Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I wrote a review:

War of the Worlds
Another cinematic shot at a literature masterpiece.


Rating: I like it a lot!

Who it’s for: People who like Tom Cruise’s buttocks, fair to good science fiction, Spielberg, and all those in favor of old school horror, you know the kind, where you’re scared by the idea and not the constant exposure to ugly things jumping out of dark places.

Who it’s not for: Enemies to the perfect religion of Scientology and all it’s un-official representatives, anyone not in the mood for some really horrific scenery, children, and if you’re not on either list, read the review to see if it helps you better decide.

Consider it a bad idea to start off a review with a side note, if you will, but this is an important fact: This movie was reviewed without having seen the original incarnation of it, or having read the book in many years, and so without any real substance to compare against, other than general knowledge of the story and theme, and so no claims are made at it being a superior or inferior work. With that said, it is a really good movie on a lot of counts.

Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is a wonderful ride, during which the viewer never leaves their Tom Cruise shaped roller coaster car through a world ravaged by war brought from another world. The forced perspective through everything brings a sharp personalization to events that are in most movies viewed almost exclusively from the point of view of people who know what is going on.

Some of the greatest chills in the movie do not have a single alien in them. The chance that there is anyone who could go unmoved by some of the genuinely frightening scenes of people’s behavior in the movie is unnerving. Scenes of man’s inhumanity to man at the heart of the story have such a deep realism to them that they are in many ways worse than the fantastical terrors from beyond. Moments like these brought this movie dangerously close to a classic, they are unforgettable, and gripping in the realism contained within them.

Genuine confusion and fear is instilled in the audience, along with very biting and sharp visuals that bring home a feeling that something very horrible has happened. This kind of honesty in a science fiction film of any kind is a rarity, but War of the Worlds has it in spades. The presence of these scenes is so palpable that in the few places where the viewer is given a moment to relax in a setting that would certainly be incredibly gory, such as a plane crash, the absence of that power is noticeable.

The reactions of any audience to the movie make each scene’s purpose incredibly clear, and from time to time the scenes that are toned down are clearly there to give the viewers an emotional break. Spielberg takes two of those scenes too far, though. Twice near the end of the film the internal reality, and rules, are broken for the sake of making the audience feel less helpless. Both scenes were done to break one of the primary themes of the film, that of human helplessness where nature itself sorts out the horrible acts that occur throughout the story.

The audience cheered, in fact, an awful lot of people will cheer, in all probability, at these two scenes. As a purist of the art of story telling and preservation of ideals within a fictional world, it was gut wrenching to watch as events which did not fit with the reality of the world were employed. Spielberg cheated to produce an outcome that made the people in the audience feel like humanity had a chance to fight the aliens through a group effort of just not letting go of pretty boy Tom’s hand. Break the theme, or break the reality, but doing both at the same time does a disservice to the film as a whole.

The second scene is less offensive, though still disgusting. There is no mistake about it that these scenes were done for the audience. It feels really awkward to be the only one in the theater feeling nauseous at what is being shown while everyone else applauds. Until these two moments, this movie felt like it was one of the real great ones that come out only once in a very long while. As it happens, War of the World makes a great ride, and there is no arguing that for what you get for the ticket price is definitely good, but dodges greatness.

Almost anyone with a strong stomach will more than likely enjoy this movie quite a bit. Spielberg’s work is compelling, and thoughtful despite his personal grandiose style from time to time, the distinct smallness that it made the audience feel was incredible and unforgettable. Though it is strange at the number of personal acquaintances who voiced that they were not inclined to see the movie due to Tom Cruise’s publicly stated politics. Odd, I bet anyone who has a public opinion or point of view suffers from this from someone or another. This just goes to show that making your opinions public is bad business. Either way, War of the Words is an awesome movie, a joy to watch, but just short of a classic for all times.
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