Tuesday, June 28, 2005

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds (Director: Steven Spielberg)

WAR OF THE WORLDS has been nominated for 3 Oscars:

Sound (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ron Judkins)
Sound Editing (Richard King)
Visual Effects (Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Randy Dutra, Daniel Sudick)

I don't think I really need to go through Spielberg's filmography. Pretty much every movie he's made since Jaws has been an event picture. The last film he made was 2003's The Terminal. Spielberg re-teams with his Jurassic Park scribe David Koepp, who co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Friedman, whose last writing gig seems to be 1996's Chain Reaction. Based on the 1898 H.G. Wells classic, this is the second major film to come from the material, the last being in 1953.

Did I say that I liked Star Wars Episode III? Yes, I did. That is not in error. Well, now I can say, "Fuck Star Wars Episode III." This film BLOWS that space opera away--Spielberg turning the screws on Lucas, the longtime friends and co-accused of destroying cinema as we know it. It's like 1977 again--both directors coming out with similar genre films (Star Wars Episode IV and Close Encounters of the Third Kind), only Lucas created his own universe, whereas Spielberg focuses on the suspense of alien creatures coming to our own world (and he later continued this with the little-seen film E.T.--yeah, I ain't heard of it either).

And with the two previously mentioned films, Spielberg told us that these aliens are friendly. You can reach out and touch them and make them pets. Well now, in War of the Worlds, E.T. and his buddies have gotten greedy and bloodthirsty and want Earth to themselves. You hear that, Peter Coyote? You're gonna' pay, bitch! Surprisingly faithful to the H.G. Wells model, these aliens come out of the ground emerging as death-bent tripods with lasers that make Earthlings disappear. And holy crap, are you going to do number 1 and number 2 in your pants when you see these suckers do their damage.

The story follows Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) who is a divorced dad and has his kids for the weekend--Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (the always-winning Dakota Fanning). A lightning storm hits, everything goes awry, and of course, the aliens have landed, so Ray takes his kids to safety anywhere he can find it. Along the way, Ray runs into a character that is sort of a combination of two characters from the book, Ogilvy (Tim Robbins) who plays a man who has gone insane. Playing Ray's ex-wife Mary Ann is the lovely Miranda Otto, rounding out the main cast.

Spielberg has many tour-de-force scenes in this, and it's fun to see him contrast the blow-em-up spectacle from the beginning with the claustrophobic house scenes later in the film, and once again, surprisingly some very faithful attention to Wells' book, considering the book is over 100 years older and everyone is riding around in carriages, and there's no cell phones, and the idea of flight is that of science fiction. Cruise once again proves his mettle as the everyman, the not-so-perfect guy that you look to for the answers. But of course, what anyone will be watching this for is the suspense and destruction--and for me, the film-nerd sensibility Spielberg brings to every picture. His camera is always finding that angle, or that movement, that places a viewer directly into the damn movie.

Looking at the Internet Movie Database as of now, this movie is close to 7.0 as far as the average rating from users go. Well, I guess you can never make a movie as magical as E.T. or as cerebral as Close Encounters and expect the fickle viewer to give this movie its due. It's just a friggin' cool movie--and that maybe the downfall it has when the movie becomes older, since the gee-whiz might fade away and we'll have to grade it on what else it does. It's certainly not as heartwarming as E.T., or has that sense of wonder like Close Encounters, but it certainly has a sense of danger that is everpresent and gives this film its fingerprint.

Also, we might have some Cruise backlash after this man's crazy-assed summer, where he has turned into Frank T.J. Mackey from Magnolia. But I never once thought of that during this, and that's a testament to his overall skill. Anyway, I loved the movie, and I think most people looking for a kickass summer flick will like it too. It's balls-to-the-wall breathtaking.


At 7/10/2005 01:20:00 PM, Blogger BukkakeMan said...

I thought Dakota was good in War of the Worlds too. But recently there have been some disturbing posts on the net about her. I reproduced some of them on my blog.

At 7/10/2005 05:44:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Wow...those kinds of words are downright criminal. I think some of them are actually trying to be funny (they aren't)--but there's no humor to going over-the-top just to shock. Shocking is exactly what it is--shock, and not funny.

We all know Dakota Fanning is a bright, pretty girl--but sexuality isn't something that an 11-year-old has (I can already hear the perverts out there--Oh yes they do! One time, there was this one girl...) I'm all for saying what you want (even those kinds of things), but clearly, the act of saying them is the least of these people's problems.


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