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War of the Worlds (2005)
In like a lion, out like a lamb.
War of the Worlds, adapted from HG Wells classic novel of the same name, starts out as an interesting semi original take on the alien attack genre with a few flaws. Dakota Fanning(Rachael) shows up for what seems like her millionth movie in about 3 days, playing Tom Cruise(Ray)'s daughter. Both Fanning and her on screen brother Robbie (Justin Chatwin)are extremely annoying in their characters which may or may not be on purpose, but either way, both come across as scripted and I never once felt involved enough to care about them because it was impossible to even pretend that they were real their dialog was so wooden. This, and a few other flaws (why the hell did that camera still work?) are relatively minor and I was still able to enjoy what was on screen. I thought the concept used, the migrations and evacuee scenes or confusion and disorder were very interesting. It's display of panic and chaos serves as a perfect companion to 'Signs' (which was a much better film overall) which took the micro approach of one family isolated in their basement over the macro approach here.
Thats about as far as I can go with praise. The first 2/3s were OK, and at least interesting, the last third was utter rubbish. Spielberg has made some pretty good films, though I wouldn't consider many of them at all to be overly intelligent rather than Hollywood extravaganzas, with some exceptions of course (my personal Spielberg favorite is Empire of the Sun). I consider him a good director...but I think he is overrated. Some filmmakers you know are going to deliver something at the very least good to you every time: Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, Robert Altman, Scorcese, Wenders, etc)unfortunately Spielberg is, to me, not one of those directors. I initially had high hopes after seeing the teaser trailer, but the more i learned about the direction the film would go the less my expectations were. Unfortunately, the film wasn't able to even meet with my lowered expectations. We're given nothing more than a summer blockbuster filled with stupidity, ambiguity, tons of plot holes, and such unrealistic situations and reactions that we should be able to ignore, because it is after all a movie, but are unable to overcome. There is the seemingly pointless death of Tim Robbins' character (Cruise and Fanning are making a lot of noise throughout these scenes as well. Robbins has quieted down by this point) and the clichéd 'I thought you died in that massive explosion/inescapable situation' but here you are at the finishing line anyway without any explanation of how you defied physics and all logic' cop out. The son, Robbie, and his actions and motives are clear, yet unclear at the same time- not to mentioned overly clichéd as well. So many things in this movie so obviously don't make sense that it was impossible for me to look back at it and say that it was worth it. If you want to pay, watch the first 2/3's, then hit the road you'll be satisfied with your transaction. It won't matter that you didn't' see the ending, because if you did you would not be satisfied. You're better off reading the last half of Wells' novel (infact you're much better off reading the book and avoiding the movie altogether).
'War of the Worlds' comes in like an lion (an injured one-still has some bite in him) but closes out like a lamb- the final product is weak and very, very flawed- but if you're out there just looking for some dumb action and fun, you'll enjoy it. Myself, I'm not just looking for such films: If i want to see dumb, mindless action, I'll turn on my TV and see it for free. The only thing that saves this movie from getting a failing grade is the decent first two thirds.