War of the Worlds
starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto, Justin Chatwin and Tim Robbins
written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp
directed by Steven Spielberg
This is another big alien movie by Steven Spielberg. Add it to the growing list behind E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982, with Drew Barrymore), and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, with Richard Dreyfuss). Does Steven Spielberg have a thing for aliens, like Koji Suzuki appears to have for water? No, it’s probably just a coincidence.
Based on the 1989 novel by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (2005) is a re-make of the 1953 film of the same title starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson (written by Barre Lyndon, directed by Byron Haskin). Even before that, The War of the Worlds was most famously done as a radio play by Orson Welles and the Mercury-On-The-Air Theater on Halloween night, 1938.
I re-watched the 1953 movie just a few weeks ago. It was hopelessly pathetic, but a typical production for its time. I remember when I was a child staying up late on Friday night sleep-overs with elementary school friends to watch it as the late night movie on television. So after 52-years, it was certainly time for a make-over.
This new version has more action, better battle scenes, and a broader story. The first movie all took place in one small town. Although the invasion of Earth by aliens is a global event, the story focuses on Ray (Tom Cruise) rescuing his children from the ruins of New Jerseyby taking them on a trek to meet their mother, his ex-wife, in Boston. That plot alone forces the story to cover more ground and involve more characters than the 1953 production.
I positively hated Dakota Fanning as Ray’s 10-year-old daughter, Rachel. She is bug-eyed and looks half like an alien herself, and throughout the movie she was screaming shrilly, at the top of her lungs so annoyingly.
The biggest revision is that in the original film version aliens descend to Earth in red hot “cylinders.” In the 2005 version the alien craft are ice cold, and they are already here, buried in the Earth millions of years ago, indicating that this ‘invasion’ was planned long before there were any humans living. Hmmmm, interesting. In addition, there is a greater element of terror in this re-make. Something about blood, the aliens’ use of human blood, the collecting of livehumans for harvesting their blood. An explanation of it was not given.
I was delighted when I read the Cast credits at the end and read such characters as “Informative Guy;” “Ill-informed Guy;” “Guy in Suit;” “Smart Guy;” “Well Meaning Father;” “Doomsday Guy;” “Panicky Woman;” “Men in Baskets;” “Intersection Guys,”and more. Now there are some actors out their (proudly?) writing on their resumes that they played the Ill-informed Guy and the Panicky Woman. Amazing.
The film opens and closes with a narrator. I recognized Morgan Freeman’s voice right away.