War of the Worlds

I’ve always liked Tom Cruise. I’ve always felt that he was a terrific actor, capable of putting on a good performance in any role he’s been given. He’s constantly impressed me, even as his personal life kept my jaw on the floor. Outside of his “work”, I think he’s a bit of a fruitcake, but as far as his acting abilities he’s always been up there as a highly bankable AND talented star. There’s plenty of movie actors that are pretty to look at but that’s all they’ve got going for them. I’ve always felt that Tom Cruise had it all. He’s a good looking guy who can increase the box office mojo of anything he stars in AND he’s able to pull off the drama as well.

Why did I say all of that? I think it would have to be because the performance he gave in War of the Worlds was a bit lacking, in my opinion. Honestly, I don’t know what he could have changed but it didn’t seem to be the Tom Cruise I’ve seen in the past. Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a working-stiff who is given his two kids for the weekend. Cruise’s Ray is shown as an inept and uncaring father. He gives it his best shot (wanna play catch in the backyard Junior?) but ultimately seems encumbered by his two children’s visit. What initially appears to be a lightning storm is what begins to bring them together. Ray’s trip to the area that has been struck by lightning results in the disaster beginning. A tripod rises from beneath the ground and begins vaporizing all people in the area. Ray races around for a few minutes, appearing to have completely forgotten the two children back at his apartment, and then races home, entering the apartment in a catatonic state. Grabbing his two children and saying nothing more than “we’re leaving this apartment in 60 seconds”, his cryptic warnings frustrate his kids who barrage him with “what’s going on?” questions.

After hijacking a newly repaired minivan (all the vehicles and electronics got fried during the electrical storm), Robbie, Rachel, and Ray drive towards Boston, hoping to meet up with Ray’s ex-wife and the children’s mother.

The paranoia of the surrounding people along their journey was presented very well, I think. In a situation involving laser firing tripods, I imagine that chaos would reign supreme. The movie does a good job of giving the sense of impending doom; there is nowhere to go, nowhere to hide from these otherworldly beings who are orchestrating an extermination of our species.

One of my favorite actresses is Dakota Fanning. I can’t lump her into the “child actress” category because I think that would patronize the work she’s done so far. The girl is amazing. She has done an amazing job in everything I’ve seen her in. She seems to possess a good head about her. The emotions she gives off thru her character seem real and not forced. Something about most child actors is that they don’t seem capable of anything deeper and dramatic than “sit there and say cute things”. Miss Fanning is so much further along than that, in my eyes. She’s awesome. When she cries and screams in the movie, she gets the audience worked up (at least the one I was in, anyway). She plays off of Cruise very well.

The son was a bit different. He was a good enough actor but there were some pretty obvious questions at the end of the film. One might be, HOW IN THE CRAP DID HE MAKE IT BOSTON AFTER WE WERE LED TO BELIEVE THAT HE, ALONG WITH THE REST OF THE HILL HE WAS ON, WAS INCINERATED?????? What the junk was that???? I will give kudos to the son (or actually the screenwriters!) for his line when discussing the aliens. It was pretty funny when Ray says “they weren’t from around here” and Robby says “were they from Europe?” He he he. I also thought, in the same scene, it was interesting where Rachel keeps asking “was that the terrorists???” I guess we’ve gotten back to the point now where terrorism is more of an abstract issue than during the immediate following of September 11th’s tragedies. For awhile there, everybody was all about terrorism and now the fervor seems to have tapered off again and we’re left with the abstract blame-it-all-on-terrorism mentality. Hmmm.

There is a brief few minutes where Tim Robbins makes an appearance as Ogilvy. His character was a paranoid gun-toting creep. Other than his paranoia (who wouldn’t be paranoid in the situation?), I’m not sure why Ray holds such disdain for him. For instance, the scene where Ogilvy tells Rachel “I’ll take care of you” gets Ray riled up. I’d like to think it’s because Ray is taking the reins of fatherhood and realizing that he needs to step up to the plate, but I got a little child molester vibe off of the way Ogilvy said it and Ray’s subsequent reaction. I dunno, maybe it’s just me.

In another “what the ????” moment, how about the scene where Ray is sucked into the “belly of the beast” and gets miraculously grabbed by a soldier and pulled back OUT of the alien’s tube-thing? Why did Ray get pulled out but all the previous victims did NOT? I guess it’s because it was Tom Cruise and that’s it. That scene was a bit goofy, in my opinion.

For a PG-13 rating, the film was pretty tense in several spots, surprisingly. I guess since there wasn’t much in the way of blood it could slide by as a PG-13 film. There WAS plenty of death, just not necessarily blood flying all around. Also, there is a scene between Ray and Ogilvy that would have probably brought an R rating if there would have been more to it but oh well.

One of my coworkers/buddies, WillMC, and I had discussed how the adaptation would be considering the story was written originally in the 19th century. The biggest fear, between the two of us, was the ending. Would they use bacteria and viruses to end the aliens’ reign of terror? Or would they update it to be a computer virus, a la Independence Day? In the defense of the movie, I believed that Spielberg and Koepp would pull it off somehow without becoming too cheesy. I think that overall they did. What was funny was as we were walking out of the theater, two younger guys behind me said “They died ‘cause they breathed our AIR? How GAAAAAYYYY is that???” Obviously, they didn’t realize the the original story this was based on. Oh well, guess you can’t win ‘em all.

I was only going to give this one 3 stars out of 5 but as I was writing this review I realized that I may have liked it more now than I did last night. The effects were f-in amazing and Dakota Fanning is ALWAYS f-in amazing so I’m knocking it up to 4 stars. But that’s just MY opinion.


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