War Of The Worlds
I rented Steven Spielberg’s version of War Of The Worlds this weekend. Short version: it is a stupendous movie with one giant flaw and a number of small flaws:
- The lead role was easy enough that even Tom Cruise could handle it. But having his famous face on screen was a constant distraction, like a giant pimple on the face of a Cover-Girl model. Cruise is a screen personality, not an actor; Spielberg should know enough to keep screen personalities off the screen in iconic stories.
- While we’re on Cruise’s character, top shiploading crane-operators make $100K/year or more. They’re hardly ‘average-Joe’ workin’-class guys. Leave it to a pampered moviemaker not to know this.
- Spielberg said he buried the tripods ‘to be different’ from other versions of the story. I don’t care how good alien technology is; if you bury it for hundreds or thousands of years, it won’t work well. At the very least, it will have dirt on it.
- If you vaporize a 180-lb human in a half-second, the steam explosion would knock everybody else on the street off their feet and shatter windows a block away. And why did their clothes remain?
- Once again, movie children are nearly immune to hypothermia. And people can fall nearly a hundred feet and still get up and run away.
- The aliens are obviously quite practiced at space travel, but never heard of pathogens on planets teeming with life? H.G. Wells’ Martian aliens might make that mistake but Spielberg’s aliens came from a completely different star system. They were experienced spacefaring creatures.
- The scene where the giant tentacle (capable of skewering a pickup truck with ease) sprouts a knife blade before stabbing a human is just idiotic.
- It was very obliging of the giant-eyeball tentacle to hold still while Tom Cruise hacked it off with an axe.
- I could go on, and on, and ON with this part but the message to movie producers is to save the ‘suspension of disbelief’ part for when it’s really needed! You get a better story that way.
But there were some really cool scenes:
- I liked the scene where Cruise spits out two hand-grenade pins after being pulled down from the tripod’s giant sphincter. Then the soldier yells (as he was trained) ‘Everybody down!’ even though they’re in a basket and there’s no ‘down’ to get to.
- The scene where the little girl sees bodies floating down the river was well done. There won’t be enough therapy in the world for that kid.
- The movie does a great job of imaging the terror of attack by a technologically superior force. I fancy it’s a lot like that in third-world villages when B-52’s are dropping bombs.
- Speaking of which, this would be a movie you’d let little kids work up to, not start with. Get a sense of how well the child handles scary scenes, because there are a lot of them in this movie.
- The movie did a very good job of illustrating that many people just don’t act rationally when the stuff is hitting the fan.
Mega-disaster movies always stop with the immediate threat, with only a nod to the aftermath. Like the thousands of people slowly freezing to death in Pakistan after last year’s quake, it’s hard to dramatize. Another aspect would be changes in society 20 years after the threat. In Independence Day you wonder: how will society change as it absorbs alien technology?
Movie makers are creating an entire universe, and they often get carried away with the power. The worst example that comes to mind is George Lucas’ meddling with Star Wars after the original three. Every moviemaker needs someone (or several someones) to tell them; “Woah, Sparky! That won’t help your story!”
- That said, this movie was very entertaining, which the three most recent Star Wars were not.
- See an excellent review of Peter Jackson’s King Kong over on Pharyngula, in which he discusses the abuse of disbelief.