Steven Spielberg’s big budget remake of War of the Worlds begins in what is becoming the most stereotypically cool way to open a movie; Morgan Freeman’s voice. He doesn’t actually show up in the movie, just his voice. It’s like they took a pre-existing audio version of H.G. Wells novel as read by Morgan Freeman (I don’t know if this actually exists but it would be incredible if it did) and just slapped it over the soundtrack of the beginning and end of this movie. It always struck me as kind of off, eve when I saw it in the theater eight years ago.
After this, the movie follows dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) as he’s about to spend the weekend with his somewhat estranged kids. Disaster strikes in the form of an alien invasion and the three must band together in order to face the apocalypse and hopefully come out alive. The destruction sequences are impressive and Tom Cruise’s performance is up to his standard quality, but the whole thing feels a little light on actual substance.
As this movie came out three years after M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, I always saw this movie as merely capitalizing on that film’s success with Tom Cruise and a considerable amount of more destruction. Sure, I was familiar with the 1953 film (it was corny fun at the time but I haven’t revisited that one since I was younger), but it just felt like some more violent offshoot in the context of the year it was made. It goes off on a less pseudo-spiritual tangent that Signs so heavily delves in throughout its running time and just focuses on Ray Ferrier and his two kids (played by Justin Chatwin and Dakota Fanning) surviving. Speaking of the two kids, they aren’t given much to do in this movie. The son acts like a jerk towards his Dad every chance he gets. Dakota Fanning is good with what she has to work with, which is essentially screaming and/or acting scared.
The movie slides somewhere in the middle of Spielberg’s oeuvre over the course of the last 15 years, especially when it comes to his recent installments in the Science-Fiction/Action/Adventure genre. It fits smack dab in the middle between what I consider to be the practically perfect Minority Report and perhaps the most underwhelming movie of all time, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (The Phantom Menace is just disappointing, not underwhelming, big difference). It’s not a bad movie, but it’s easy to see why not a lot of people seem to talk about it anymore.
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