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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

War of the Worlds (2005)


“Stop using your technology now!”, he types on his laptop.

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary, blue-collar man doesn’t have the greatest life a man like he should have. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) doesn’t really trust him and is currently pregnant with her new husband; his kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), he doesn’t really see, so therefore, they don’t really connect with him all that much and usually end conversations with angry shouting; and his house itself, is dirty, unorganized, and a mish-mash of stuff he has no use for anymore. His life can be so miserable at times, that if an alien attack were to randomly occur, he’d probably be better off. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! The aliens do invade Earth and although their motivations aren’t known just yet, they’ve taken extra precautions and have deactivated every piece of technology on the planet, leaving each and every human to be scrambling all over, without any idea of what to do. This leaves Ray, along with his kids, to run around like chickens with their heads cut-off, too, but he’s inspired enough to try and find shelter, as soon as possible. Problem is, he’s still facing problems with his family and it might just linger in to the mission of getting to safety.

Tom Cruise running.

Tom Cruise is scared.

So rarely do we get to see Steven Spielberg lash-out any form of anger that may be within him. However, for the first hour of War of the Worlds, we get to see Spielberg at his angriest and, above all else, most playful. People are zipped to ashes; cars are flipped; buildings are destroyed; and everybody’s running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. On the other side of the camera, though, is Spielberg who, it’s not hard to imagine, may have had a huge, cheek-to-cheek grin while filming all of this.

Not only does he have the dough to play with whatever he wants to play with, but he’s doing so in a style that feels as if it’s also giving a big old “F**k you” to every other director out there who specializes in these kinds of summer, blow-everything-up blockbusters (basically, Roland Emmerich). While the carnage and destruction is fun and exciting to watch, Spielberg also doesn’t forget to show the impact of this, where he understands that people are, yes, dying right in front of our eyes. At the same time, though, he still can’t get past the sense of wonder of just how great everything looks, sounds and feels; while the alien spaceship special-effects feel a little weak, all of the terror that they do cause, doesn’t and helps make it capable of getting past those problems.

And honestly, the main reason why I’m focusing solely so much on the first hour or so of this, is because after it’s over, everything slows down, and we now have to focus on these characters a bit more, the movie gets pretty lame.

It’s almost as if Spielberg signed onto this in the first place, because all he wanted to do was chuck things around and see stuff blow up, but then, remembered that there had to be some form of a human story here, with actual, human-like characters, and instantly got disinterested in what he was doing. This makes the rest of the film, not only feel like a bore, but feel like Spielberg himself is just going through the motions, already too tired and strained from all of the effort he put into the first hour of this movie. Because with Spielberg, you can’t forget that when worse comes to worse, he’s always got to focus on that family-drama.

Which, in some cases, isn’t all that bad. Though it’s a plot-trope he tosses in more than he should, he does get these occasional bursts of smart energy where it seems pertinent to helping flesh the story out a bit more, and therefore, have the movie impact its audience a whole lot harder.

In the case of War of the Worlds and Tom Cruise’s on-screen family, it feels as lazy as Spielberg’s done before.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

For one, there’s nothing really interesting to this family that makes it easy for us to want to get behind them the whole way through and see if they end up surviving the whole disaster by the end. Cruise’s Ray character is so average, that it doesn’t really matter, because all he’s really doing, once you think about it, is just running around and ducking under and behind certain surfaces; Dakota Fanning’s daughter character yells and screams the whole time and it used as an obvious crutch for Ray to have to make tough decisions; and Justin Chatwin’s son character is such a pain-in-the-ass and annoying, that when it came around for the time to, possibly, leave the movie for good, I could care less. In fact, I wanted him to get the boot earlier!

Because these characters are so poorly-written as is, watching them as they try to survive this disastrous situation, really does not prove to be a fun time. There’s nothing to be compelled by, nor is there any real interesting bits of character-drama to be found; everybody’s just sort of feuding with one another because, well, they’re family and that’s what family’s seem to do. However, due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in the role of the patriarch and it’s his family we’re talking about, then of course you know how it’s all going to go.

I won’t say much more, but I think you get my meaning if you’ve ever seen a movie with Tom Cruise in the past decade.

Hell, even longer!

Then, as the plot progresses, Tim Robbins shows up in the movie as a weird, violent and overly dramatic dude who camps out in the middle of the woods, strapped-to-his-boots with guns and whatnot. Because Robbins’ character is all about having guns protect himself from whatever dangers may be out there, the movie paints him in such a crude-light, that it’s downright distracting. Robbins doesn’t help matters either, as he genuinely seems to be just over-acting as much as he can. And shame on Spielberg for not telling him when to tone it down, take it easy, or call for lunch.

Basically, he stopped giving a hoot and it’s not the kind of Steven Spielberg that I don’t think anybody wants to see.

Consensus: Despite a very strong first-half, War of the Worlds soon runs out of ideas, looses track of itself, and rely too heavily on familiar family-drama that’s shoe-horned in to just have us root and cheer on Tom Cruise, once again.

6 / 10

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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6 responses to “War of the Worlds (2005)

  1. Rodney Twelftree October 12, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Bah, you didn’t like it. Well, not as much as I did. I agree with many of your sentiments about the film’s wayward second half, but I still find mucho enjoyment in the hard sci-fi aspects.

    And this film is still a go-to demo disc on Blu for me at home when I need to impress people. So there’s that. 😉

  2. Hypersonic55 October 12, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Cool review man, I remember when I saw this back in 2005 and I thought it was awesome, but back then I was a teenager with a massive love for sci-fi action films and not nearly as much knowledge about film as I have now. I saw it again a few years later and didn’t like it as much, and I think the last time I saw it was maybe around 2 or 3 years ago. That time I thought it was good, but the one thing I didn’t care for was Tom Cruise’s children, they were annoying and boring, it was probably due to the writing more than anything else, but it was pretty much after the first half of the film was over than my interest drops significantly. I still like this film a lot, but its not one that revisit very often.

  3. Parlor of Horror October 12, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I love this film, its one of my top sci-fi films in the past 25 years. I do agree with you about the family interest but, a lot of people have broken families these days and I do feel that real life is like Cruise’s character for a lot of people. The part with Tim Robbins did slow down the film for me too, but it was a remake from the original film and that sequence was in the original – same with the rather abrupt ending. But that 1st hour is spectacular!

  4. Three Rows Back October 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Can’t argue here Dan; the ending does run out of steam. Shame, because it starts so bloody well.

  5. Eric Marcy October 27, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Yeah, the ending definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the first half, which is straight up traumatizing, but I do really enjoy how over the entire film Spielberg essentially deconstructs Western heroism and masculinity. Ray (Cruise) basically needs to protect his family by running from the enemy, becoming a cold blooded murderer to protect his daughter, and prevent his son from courageously fighting against the alien shock and awe campaign. In a post-9/11 America, the film is staggeringly brutal, and I can’t shake one critic’s observation that Cruise nearly conducts a suicide bombing attack on the tri-pod towards the end. The ending’s weaknesses I chalk up to the weaknesses of the original source material, and overall I think this film, while flawed, is terribly underrated. Don’t get me started on the haunting brilliance of the battle sequence taking place over the hill. As a visual and musical achievement, that easily stands among my favorite Spielberg moments.
    Kudos for another fine review, though!

  6. Ben October 31, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    What I did like about this film is that Cruise isn’t “versus the aliens” and it’s much more about him just surviving with his family. I would have preferred the movie to be more like the book which was scarier because it was set in the late 1800/early 1900s so people were much more helpless.

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