I’m really trying to stay away from frivolous blogs these days, but I just saw a movie that blew me away; the new Steven Spielberg “War of the Worlds.” The movie is something of an amalgamation (There- I said it again) of Spielberg’s films. This is ET meets Schindler’s List. The smart little girl from Jurassic Park is in the car with Dennis Weaver from Duel. And they are all definitely going to need a bigger boat.
Tom Cruise, personal life notwithstanding, is fantastic as the father who doesn’t really care- the jerk jock in high school who has gotten the crappy life his karma dictated when he refused to see the world as something more. He’s no action hero, and in the course of the film is driven to do the unspeakable to survive- and that is all, survive.
This film would not work so well five years ago. This is the fourth major incarnation of War of the Worlds. The first, the original novel, was written by H.G. Wells as metaphor for the destruction of the Great War. Orson Welles brought a panic to the Northeast with his radio play version. It fed on the audiences fears if the growing fascist juggernaut in Europe- remember, Orson gave us his version in Halloween of 1938. The invasion of Poland was a year away. In 1953, George Pal gave us a movie version that holds up surprisingly well today. Gene Barry starred in a film that came at the end of Korea with the red threat hanging over the ocean, “duck and cover” being drilled in schools, and McCarthy just getting warmed up.
Now, Spielberg taps directly into angst from the War on Terror. Some few spoilers here, so be careful. The emergence of the first tripod is filmed in such away as to recall the shaky footage we saw filmed at the scene of the World Trade Center destruction. The character of Rachel even states this for us to a degree. As Cruise and his kids are fleeing the mounting destruction, she’s asking “is it the terrorists?”
The movie is pure tension from that moment on. Never has a film kept me more involved in the plight of its characters, or had me feeling their fear more. I squirmed with them, I was as revolted as they when Cruise comes home covered in dust which a few moments before was living breathing humans. And the red vines…? Whoa. It makes me wonder how much of my involvement with this film is a result of my recent trip to Babylon.
There is a shiny happy moment at the end that I don’t think works in the context of the rest of the film, but it was not enough for me to spoil the prior tow hours.
So I applaud Spielberg as a movie maker for this piece, and his keen eye in putting the classic tale in a context that would give his audience the most commiseration. That’s a movie maker’s job, to prey on the viewer’s emotions and make them think about why they feel that way.
Now my question is why my government feels they have to? Why do I have to be yellow scared or orange scared? Hey George- leave the theatrics to Spielberg and actually run the country, OK? Thanks.
One more observation I want to make about this film. If you are familiar with the previous versions, you know how this one ends. If not, don’t read my next paragraph until you’ve seen the film.
Though this movie uses the same method to end the invasion that the other versions do, this is the first time it struck me with what Wells was trying to say with his micro biotic heroes. The renowned futurist seems to be saying the world around us is interconnected. Earth is a web of life. The organism is attacked by an outsider- the human scale antibodies don’t work, so the Earth uses another line of defense. Maybe I’m over-reading it, but I see this message- the connectivity of our homeworld. Damn, if we and the germs are pulling together, maybe we the people should too…