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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » War Of The Worlds
War Of The Worlds
Paramount // PG-13 // June 29, 2005
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted July 3, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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They're not from around here…

They're from Europe?!

Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly one of our greatest living filmmakers, but in the past several years his movies seem to have taken a much more serious, less "fun" tone than those films that wowed our imaginations when we were kids. The thrills of Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Jurassic Park have been replaced by more somber pieces of entertainment like A.I. and Minority Report. But the "old" Spielberg is back for War Of The Worlds, a rip-roaring piece of summer entertainment that reminds us what summer "popcorn flicks" are supposed to be all about.

Tom Cruise stars as Ray Ferrier, a divorced father of two (played by Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin) living in New Jersey who is more than just an absentee dad to his kids, he's pretty much a total jerk to all those around him. Watching his son and daughter for the weekend as his ex-wife and her new husband head off to Boston, Ray seems more interested in himself than trying to communicate with his children.

Early in the film, the viewers get bits and pieces from newscasts on TV that strange lightning is wreaking havoc on cities across the world. Then the odd lightning reaches Ray's town and all electronic or battery-run equipment suddenly stops. Heading into town, Ray joins hundreds of other curious citizens, who have located the spot of one of the many lightning strikes. The ground begins to tremble, crack and bubble up…and what emerges is our first glimpse of one of the alien vessels. This, as they say, is where the fun begins.

Spielberg's movie tells the entire story from Ray's point of view – which means the audience knows no more or less than Ray does at any given time. So those looking for answers as to what the aliens want and why they are doing what they are doing are going to be very frustrated watching this version of War Of The Worlds. For those types of viewers, the conclusion to the movie is only going to cause more frustration…because while we do find out how the aliens are defeated (and I hope I didn't give anything away by stating that they are defeated), we are never quite given the answers to why exactly what defeated them did it, and why the aliens didn't see it coming.

But I don't think Spielberg was as interested in the what, why and how of the aliens background as nearly as he was interested in showing viewers the affects of a worldwide catastrophe on humans and the human condition. How it brings out the best and the worst in us, and how it can bring families together and gets us to see what is really important in life.

Cruise gives a strong performance here, which is even stronger when you consider he is by no means a "hero" in this piece. He spends most of the film running, hiding and scared to death – and his one moment of heroism (which comes late in the movie) actually seems more the result of screenplay tinkering than something that is true to the character he is playing.

Under closer scrutiny, there are a lot of unanswered questions in War Of The Worlds, which I'm guessing are going to lead to a lot of movie-goers (especially the ones who hang out on forums like this one!) picking apart the problems with this film upon second and third viewings. But for those who just like good, old-fashioned, by-the-seat-of-your-pants thrill rides, War Of The Worlds is the best movie we've seen so far this summer…and the best Spielberg flick we've seen in years.
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