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What Spielberg, Cruise, and Koepp accomplish here in the first two acts
is nothing short of revolutionary. They've made a big-budget summer
blockbuster about massive destruction and action that manages to
studiously avoid every cliché and expectation of such films. It stays
resolutely on the characters' points of view, showing us almost nothing
they don't see, even to the point of coming tantalizingly close to a
raging battle, then avoiding showing it. It keeps its focus on
character instead of spectacle. The "hero" of the piece remains
decidedly unheroic, wanting only to escape, and trying to talk others
out of fighting back. The purpose of every piece of action is to
frighten and disturb rather than thrill, making ingenious use of
familiar 9/11 imagery. At the end of the second act, it is hands-down
the best alien invasion film ever made, and perhaps one of the best
sci-films of all time.
Then something strange happens. The filmmakers lose their nerve, and remember that this is an extremely expensive summer film financed by two studios. Or perhaps it was the fact that it stars Tom Cruise, who up to this point has spent almost two hours doing nothing but run for his life. Suddenly, and tragically, the film changes, violating not only its carefully established tone, but its own internal logic. Suddenly, Cruise begins to act like a hero, and summer action clichés force their way into the story like a worm into an apple. The transition is jarring, and it creates a serious disconnect from the story.
While it's true that Wells' original ending creates a problem for a movie, here they try to remain faithful to it, while still shoehorning moments of triumph into the conclusion. Unfortunately, these moments come off as alternately false, unbelievable, and meaningless, since it isn't mankind that defeats the invaders in the end.
Is it recommendable? Well, I suppose that depends on what kind of viewer you are. If you feel that 75% brilliant material overshadows the 25% that falls apart, then you'll enjoy it. If, however, you're the kind of viewer who feels that the final impression a movie makes is its ultimate stamp on your memory, you may be in for a crushing disappointment. On the other hand, if you're the kind of viewer who just likes the cliché of the boom-boom summer action spectacle, you're likely to be bored and frustrated with the first two acts, and only engage in the end. It is confused about what audience it's trying to reach, and consequently, isn't likely to satisfy any of them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the screening, some people cheered and clapped, others sat in
disgust and laughed. I felt cheated. Spielberg was not even playing
within his own rules. When the attack begins, every piece of electronic
equipment stops working. There is even a nice shot of Tom Cruise's
watch, stopped, of course. However, moments later when the Tripod rises
from the earth, people are snapping pictures on digital cameras and one
person is videotaping everything on a camcorder.
The movie does have some great effects but the storyline is seriously lacking. The part of the movie that left me feeling cheated is the end. We have just seen the destruction of millions of humans, but Cruise is able to make it to Boston, a large city, where the streets are deserted. We focus in on a row of Brownstones where a single family emerges. The family looks as if they are about to go to a wedding. Everyone is clean, well dressed, and Tom Cruise's ex-mother-in-law looks like she just had a manicure. We are supposed to believe that after this horrible attack, this one family is unscathed and reunited in a major city? Don't be ridiculous. I hoped this movie would be a blockbuster. Something to make me believe Hollywood is generating creative, and innovative stories to take me away from reality for a couple of hours. This movie was a serious disappointment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
just how badly Spielberg was going to screw this up.
A few thoughts:
If a town centre cracked open in broad daylight, revealing a 500ft metal flower of death, you'd know about it a mile away. However, when Cruise and his appallingly unsympathetic kids (including the interminably shrieking girl-woman that is known as Dakota Fanning, who surely slid straight from the birth canal clutching an agent) flee to the 'burbs, it's as if the news hasn't filtered through, with by-standers milling about doing nothing much of anything.
Imagine a lightning storm ripping through Clapham, followed by an immense metal tripod, vaporising everything in its path. (No clothes, mind just the people inside them. Perhaps these aliens are after our laundry. Actually, there's a Woody Allen routine about that, and it makes a lot more sense.) Imagine the noise. The smell. Were you in Balham, you'd know about it. Worlds would have us believe you wouldn't lift an eyebrow. Simply, when Cruise and co aren't in immediate shot, these tripods don't appear to exist. The only reason we know they do, is because a TV crew has a video a VHS! of them eating up some buildings somewhere else. Europe, apparently, has already been mostly decimated. Well, how incredibly lucky that massive landmass called the United States merely suffered a flesh wound in Boston. Although Europe, admittedly, is the subject of the movie's one decent joke.
Worse is to come: a pinch of Cameron here, a steal of Bruckheimer there, this is one of the most derivative movies yet - albeit one with obvious stage sets and pound-shop CGI. It's as if Spielberg has sunk down under the weight of so much shoulder perching, and has been reduced to foraging for ideas in the mud. The aliens, when they finally emerge from their tripods, are duffers: neither scary, not convincing while their reconnaissance 'tendril' sports a couple of plastic reflectors that wouldn't look out of place on a mountain bike.
On that note, the one effort to bamboozle the uni-eyed tendril is laughable too: they place a mirror in its way. Surely something of this power and capacity isn't going to fooled by a bunch of reconstituted silica? The acting, as you'd expect, is uniformly awful Cruise (who specialises in playing gormless obnoxious assholes) is especially bad his two facial expressions wavering from "shock" to "delayed shock" at inopportune moments.
The pacing's terrible it just suddenly ends, bang. The aliens catch colds and die. Film over. And most surprisingly in a Spielberg flick, there's no emotional clout here at one point, the elder son begs his dad to let him go and see the front-line military action not to join them in the fighting, just to have a gawp. "If you love me, you'll let me go" he says. It's supposed to be one of the Big Emotional Highpoints, but just comes across as a surly teenager (who hitherto was not surly) throwing a tantrum because he wants a better view of the fireworks.
The final shot of Ray delivering the kids back to mum and new boyfriend (in a bizarrely peaceful and untouched street) may as well be the culmination of having successfully delivered them home from a particularly lengthy snarl-up round the one-way gyratory system.
There's not one sympathetic character in the entire film, and by the end of the movie Ray's still an a**hole. No redemption, no lessons learned other than aliens should carry a packet of fisherman's friends with them before they set out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having never seen the original, my point of view is going to be based
on the movie itself, not its history. And my negative review is in no
way tarnished by Cruise's strange behavior. Cruise and Jacko are
probably brothers separated at birth but don't know it, but that's
I'm not sure who's to blame for this movie. Perhaps Spielberg had too many yes-men around him (or yes-women, let's be inclusive here). Perhaps the original WOTW is a lot like this and Spielberg liked it so much, this was meant to be his tribute. Whatever. This one stinks. Tributes shouldn't stink.
This movie had potential (and lotsa hype) but was utterly ruined by the "I'm-a-bad-father" subplot that the movie kept diverting to all throughout the film. Spielberg poured on the syrup at these points and it really did make me roll my eyes after awhile. The scene on the hill where the brother, for reasons that were not at all explained, just -had- to see what was going on on the other side of the hill actually made me squirm. His line about "if you love me you'll let me go" was straight out of the cornfields. Awful.
Dakota did a decent job but this certainly pales in comparison to other movies I've seen her in, like Man on Fire. As usual, Dakota and her brother play the smart-ass kids to the inept father. Never seen that before, have we Steve? Turn on the TV and there's hundreds of shows with characters like that already on.
Don't get me started on the basement scene. Completely unnecessary and went on WAY too long. The bit with the proboscis was just completely silly. Spielberg's version of horror/suspense I guess. One minute the aliens are out there tilling up the earth on a global scale with a horrific ferocity, the next minute they send this little wormy proboscis thing down into the basement to ever-so-gently poke around. Ooh, be careful, don't touch anything! Not to mention Farmer Ted thinking he's going to kill these things with a SHOTGUN of all things. Tim Robbins never could do scenes well with high levels of emotion, and he does it again here. Anytime he has to show intense emotion, the corners of his mouth curl down in a frown and that's as far as it goes. Like clockwork.
When the ship starts to come out of the ground, and even after it has come completely out of the ground, the people around it largely stay in the same spot and are STANDING THERE STARING AT IT. A three-legged behemoth... just came out of the ground from nowhere... 200+ feet tall with arms for days... and these geniuses are standing around waiting to see what it will do next? Only when it starts putting the smack down on everyone do they seem to give up any hope that it's E.T. and start to run away. Did they expect some sort of welcoming party instead?
The idea that thousands of those things, as huge as they are, could lie dormant under the ground without being detected. To accept that you would have to perform far more than suspension of disbelief and go straight for the alternate universe explanation. Pure laziness if you ask me, like Spielberg didn't give a damn about providing a plausible background for these creatures.
Lots and lots of little events that dead-end into nowhere. The friends who miss the boat. Who are they? Why should we care that they didn't make it? The reporters who are scrounging around for scraps of food as though they haven't eaten in weeks when the aliens just showed up LESS THAN A DAY AGO. We care that her sidekick is deaf why? The airplane. Why is it such a huge deal that one has crashed? Their minivan must have a protective shield of its own because the neighborhood-razing plane didn't put a scratch on their getaway car. Oh look! There's a neat little path for them to drive the minivan out of this mess.
For a bunch of alien invaders, talk about poor planning.... They sent waves of tripods to select locations and no ships to other locations, thereby offering people a place to run away to. And if they've "been watching us" for so long, wouldn't they have figured out beforehand that there are things on our planet that will kill them? Apparently not. They're smart enough to build these monstrous craft but not smart enough to build leak-free suits (or any suits for that matter) in case there's some icky bugs that might kill them? Brilliant!
Ah anyway, I'd like my money back please. What a stinker! Spielberg blew it with this one by once again making the meat and potatoes of the film take a back seat to some sort of dysfunctional family crisis resolution. If Cruise had been the only main character, if his character had been more of a hero-type, if they'd thrown out the whole family bit, this would've been a lot better. But they didn't.
Did Steve just give up on this movie at one point and say to hell with it, this movie's too far gone to achieve redemption? It certainly looks that way. This film doesn't even look like a finished product. This looks like a whole bunch of plots thrown together before a good editor comes along and puts together a cohesive film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
James Cameron and Stephen Spielberg famously ushered forward the CGI
revolution in the early 90's with films like "Terminator 2" and
"Jurassic Park". They set a trend, and since the late 90's we've been
hit with one CGI adventure movie after the other.
But Spielberg had his fun with his CGI dinosaurs, and soon moved on. While lesser directors scrambled onto the CGI bandwagon, churning out soulless nonsense like "Resident Evil" and "Tomb Raider", Spielberg changed gears and directed "Saving Private Ryan", "Minority Report", "The Terminal", "AI" etc. Argue about the quality of those movies all you want, but what I'm trying to get at is that this guy tries his best to stay ahead of the game. Ahead of the trends.
"Saving Private Ryan" broke new ground. I think it's a bad film, but nevertheless, it now serves as a template for all future war movies. Look at "Black Hawk Down". Can you imagine it shot with the static feel of, say, "Platoon"?
So here we have "War of the Worlds", and again we see Spielberg developing a new "eye". And that is what fascinates me most about this film. The camera stays fixed on Cruise and his family. We catch fleeting glimpses of the alien invaders and their war machines. The destruction and special effects whir by in the background, ominous and looming but never dominating the screen.
Spielberg's camera is always running away, frantic, afraid to look at the destruction, panning away from the effects, terrified! And what's terrific is that this new eye suits the story.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before a director decided to consciously play down special effects for dramatic purposes. Spielberg treats his CGI as though it isn't special. It doesn't hog the limelight. Instead we catch fleeting glimpses, too scared to look at the horror. Of course this filming style is not new. But like "Ryan", no other movie has ever used this technique from start to finish with such intensity.
Aisde from this "eye", the movie is actually pretty standard. Instead of children hiding from Raptors in cupboards, we have Cruise hiding from invaders in basements. Spielberg handles the tension well, but its all stuff you've seen him and others do before.
Like "Jurassic Park", the human drama is slight and the characters are never believable, but this is a popcorn movie and so we don't demand such things. That Spielberg quickly sketches relatively three dimensional characters in such brisk time is admirable. And of course there are numerous iconic set pieces. The night sequences in particular have a nightmarish quality and the first hour is very engaging.
The film's big flaw, however, is it's final act. Tom Cruise battles a Tripod in silly a 1 on 1 showdown, before the plot slowly fizzles into nothingness. Spielberg also misfires by choosing to show the alien invaders. His aliens are unimaginative and badly designed. But what do you expect? Here's the guy who couldn't resist showing us inside the UFO in "Close Encounters". Sometimes too much imagination denotes a lack of imagination.
The choice to "show" so much during the last act also goes against the aesthetic rules of the film. Early in the film, Robby runs up a hill yelling that he "wants to see!" the battle on the other side. "I need to see this!" he screams. His father holds him down and says "I know it seems like you have to see this, but you don't!" Meanwhile all around them, extras run about chanting "turn around!". Spielberg acknowledges that his camera is always "turned around", running from the creatures. The irony is that Spielberg, like Robby, isn't strong enough to hold himself back. By the final act, he loses strength and undoes all the brilliance he set up.
Still, the camera work here is worthy of De Palma. I suspect within the next few years, everybody will be copying the style of this film. It will be interesting to see how Spielberg chooses to shoot his next movie.
8/10 - Worth multiple viewings. Despite it's flaws, this is excellent popcorn fun. In the wake of 9/11 the film can also be read as another propagandistic Spielberg movie, America under attack by technologically advanced "sleeper cell terrorists" buried within the homeland and waiting to strike. Thank God Spielberg didn't put beards on his aliens.
Note: People complain that the "red blood" sets at the end of the film are fake, but this is a homage to Menzies' expressionistic work on "Invaders from Mars". Those who hate the fact that Cruise's son lives, should see "The Mist", Frank Darabond's brilliant re-imagining of Spielberg's film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spielberg! Tom Cruise!! A tried-and-true sci-fi classic by H. G. Wells!!! Together they should add up to a great summer popcorn movie, but here's how to squander a golden opportunity by making all the wrong choices: Make sure there isn't a single sympathetic human character in the entire film, so that we'll be sure to root for the Martians (or whatever they are). Make your central family so quarrelsome, incurious, irrational, and just plain annoying that we long to escape from their company -- and then force us to spend the entire movie seeing all the events through their eyes. Let Tom Cruise bicker with his teenage son in a tedious sitcom way while civilization is crumbling around them and hundreds of people are being vaporized. Encourage Dakota Fanning to scream, scream, scream throughout the entire film so that we can savor the joy of having a little kid screaming shrilly in our ears. Take a heart-meltingly beautiful actress like Miranda Otto and make her pregnant so that she looks pudgy and matronly -- and since she's the Mother Figure, don't give her anything interesting to do. Have human beings -- who might be expected to scatter and flee at giant killer tripods -- crowd together and gaze up at these lethal 200-foot-tall machines with a dumb awestruck wonder approaching zombiehood (even a herd of sheep would display more survival skills). In particular, at the first sight of the first alien war machine thrusting up from the pavement somewhere in Queens, NY, have your multiethnic crowds assemble around the widening hole just inches from the edge and peer inside, even as the sidewalk begins to crack and buildings around them fall to pieces. Give the hero a Quest, a Goal, that's really dumb and just this side of pointless -- in this case, somehow getting himself and his two kids from NYC to Boston, where his ex-wife is -- but don't reveal how he manages, improbably, to get there, and don't let us know why he assumes she (or anyone in Boston, for that matter) would still be alive. Don't give any other human beings any direction or motivation at all, but instead just show them shuffling like refugees down roads, bound God knows where, or fleeing together in a panic -- for no logical reason -- onto a ferry boat which has no chance of getting away and no particular safe place to go. Wherever humans are, have them congregate in groups so that the lethal tripods can pick them off and slaughter them more easily. Have the motivation and intentions of the aliens themselves remain thoroughly obscure: At first, when they presumably want to rid the earth of mankind, don't have them use poison gas (as I seem to recall Wells did), but instead let them content themselves with firing death rays, like target practice, at individual fleeing humans -- the most inefficient method of extermination imaginable. Then, midway through, suggest that -- for no particular reason -- the aliens are vampires who seek human blood. When all of metropolitan New York, or perhaps the whole East Coast, is plunged in a blackout, have the hero and his family reach an unnamed suburb at nighttime where, miraculously, the one house they're seeking is flooded with light: the only house on the street, standing empty but with every light inexplicably burning (and no other humans around to investigate). Have the hero be a derrick operator and presumably something of a technical expert, but don't use any of his expertise during the course of the story. While the eponymous War is raging, don't use the benefits of modern computer graphics to show us what's interesting (such as a battle between the Air Force and the aliens); keep the action for what seems a quarter of the film confined to a couple of basements, so that, claustrophobically, we feel as if we're watching a low-budget three-person stage play with all the action going on -- unseen -- outside the windows. Whenever possible show humans screaming, despairing, panicking, and fighting among themselves -- never cooperating or displaying any ingenuity. Take the one potentially interesting, sympathetic character (Tim Robbins), the one character who has a dream, however crackbrained, of resistance to the invaders, and quickly turn him into a loony that will engage Cruise in a fight to the death. When, in the time-tested Spielberg manner, you have the Family Reunited At The End, stage the scene in such a hokey, amateurish, improbable way that the audience around me laughed derisively.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just saw a sneak of War of the Worlds. It surprises me how a collection
of so much talent can make a product so, I'm sorry to say, bland. Yes,
it has good points. The war machines are impressive, the destruction
sequences (what there are of them) are awesome, and the special effects
in general are incredible. But this is what we've come to expect in a
Spielberg film. A movie needs more than cool special effects... we
learned that way back with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The first part of the film takes great care with the character development of the Tom Cruse character and his children. But they don't really grow at all throughout the rest of the film! There is an old question to ask... do we care about these characters? I, for one, didn't. The story plods along, spending a lot of time showing people running, people hiding, people running, hiding, and occasionally shows an alien war machine (no mention at all of Mars in the entire film)doing something. Many of us fans were excited that the film would make use of the Martian "Red Weed" which the aliens plant on Earth to make it more like their home. Well, the weed is there, but that's about it. It's there for a few scenes. And the aliens... personally I think it would have been far better to leave them out of the film entirely. In the original film we only caught fleeting glimpses of the creatures. In this one, we see them walking around, looking at photographs, playing with a bicycle, in all their CGI glory. Unfortunately, they look too much like a cross between their machines and the aliens from Independence Day for my taste. By the end of the movie, I was surprised to see that it ran less than two hours. It seemed like three!
A real problem is that the film tries to play the story of the invasion a lot like "Signs" did so well a few years ago. Tell the story from the POV of the average Joe. Trouble is that this average Joe is so average that even when he runs from the aliens and sees them doing horrible things, it comes across almost dull.
There are several tips-of-the-hat to the original George Pal film from 1953, including cameo's by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. But it just doesn't grab me. Someone asked me, on the way out of the theater, if I'd go see it again, or buy it on DVD. I answered no to both.
I hate to say just how disappointed I am in this film. I really, REALLY wanted to like it. The afore mentioned Independence Day, itself a remake of War of the Worlds, was a film that I also disliked, for many of the same reasons. Yet I found myself liking that film a little more than this one. Give me the old George Pal film, or even a few episodes of the television series, over this film any day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's face it - Hollywood blockbusters are usually bloated and soulless
disappointments. We keep going along in the hope that we'll see
something worth seeing. Well this is one of those rare occasions when
our persistence pays off. By most rationale judgements 'War of the
Worlds' is superior entertainment. It is also a remarkably faithful
adaptation of Well's novel, which after the Spielberg-produced 'Time
Machine' of a few years back was a major concern. Some reviewers have
accused the film of a stereotypical happy Hollywood ending; they
obviously don't know the source, it is in fact very faithful. The
homages to the 1953 film are appropriate and touching without being
This dark and realistic film convinces that this is what it could be like if we were indeed invaded by extraterrestrials. There are several scenes this viewer found disturbing including a confronting event witnessed from a diner. As mentioned elsewhere references to 9/11 and the Holocaust abound. At one point as Cruise witnesses the feeding of the invaders he examines and wipes his hands in an echo of Schindler's response to the ash belched from the Nazi death camps.
Despite this and because of it's direct storytelling, Spielberg's film succeeds at being a lot of fun to watch, much like the 50's sci-fi movies that it at times so successfully tributes.
The performances are of a high calibre with Dakota Fanning being the stand out. Some complain about her evident neediness throughout the film, which they find annoying. It's difficult to imagine how anyone, particularly a child, could not be needy under such circumstances.
Tom Cruise's portrayal is something of a revelation displaying vulnerability refreshing in this genre. Compared to say Mel Gibson's character in the similarly premised 'Signs', Cruise's character displays considerably more human frailty, convincingly breaking down on several occasions. His performance is more than competent despite assertions to the contrary by some who seem to be more concerned by his off-screen behaviour and persona.
Despite these character strengths it is the war machines themselves that impress most. They are truly formidable. Their design, walking gait and especially the heat ray are very effective. Here I must defend the heat ray, which others have criticised as a very inefficient method of genocide. True enough, though I doubt many would find thousands dying from gas or infection particularly 'entertaining'. Wells agreed. His invaders used a form of gas but the heat ray was his Martians' weapon-of-choice.
This said the film is not without its shortcomings. Primary among these is the appearance of the alien which to this viewer is spookily similar to another recent alien invasion flick. Spielberg and others associated with the production must have been aware of this similarity. Other than homage, it's difficult to explain the resemblance.
I also agree with others who have said it may have been better to keep the invaders more obscure. Wells was vague in his descriptions knowing that allusions to the hideous was more frightening. Once again however, the director would have been criticised had he not clearly shown the beasties.
The ending mentioned earlier does seem a little rushed. I feel it would have been better if there had been a slower growth in awareness of the invader's predicament. This is where the film may once again have done better staying closer to the novel. Descriptions of Well's dying Martians calling to one another across a deserted London are haunting.
However considering the total achievement of this film these are minor carps. War of the Worlds requires a suspension of disbelief typical of fantasy film. What is does not require, necessary for so many summer blockbusters, is a suspension of critical judgment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is directed as an Action-Adventure rather than as a
Horror-thriller. If only it had been directed by the Steven Spielberg
who directed Jaws, or by the Ridley Scott who directed Alien. Instead,
Spielberg has made forgettable junk, cobbled together too quickly, with
far too little imagination. Apart from a decent enough alien fighting
machine, this was an artless pastiche of many superior versions of this
overused story. If you are not going to re-imagine a story, why bother
telling it? This screenplay was barely written at all, it feels like it
was jammed together over a couple of conference call story meetings.
The people were either uninteresting (Tom Cruise) or poorly played (Tim Robbins). Dramatic set pieces such as the alien probe searching for humans in the basement have been done better in other movies. In this case, the basement scene had no real dramatic tension and it played interminably. Tom Cruise's character's decision on how to deal with Tim Robbin's character might have been believable if it had been sudden and impulsive but instead the lead up to it was needlessly drawn out and ridiculously sentimentalized at the same time.
The burning train praised by so many critics was to me a wasted sequence - it appeared almost like a bunch of people on screen stopped to watch a short film of a burning train racing past. How much better if they had been waiting to be rescued by that train and then saw it coming and had to run to escape before it crashed burning into the train station. Yes, that is stolen from Day of the Triffids but so much else about this patched together script was stolen, they might as well have stolen that, too. Then, in panicked desperation, people doing something as irrational as getting on board a slow-moving ferry would have been almost believable.
I give this a 1/10 because Steven Spielberg has said that he has the power to make any movie he wishes. In that case, there is no excuse for this one not being a classic.
"War of the Worlds" is Steven Spielberg's third movie in which
extraterrestrials visit Earth, but the first in which their intentions
are malevolent. It can't be coincidence that the arrival of the ETs is
heralded with eerie lights flashing amid lowering clouds, as in "CE3K."
From there, the similarity ends--no light show as friendly aliens come
in for a closer look. These creatures (presumably Martians, as in the
original H.G. Wells novel) aren't interested in making nice; nor is
there any ambiguity about their ultimate objective (as there was for
much of "CE3K"). They're here to wipe us off the face of the planet,
plain and simple, a point we understand before the movie has played for
even half an hour, and the giant walking tripods they deploy are
remorselessly efficient. So, too, is the movie--at scaring the hell out
of us, notwithstanding some gaping plot holes (what's up with that
camcorder, anyway?) and a couple of sequences that are too reminiscent
of other movies (particularly "Independence Day" and Spielberg's own
That Spielberg uses imagery alluding to 9/11, the Holocaust, and perhaps the siege of London during World War II is, for me, less an exploitation than a reflection of how seriously he intends the audience to take the on screen mayhem. The atmosphere is heavy with threat, and the depiction of a populace numb with shock amid the devastation is chillingly convincing, despite a few moments of Hollywood cheese. We don't have Will Smith delivering snappy one-liners right after millions are massacred by the invading alien forces, a la "ID4." Nor is there much of a rah-rah, let's-kick-some-alien-ass mood as the outmatched Earthlings try fighting back. Even the ostensible protagonist (a low-key, effective Tom Cruise) crumples at one point under the enormity of what's happening.
I'm not really sure what the posters who complained of insufficient action and FX were talking about. Seems to me the tripods were pretty much a constant presence (if not always in the foreground) from about the 15-minute mark onward. And in fact the "war" of the title is waged from the beginning--it's just not on the level of humans vs. aliens combat that some viewers apparently were expecting.
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