actor if you ask me - is really only capable of playing a wanker, by casting him as: a wanker. Not suprisingly, it works. Cruise gives up a really good performance. Good one, Steven.

The war machines are unbelievably bad-ass. Industrial Light and Magic deserve many, many oscars for this, but I suppose they will have to make do with the one that I think they are almost guaranteed to receive for this outstanding work. I want to see the movie again, several times, purely to see the tripods unleash a metric square kilometer of whup-ass on Newark.


So where do I subtract points? It's hard to say without possible spoilers, so STOP READING NOW if you haven't see the film and want to remain a virgin. (By the way - I do not consider it to be a spoiler that this movie is about an invasion of alien war machines that throw a party to which humans are not invited.)

I feel compelled to subtract points for the following things:

There's a part in the film where we are shown the really stupid way the alien intelligences presumably arrive on earth. If I recall correctly, this mechanism is shown, and described as though it were true and reasonable. But it's a really crap theory. It would have been fine if the woman describing the scenes on the videotape had made it clear that she was conjecturing about what they might be looking at. Let me say again: No explanation should have been presented as "gospel" as to how the aliens arrived on Earth. The humans in the film didn't know; and had no way of knowing. But instead, it is presented to the audience as though this was actually how the aliens had arrived. It didn't have to be that way. Spielberg could have fixed this by making sure that it was clear to us - the audience - that the people in the film didn't know what they were looking at, and the theory was being presented by a character who clearly didn't know what she was seeing. The explanation she gave was really stupid. It would have been fine for us - the audience - to not know how the aliens arrived either.

If I were editing the film, I would have completely removed the scene (about 1 minute long) to avoid the whole issue.

At one point the flesh-and-blood aliens actually show up and personally, I thought it was silly and unnecessary. It's only a couple of minutes long, and again, the scene should have ended up on the cutting room floor.

But the worst thing is completely Spielberg's fault. Rather than tell what what is wrong with the last (but one) scene, let me instead describe to you the scene as I would have written it:

Ray Ferrier and daughter walk along the deserted Boston suburban street, towards his ex-wife's mother's house. They walk up to the house, and knock on the door. It opens. The only remaining living occupants are the ex-wife, and the mother. Her father, her second husband Tim are both dead (because during the beginning days of the invasion they almost certainly would have gone out to see what was going on and been killed along with everyone else). The daughter and ex-wife cling to each other. The matriarchal mother (who earlier in the film, we are given to understand probably detests Ray for what he supposedly put her daughter through) - embraces Ray with uncharacteristic emotion because he is all that is left. His sins are forgiven because he survived and protected her granddaughter.

Y'see, I think that is a little more likely that what Spielberg filmed.

8 out of 10.