War of the Worlds
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A note regarding spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for War of the Worlds can be found here.

While his ex-wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and her new husband Tim (David Alan Basche) are visiting her parents in Boston, New Jersey dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is looking after their two children -- teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and 10-year old daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) -- when the planet is attacked by Martians, starting with catastophic lightning storms and followed by the emergence of huge three-legged war machines. Ray tries to protect his children and flee to Boston to rejoin his ex-wife.

War of the Worlds is also an 1898 novel by English science fiction writer H. G. (Herbert George) Wells [1866-1946]. The screenplay for the movie was written by American screenwriters Josh Friedman and David Koepp and updated to be set in our time.

In the original novel, the story was situated in Victorian England, which was the technological super power of that age. It made the alien invasion that more dramatic, since the Martians were able to defeat the strongest country in the world with relative ease. Also, author H. G. Wells was from England, so he wrote about the country he lived in, purposely situating the action in places and locations that were known by his family and friends. The movie, however, is a US production made with an American cast and crew, and therefore it is primarily geared towards the US. Setting the film in the States would make it more relevant to that audience. Also, in this setting, the US effectively takes the place of England as the modern super power that gets easily defeated by an alien attack force.

Because this is a movie about Ray and his struggle to survive and grow as a character. It is a first person narrative. Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp were adamant that this movie should be a family drama within a disaster movie, so no scenes of landmarks getting destroyed or authorities forming a plan of attack were to be shown. The only times we see the military, destruction or other cities being attacked are when they interact with Ray and his family.

Probably because they weren't switched on at the time. An EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) causes an overload of electrical systems through which electricity is flowing at the moment. Consequently, switched-off devices will be unaffected. In the case of military vehicles, EMP doesn't affect diesel engines, and it's likely that they were braced against EMP anyway. If they were affected, the military would have had plenty of time to fix the problem with their vehicle just as the van was.

If you'll notice, all the cars have stalled on the highway in such a manner that created a handy little pathway for Ray to drive steadily without stopping, taking sharp curves or being forced onto the median. It's not totally unbelievable that most people, if their car suddenly lost power while driving on a freeway, would choose to pull off the road. And most of the cars probably had enough momentum left after the engines lost power to get to the shoulder. The van was being worked on by a mechanic, and Ray had told him the problem with the van was the solenoid, the mechanic replaced it with a new one which should not have been affected by an EMP since it had no electricity going through it.

There is a basement sequence in the movie because much of the novel took place in basements. The main character in the book spends time first with a sniveling, drunken cleric who makes a lot of noise and endangers them. Later he spends time in a basement with an artilleryman who is something of a survivalist. These characters are combined into the character Ogilvy (Tim Robbins) -- in screenwriting terms, Ogilvy is often referred to as a "composite" character. In a disaster/action movie, a relaxed pace is often used for explanation, speculation and plot/character development, things that are hard to establish during action sequences. Also, it is necessary to prevent the story from becoming a blurred succession of events steadily increasing in intensity by which the audience gets emotionally exhausted. This sequence allows us to discover exactly what Ray will do to survive and, more importantly, to protect his daughter from both the invaders and a dangerous person like Ogilvy.

If looked at closely enough, there actually ARE a few bodies still on the plane. Why there are so few is not clear. The tripods/aliens may have already harvested them. Another explanation is that the plane's roof, which is clearly missing, had blown off at high altitude and most of the passengers simply flew out of the aircraft (especially if their safety belts weren't fastened). A third explanation is that, if hit by a heat ray, many of the passengers may have just been incinerated. On several occasions, the ray is shown to incinerate biological matter while simply passing through or pushing aside inanimate objects, like the cars we see in the initial attack in Ray's town.

There were looking for food. The large container that they removed from the plane crash is a food service cart used by the flight attendants while the plane is in flight. One or both of the TV crew realized that there might be at least one cart with its contents still intact.

The airplane doesn't wreck the van Ray is using because it missed it. Pure dumb luck, fate, whatever you'd like to call it.

Yes, Robbie has on different shoes and Rachel is wearing a tunic she never had on before shortly after the family gets out of the river. There could possibly be a deleted scene where they pick up some of the clothes which are raining down from the sky after some victims are taken. There could have also been some clothes in the basement.

Probably because people have a high moisture content and cloth a low one. Again, this is an alien technology, Earthly rules don't apply. Essentially, the "rays" were designed to disrupt molecular and biological integrity.

One theory is that they came down with the lightning as the tripods did. Another theory is some kind of cloaking device the aliens had invented. The tripods could have been buried quite deep, there are very few places on Earth where we have an intimate knowledge of what lies even half a mile under the surface. The tripod 'heads' were also relatively small, the were probably buried in some kind of capsule that had buried itself with the legs curled inside. Another possibility is that the tripods were not buried very deep at all but were miniaturized even to a microscopic scale and not restored to their full size until the strange lightning hit.

They must have been killed by the aliens. As seen in the book, along with heat rays, the aliens also used a kind of black smoke that caused people to suffocate. In both the book and the film we also see the aliens taking people and killing them, which would suggest that this was how they disposed of the bodies. You could assume that these people were victims of this. However, you are left to your imagination, much the same as Ray is. In a practical sense, the bodies are shown dead this way to heighten the tension of the story: we don't know how they died and the filmmakers can let us imagine some horrific way in which they may have been killed.

Perhaps the engine room was still intact or at least operational. We don't know how it was set on fire. We assume it was a heat-ray, but anything could have happened. At any rate, it takes quite a bit of track for a train to slow down with the brakes on, even with no power, much less a train with the brakes off. In the book, it actually made sense that the burning train went by extremely fast, because the fire increased the pressure for the steam engine with which it was powered.

According to Ogilvy, the Martians were drinking human blood. Certainly a possibility, but another suggestion is that they were using human blood as fertilizer for the 'red weed' that they were planting, a sort of terraforming, if you will. In the original book, the unnamed protagonist does manage to observe the Martians killing a man, and speculates that their way of nourishing themselves involved injecting blood from other life forms into their own veins. This possibility seems to be alluded to in the film, where people are lifted out of cages and pulled into the machine where they are presumably consumed.

Perhaps he knew he could have handled it without weapons. Looking at the scene at the docks when his car is overrun by the crowd, he seemed to be able to handle himself pretty well there. It was only because he was out-numbered that he was overcome. He could have taken Ogilvy's shotgun, but he only had one round and the whole reason he was going to kill Ogilvy was because he was making too much noise. So firing a gun wouldn't make much sense. Also there was only one round for the gun, so what if Ray had missed? Also, Ray probably didn't want Rachel to panic any more than she already was. Even with her hands covering her ears, she would have heard a gunshot. Ray wanted to avoid that.

What happened to Ogilvy?

It is assumed that Ogilvy was dead. Ray would not have felt safe going to sleep with his daughter on the couch if Ogilvy was simply knocked out. Also, Ray couldn't take the risk of being found with his daughter there because Ogilvy was making too much noise.

The reason the Army guy held on to Ray, and encouraged others to do so, when he was being sucked up inside the opening (when no one had gone to the other victim's aid) is that he saw Ray had hand grenades, and could do some damage. An alternative theory is that no one anticipated the first guy being taken. The unfortunate fellow was just pulled into the sphincter before anyone could react. When Ray's foot was grabbed, people now understood what was happening and decided to react. There's no evidence the soldier actually saw the grenades; he saw the pins later, though, and realized what happened. They knew what was going to happen to Ray and then all decided that although they don't know each other, the only way they can survive this is if they stick together and take down the aliens as one force rather than several gangs trying to conquer the aliens by themselves. They are sticking together as the more people that stay alive, the more chance they have of surviving. The army man also has a sense of authority over the civilians so the civilians feel they should help the army guy. Also, one man can be seen trying (and failing) to grab the man who gets sucked in before Ray. In another theory could be that they realize that Ray had a daughter with him and the idea of a child seeing their parent killed encouraged them to help save the father.

Maybe there was an army camp over the hill and the tripods came at them much like they did at the ferries. When people are in a panic, they tend to look to authority for help. In this case, it's the army. Then, when the tripods appear and the army is helpless, people see that and run again.

How does the movie end?

Ray and Rachel make it to Boston together on foot. Boston is covered with the red weeds, some living, some dying. The Martians seem to have been stopped, but no one knows why. They witness a tripod come crashing to the ground after being attacked by a nearby Army detachment and a door opening up to reveal a flood of red liquid followed by a dying Martian. Ray and Rachel make their way to Mary Ann's house where they are reunited with Robbie. In the final scene, the camera pans over the destroyed city, focusing on a tree bud, then a water droplet, and finally the multitude of microscopic organisms living in it. The narrator says in a voiceover: 'From the moment the invaders arrived and breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all man's weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God, in His wisdom, put upon this earth. By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms, and that right is housed against all challenges...for neither do men live nor die in vain.'

How did Robbie survive?

It's unknown. Again it was a first person point of view. We don't know any more than Ray knows and we don't see Robbie after he runs over the ridge. Maybe he hid; maybe he made it to Boston with the military unit that Ray encountered there. Many people are seen running down the hill after the explosion. Maybe Robbie survived the way they survived. It could be homage to the original book. In it, the narrator learns that the town where his wife was hiding with family has been completely destroyed. When he finally makes it there at the end, he finds that several blocks of houses have been spared from destruction, and his wife and her family are alive and well at their house. Maybe Robbie joined the army and the surviving troops took him with them when they retreated. He also could have been evacuated with the other survivors.

It is believed to be part of the environment of the inside of the tripods, that the aliens work in. This is shown in the end when the hatch opens up, and you see a large amount of the orange fluid escape, followed by the alien's arm.

The grandparents had on clean fresh clothes because they still had some in the house. It didn't look like it took all that long for the aliens to start getting sick, and dying. It was probably less than a week. You don't go totally primitive in that length of time if your house is even partially intact. That part of America hadn't been attacked as badly as the other parts so their district may not have been attacked yet therefore they were clean and tidy as they didn't have to run away. A large part of Boston, Massachusetts is on reclaimed or artificially created land. It is possible that there were no buried alien war machines near Boston so the city had not suffered as much during the attack.

Surprisingly, the concept is quite sound; assuming the shields were some form of electromagnetic shell, they would implement a premature detonation of any weapon entering its range but allow anything else to pass through; the spikes on the tripod legs and head are indeed suggestive of Electric Reactive Armour, an experimental countermeasure against anti-tank weapons. If the tripods were able to generate a large enough charge, an aura of plasma, similar to the one seen in the film would result. Another explanation is that they turned off the shields temporarily when they picked up humans, otherwise it would negate the bird-scene at the end, which indicated that the shields were offline. It's perfectly believable that the aliens, having become seriously ill because of Earth-born disease, simply didn't have the mental capacity anymore to keep the defenses of the vehicles operating properly.

The aliens were dying. They essentially had the flu, or some kind of virus they had ingested. Think about driving a car. Now picture driving it with a temperature of 105, while coughing and vomiting or suffering other symptoms of sickness like a headache or impaired vision. The only way to explain the shields being down is that the operator has already died, passed out, or doesn't have the strength or mental capacity to turn them on -- if you're sick & not thinking straight it's very easy to forget even habitual procedures. Another theory is that the tripods were bio-mechanical. The appendages looked like they may have been organic and the anus-looking thing that was pulling in Ray looked very organic. So maybe the virus/bacteria that killed the aliens had a similar effect on their equipment.

Yes. The first visual contact with the creatures occurs in Ogilvy's basement, and a dying Martian is shown in the final scenes.

It is not made clear why the aliens chose to attack at the time they did, even though it is suggested that their tripods have been buried deep in the Earth for millennia. Possible explanations include: (1) the aliens used humans as a kind of "fertilizer" once they started their invasion, (2) they may have "seeded" several, or even many, planets with the tripods many years ago. (Ogilvy's estimate of "a million years" has no real support as the tripods could have been planted here as few as 10,000 years ago) and waited until they needed a planet, (3) the tripods have been put into place by an unmanned fleet that is sent out into the universe and automatically searches for useful planets; it just took the aliens that long to come after.

There is no evidence that they did not get those diseases when they left their tripods. Most bacteria or viruses have an incubation period before the host becomes symptomatic. Just because they did not become immediately ill upon leaving their tripods does not mean that they were not exposed. Also, there's a brief moment in the basement when we see the actual aliens where one of them drinks from a leaking pipe. If a human drinks contaminated water, it takes a while before they start to become sick. The aliens were obviously a biological life form like us, but with superior technology.

Even if the aliens found out about bacteria way back when they buried the machines in the first place, bacteria are evolving all the time. The bacteria they may have (or have not) known about way back then could be very different from the bacteria present today. Even if they had vaccines against known bacteria, there would be new strains against which they would not be protected

They were watching us with telescopes, not microscopes. According to David Koepp, his intention was that the tripods were sent down in capsules as a contingency, ahead of a potential invasion force, although this is not made clear in the film itself. An important theme in the novel (and partly the movie as well) is the separation between evolution and technology. The aliens are so arrogant and over-dependant on their technological superiority that they never consider their evolutionary inferiority, i.e. they are well prepared for full frontal attacks, but defenseless against the tiniest form of attack possible.

The tripods' protective shields were down, so the birds had no problem perching on them. Birds will perch on anything, especially something high off the ground as a form of defense or protection. The tripods simply offered them another perch. In the novel, it was even hinted that the birds had started to eat the dead bodies of the invaders.

Because the Thunderchild is a British ship and this setting was placed in the USA. Besides, that bit of the novel itself is followed by the brother of the main character. This version of War of the Worlds was specifically written to exclude any other external characters and be a one-person narrative. However, there is still a boat scene very similar to the Thunderchild scene included in the film.

Was this movie a flop?

No. According to Box Office Mojo, War Of The Worlds was the 4th biggest grossing film of 2005 with a total worldwide box office of $591.7 million. Furthermore, the film scored a 73% rating on the review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that the majority of critics gave the film positive reviews.

Yes. The most well-known of the movie adaptations is The War of the Worlds (1953), but there have been several others, including War of the Worlds (1988), War of the Worlds (2005), and The War of the Worlds (2005). In addition, a TV series, 'War of the Worlds', ran from 1988-90.

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