Before watching the movie, I have heard of more negative than positive reviews of the film.
I thought, how bad can a Spielberg’s film be?
With that in mind, I really tried to like the film. But I couldn’t.
The story was about Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), a father who was spending the weekend with his two kids, Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning), as part of his custody rights. It was no wonder that he didn’t get full custody – Ray was an irresponsible man and he has a lot of growing up to do.
He didn’t know much about his children (Rachel: I'm allergic to peanut butter. "Since when?" "Birth.") and basically, didn’t give much of a damn. (Rachel: What will we eat? "Order.")
Forty five minutes later, the audience is supposed to believe that his paternal instincts kicked in when fearful and angry people were trying to get into the car and drive it away, with Rachel still inside? From wanting to dump the children back with their Mom in Boston and save his own ass, he became all concerned and worried about their safety?
I found the transformation a bit hard to believe.
I know Spielberg wanted human drama to be on centerstage and not CGI, but I didn’t feel for Cruise’s character. He was not compelling in his ordinary-man-turned-hero role.
Perhaps it was the fault of the script. Or the producer.
Whatever it was, the human element wasn’t anywhere as good as in Deep Impact, another end-of-the-world movie starring Tea Leoni.
The movie’s pace was uneven too. In the first ten minutes, the electromagnetic storm has happened. After that, Ferrier and his family kept running, stopping for a night at his ex-wife's house, continued running (still heading for Boston), crossed the Hudson River, repeat. In between, more scenes of destruction. The pace, till this point, was OK.
In the final half hour, there was a scene in Harlan Ogilvy’s (Tim Robbins) basement which was unnecessarily protracted. After that 20-minute scene, the movie ended with the aliens dying and Ray reunited with his ex-wife.
Nevertheless, the CGI was excellent and it offered a somewhat new portrayal of the destruction of cities.
Even though the alien invasion and mass destruction were secondary, there were a few question that came up in my mind. This was the narration at the beginning of the movie:
No one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed - and studied.
The novel was written in 1898 by H.G. Wells. If Spielberg has chosen the period setting as early 21st century, surely the story needed updating.
It goes without saying that I am a realist.
As such, it is inaccurate that no one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. I am certain there are thousands, if not millions, who have heard of Area 51 and read about UFO sightings.
[Though I don't think I am giving out much, but to those who have not read the book or watch the movie, this is a spoiler alert]
Secondly, even though the intelligent beings observed and studied, they must have not been paying much attention as they have missed the discovery of microorganisms by Antony van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century, the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919 that killed 25 million people worldwide, the AIDS epidemic, etc.
Those are just two of my peeves. There were a few more like the inability of the tentacles of the tripods to detect heat or motion and the aliens being quadrupeds, which I shall not elaborate.
Suffice to say that, the science and technological aspects of the movie was largely inconsistent. Either the period setting or the story should have been changed.
The only good thing about the movie was Fanning. She was excellent as usual and she definitely can go very far in her acting career. Though I hope that her next role wouldn’t require her to scream as much.
This is not one of Spielberg’s better works. If you want something by Spielberg and has Fanning and other-worldly beings, but still with a lot of human drama, I would recommend Taken.
War of the Worlds could have been very much better. I would rate it 2.75 out of 5.