I absolutely loved this movie. Steven Spielberg returns to the disaster flick genre he shook up with Jurassic Park with phenomenal results. Having never read the original H.G. Wells book or seen the 1953 movie, I didn’t know what to expect. The only thought I really had going into the movie was a review of a PC game of all things. While PC Gamer was reviewing the release of Half-Life 2, they compared the “striders” viewed in screenshots to the invading machines from War of the Worlds.
With just that comparison in mind, I sat through the kind of clichéd (but necessary in any good disaster flick*) opening that introduces the people you’re supposed to care about for the next hour and a half. I’m ambivalent (who isn’t) on Tom Cruise (except for the "My Little Deuce Coupe" moment with Dakota Fanning that was so beautifully scripted that he was able to make me like him more than usual), but the kids were well played (Fanning’s character was a beautiful mixture of her character from Uptown Girls and a very frightened 10-year old girl and was incredible, Justin Chatwin played his character very skillfully (a selfless individual who wants to strike back) and Miranda Otto (go Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Phoenix!) plays Tom’s divorced wife with just enough angst to make it believable (I wonder if she looked at footage of Tom and Nicole after the breakup for research). Then comes the crazy special effects and mass destruction. It was absolutely gorgeous to watch the death rays destroy everything in sight. And the CGI wasn’t just used for that … since the movie is built to follow the adventures of Cruise as he survives (damn) this alien extermination, there was an amazing escape sequence where Cruise has the only working car and is speeding away from death and destruction and the camera swivels in, out and all around the car. I was just like … wow … that’s so cool. The effect is essentially an extension of what Quentin Tarantino did for Sin City, but it just blew my mind.
On a side note, I loved Tim Robbins’ bit in this movie … and what’s great was he wasn’t acting in this movie … he was merely being his wild and crazy liberal self. I don’t care whether Spielberg directed him to do that or not … I found the whole moment hilarious.
In conclusion, this film is a great popcorn flick (i.e. enjoyable summer-fare).
*Is it really necessary? A lot of the movie can be viewed as simple plot devices to move Cruise’s story forward … could the movie have been done more like Wells’ novel where the story focuses more on the alien-driven extermination rather than on one person’s reaction to it? The main reason I would have pushed for it is that the entire ending is merely closure to Tom Cruise’s story … which means you can go to incredible lengths and really stretch your credibility (story-wise) just to do that … so was it even necessary? I wonder …