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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > War of the Worlds

MOVIE REVIEWS

WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Rick Gonzalez, Yul Vasquez, Lenny Venito, Lisa Ann Walter, Ann Robinson, Gene Barry, David Alan Basche, Roz Abrams, Michael Brownlee, Camillia Sanes, Marlon Young, John Eddins, Peter Gerety and the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Screenplay by Josh Friedman and David Koepp.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  116 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

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War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells' 19th century novel War of the Worlds has become such a well-known story that you have to wonder whether it is not so overly familiar that it would be almost impossible to pull off as a film in the 21st century.  After all, beyond the novel the story has been told as Orson Welles' classic radio play (which famously was so realistic that listeners to the 1938 show panicked en masse), a 1953 movie, a TV series, even an overblown rock-concept album. 

However, if anyone could pull it off, that would seem to be Steven Spielberg.  After all, he specializes in the kind of widescreen, awe-inspiring, larger-than-life story that this film requires.  His direction here is a nice mixture of the state-of-the-art and the charmingly nostalgic.  In the end, War of the Worlds is not a literary adoption at the level of his previous Jaws, Schindler's List or even the popcorn immediacy of Jurassic Park.  However, it is a movie that will keep you riveted in suspenseful anticipation. 

The story is simple, as it must be.  Tom Cruise is Ray, a New Jersey dockworker who is watching after the kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin) for the weekend.  A series of mysterious thunderstorms let loose an army of of giant Martian robots which are out to destroy the earth.  They turn their death rays on people and buildings, blowing up or crushing anything that gets in their path while living on human blood.  These huge, murderous tripods with evil looking red headlight eyes and dangerous tentacles are succeeding in turning the Earth into a wasteland.  Ray must keep his kids alive and get them to their mother in Boston as the world smolders around him and desperate survivors will do anything to get to safety. 

The sense of malevolent dread, fear and senseless evil is palpable, as human survivors give in to a mob mentality and become nearly as deadly as the advancing force.  Ray and his family must travel, first by car, then by foot, through the wasteland, coming across hundreds of dazed and desperate survivors like a loose cannon survivalist played by Tim Robbins.

Cruise is effortlessly likable as Ray, though you do slightly get the feeling he's phoning it in, it is certainly not one of his more nuanced performances.  Fanning and Chatwin are fine as Cruise's cute ten-year-old daughter and sullen fifteen-year-old son, though honestly they are only here to get into danger and worry Ray. 

The only real problem here is that the film ends up finishing with a whimper, not a bang.  But despite the kind of disappointing ending, War of the Worlds is a very good genre film -- one that serves its legendary inspiration well.  (6/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved. Posted August 17, 2005.

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Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved. Posted August 17, 2005.

 

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