July 6, 2005

War of the Worlds

Steven Spielberg's sloppy attempt to make an shameless b-grade alien invasion movie takes itself too seriously to be fun. I have no problem with Spielberg making a movie with no redeeming value whatsoever. However, the premise of the movie is presented in an utterly preposterous manner, yet the whole movie is staged with the utter seriousness of Saving Private Ryan's Omaha Beach sequence.  Imagine Mars Attacks! with a post-9/11 fatalistic streak. That's what we're stuck with here. Tom Cruise, meanwhile, takes the part way too seriously. We've seen all the tricks in the Tom Cruise Acting Portfolio too many times to be absorbed by him anymore.
It was widely reported that Spielberg fast-tracked this production when his star, Tom Cruise, became available due to a unexpected break in his schedule. The movie feels rushed, like Spielberg didn't give himself the creative time and effort to inspire new ideas. He's relying on pure talent to carry him through, and if this weren't a Spielberg movie, we wouldn't hold War of the Worlds to such a high standard. One of the principal suspense sequences, a cat and mouse hunt, is a sad pale imitation of the kitchen sequence of Jurassic Park, and ripoff of The Abyss too. The Boston Globe review described Dakota Fanning as a 'creepy mini Bette Davis', and they're not too far off. The ending is as tacked-on and sentimental as any Spielberg movie. Spielberg cannot bear to kill off any character we're supposed to care about, and War of the Worlds is no exception. (Weirs Beach Drive-In, Weirs Beach, NH)