Monday, July 25, 2005

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: War Of The Worlds

This was a little foreign film I saw the other day--Russian, judging by the opening titles--that starred Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning and was directed by Steven Spielberg. I expect it will be getting wider distribution soon.

There are three reviews you could write of this movie, really. The science fiction review, the political review, and the straight-up review.

The science fiction review: I have to laugh at this entry from the IMDB goofs page for this movie:

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: It's a special Hollywood EMP that disables only the electronic equipment that the filmmakers want it to.

That's good stuff.

You know--I'm a huge fan of the genre of book and film where a vastly more powerful group of creatures conquer another race, and the weak, inferior creatures have to defeat them.

Unfortunately, nearly all of them end with a Deus Ex Machina. It's like once Wells did it, everybody else felt like they had "permission." I'd like to see more sci-fi books and movies do an alien invasion with vastly superior aliens that actually were defeated. I'd hoped Silverberg would have done it in The Alien Years, but no, those aliens just packed up and moved out. Independence Day doesn't count either, although they get a sticker for the effort since at least some human involvement was required, even if the tools were ludicrous.

I think the old Tripods trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire) did a good job of it, and I think it shows how it has to be done. At some point you have to get the big scary aliens out of the tripods and start seeing how their society works and then exploit some weakness in it. More the stuff of a trilogy than a single film, though, so we may not see the movies do it for a while.

The Political Review: Somebody said this was supposed to be an allegory for the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq. Sounds silly, right?

Well, that somebody was actually one of the screenwriters. Talking to a Canadian horror magazine, he said the film showed how the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq are doomed to failure.

And guess what? It still sounds silly.

I don't know if he was just trying to kiss up to a foreign press, but there are clearly more ties to 9/11 in this film than there are to the Bush administration's Iraq campaign.

The ships sitting in wait, among us, without anyone knowing--that's what the terrorists did. Bush attacked from without.

The way the aliens indiscriminately destroyed anyone who got in their way--that's the terrorist's track. Bush was so confident of our troops' ability to do the job humanely and discriminatingly that he allowed scores of embedded reporters to travel with the troops, and there have been remarkably few instances that were even questionable, let alone flat-out abusive towards civilians.

There are the obvious 9/11 images as well--the posted pictures of the missing, the white ash covering Cruise after the initial appearance.

And if they truly wanted to show how difficult military occupations are, they aliens needed to try to get the humans to do something. This film showed the easiest occupation in the history of the universe--if you don't care where people run, as long as you're able to kill off a few of them and trap a few others, how can your occupation not succeed?

In other words, even if these guys intended to make any sort of message out of this movie, they muddled it up so bad that it's not there any more.

So don't worry about politics while you watch it. If they did mean anything by it, it's not really there. Just relax and have fun.

The straight-up review: Keeping all that in mind, you will have fun. It's a fun movie.

I think I understand Spielberg movies better now that I have kids myself. You don't know how scary it is to have strangers attacking a van your daughter is trapped inside until you have a daughter. A lot of the scenes that would have hit me on one level as a teenager strike a whole new chord now that I have a little bit more of a clue what that guy is feeling.

But this movie is a grown-up movie. Yeah, you do have to shut your brain off for parts of it, but the conflicts are grown-up conflicts. The main character is, ultimately, having to make the transition from adolescent to grown-up over the course of the film, and Cruise handles it well.

But I will warn you that if, like my wife, you're so sick of Tom Cruise right now that you can't stand the sight of him, his performance is not actually good enough to change your mind. So you may want to check out your own internal Cruise Tolerance Meter before you fork over the money.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

heee foreign film =)

Guess I'll be waiting to Netflix the DVD and going over to my dad's house to watch it on his big screen. Doesn't sound like it's worth the nine bucks to see it in the theatre.