War of the Worlds is a movie about an alien invasion, but it’s not really like the “war of the worlds” in terms of the cinematic engagement for it. The story focuses more on the family bonds, relationships and protection for those the ones you love. You won’t really see too much “war of the worlds” in the sense that it just simply shows a slight glimpse of some American tanks and aircrafts mercilessly incinerated by three-legged, tripod-looking alien machines and extraterrestrial tentacles as they try to grab humans towards the worst end.
With some blatant 9/11 overtones, director Steven Spielberg immerses the audience with the confusion and panic the invasion brings in a more distinct fashion. He brings these conflicts through the point of view of a family fighting for survival. He also shows the external conditions of the people’s desperate fight as they mob around and hit and kill each other, just to save their lives.
This movie is a contemporary retelling of the 1898 classic novel of H. G. Wells, a sci-fi adventure thriller about a Martian invasion (though in the film, there’s no clear presentation of whether the aliens are actually Martians) and the battle of the human race through the eyes of a simple American family struggling to survive it.
A wave of mass destruction shakes a not so perfect father’s (Tom Cruise) small town life. When a freak light storm happens, the ground cracks from deep beneath the earth and that simple New Jersey neighborhood turns into an incinerating space for laser attacks vaporizing every human body in sight. Unclearly though, questions are left unanswered: “Whether the lightning strikes actually send the mean alien machines to the underground or they have been completely buried underground for years, or perhaps, even centuries, and the lightning strikes are the ways to unleash them?”
War of the Worlds has a seemingly intended B-movie appeal amidst the obviously big budget for it. The cinematography gives that coldness, that fear, and that feeling of helplessness. The lightning storm seems so real. Clever shot construction and exploration are brilliantly executed. The visuals and the actions are intense. There are thrilling and suspense-filled moments, eerie and freaky. The catastrophic aliens haven’t evolved much with their varying roles in many movies for all these decades: extremely large eyes, domed-heads, insect-like appendages, and long skinny limbs. These War of the Worlds aliens is quite reminiscent of General Grievous from Star Wars Episode 3.
The zombie-like mob of desperate people fighting for survival creates a striking and gripping situation. The panic in this scene’s ravaged countryside looks emotionally realistic. And as Cruise defends himself and his kids, the hearing of the low-tone sound of the menacing aliens signaling another attack effectively creates that dreaded fear.
Cruise’s delivers a generally good performance as a good father trying to somehow cover up as much violence and brutality for his child. He and Dakota Fanning have good chemistry. They radiate such terrified and shocked sensations filled with familial relationship issues. However, the rebellious teenage son’s character (Justin Chatwin) simply works as an inevitable cliché. Miranda Otto and Tim Robins live by the scope of roles given to them for the story.
The ending comes a bit sudden and without much explanation. The resolution gets in too directly from the climax. Things just end up just too quickly.
War of the Worlds is nothing new to the roster of alien invasion movies telling an extraordinary battle where the future of mankind is at stake. This film is quite a heavy film to watch. Nevertheless, it has that fear factor charm that can possibly get some viewers screaming at the edge of their seats.