Vince Reports in on War of the Worlds
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Paramount
Cruise. Spielberg. Two people I could care less
about due to their recent work. For a long time Tom Cruise could do no wrong
in my mind. He had a string of films in the late 80's and mid 90's that
made me a huge fan. The guy had a great screen presence and was able to
draw you in with every film. Once the year 2000 came around things started
to change for the worse. He started making a few bad movies (Mission
Impossible 2, Minority Report, The Last Samurai)
and his fans began to wonder if he was losing his touch. This put Cruise
in panic mode and caused him to take his personality to a more annoying
level. The Tom Cruise that we all used to love somehow took that "likeableness"
and shoved it down our throats to the point where it looked like he was
acting 24/7 trying to make sure we all knew he was such a great guy. The
ending result is a man that is a shell of his former self. He is desperately
trying to give his image a boost by showing up with Katie Holmes and making
a fool of himself on the talk show circuit; looking like a complete psycho.
His constant self promotion has totally turned me off from anything he does.
Robbins, Cruise, and Fanning in War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds
Spielberg on the other hand is a different story. I grew up worshiping him. He was my inspiration (and probably millions of others) to pursue film in school. Every film he made was like taking a roller coaster ride of amazement. For 2 hours he would take you to whatever world he created and made you feel like you were right there in the action. The guy could do no wrong and just like T.C. when 2000 came around everything just went to hell. Maybe it was just because he had accomplished everything a filmmaker could possibly do or the money got to him, but after 2000 all his films had lost their magic. Sure they still maintained that great visual style and big budget feel that was his trademark, but the magic that sucked me in to his films was nonexistent.
I remember going to see their first collaboration together, Minority
Report, and hoping to God the two would never decide to work together
again. In the film Cruise seemed more like a madman, obsessed about the
death of his characters son, than a coping father who couldn't get over
the mistake he made. Spielberg just seemed like he was going through the
motions and even though he provided great action and visuals, the film just
seemed so cold and unemotional. But like Mick Jagger said, "You can't always
get what you want" and a few years later the news came out that Cruise and
Spielberg were teaming up again to retell H.G. Wells Sci-Fi novel War
of the Worlds, which tells the tale of the earth being
invaded by aliens.
Instead of adapting the screenplay straight from the book similar to Orson
Wells's infamous radio broadcast back in the late 30's, the two decided
to take a different approach. This time around the point of view wouldn't
be from the news broadcasts but from the eyes of Ray Ferrier, a divorced
dock worker who gets custody of his less than enthusiastic children (Dakota
Fanning and Justin Chatwin) for the weekend. Ray would rather be his children's
friends than their father and the kids show their resentment for it very
early on. Things start to take off when weird lightning storms result in
huge tripod like machines popping up out of the ground and incinerating
everything in their path. The rest of War of the Worlds centers
on Ray and his family fleeing from the aliens trying to escape death at
every possible moment with the hopes of reaching the children's mother (Miranda
Otto); all the while reestablishing his bond with his children.
Dakota Fanning shines in War of the Worlds
So has my faith been reaffirmed in the two after
seeing War of the Worlds? Well…..yes and no.
It takes War of the Worlds a little bit to get going, but once
all the background (what little there is) is all taken care of the film
blasts off and never looks back. From the moment the aliens begin their
invasion till the very end, the film never takes a break. This fast, tense
pace has never been a weakness of Spielberg, but what makes it different
from Minority Report and A.I. is that you get the sense
that Spielberg is having fun again. He seems to have dusted off the rust
from making a string of emotionless films and found that fire that made
him one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
Taking shelter with a creepo isn't always a good idea.
I think the biggest compliment I can say about War of the Worlds
is that while watching it all I could think of was Jurassic Park.
It has that same type of suspense and "holy crap" moments that makes you
want to grab your seat hoping that the characters will be able to escape
alive; even though you know they will. One scene in particular involving
Cruise and Co. trying to escape an alien monitoring system will remind a
lot of people of the raptor hunt in Jurassic park. Some people may complain
why can't he be original, but I think it was necessary. Spielberg was so
busy trying to create something new that he forgot what it was that made
him so beloved by film fans everywhere. Is this film as good as Jurassic
Park? No, not at all, but it has a great mixture of new and old elements
that will be a great starting point for Spielberg to recapture that magic
that was lost.
One old element in particular that makes War of the Worlds a good
film compared to Spielberg's previous films is that he goes back to letting
the story and visuals carry the story instead of letting the actors. Spielberg
may have discovered what was wrong with him, but Tom Cruise is still without
a clue. I think the guy has been portraying a character in the public eye
for so long that he truly believes he has to act that way 24/7. Tom Cruise
plays the same "Tom Cruise" character that he's been playing in his past
few films and all of his promotional appearances. That is not something
I want to see and I think Spielberg was very aware of this because aside
from the beginning, all Cruise does for the rest of the film is flee from
the aliens and act confused and angry which is something he excels at. The
rest of the cast are serviceable in their roles and shine in the moments
when they are needed (Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins in particular shine
in their roles).
While War of the Worlds excels in its pacing and visual effects,
the story is a tad weak and there are a few plot holes that will leave you
scratching your head. With all blockbusters, the main character always seems
to get lucky when needed and this film doesn't stray from that. Everything
seems so convenient for the main characters and while the presence of the
aliens may be trouble for them they seem to escape their situations quite
easy. It's not a big knock on the film, but does kind of scratch at the
back of your head when watching.
The second collaboration between Cruise and Spielberg is ten times better
than their previous one and while Cruise stays at his same annoying level,
Spielberg seems to be on the right track to regaining the magic he once
had in films like Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T., Jaws
and Jurassic Park (if you've noticed I haven't mentioned anything
about Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List due to
the fact that I see them in a different category than his other films).
While a weak plot and working with Tom Cruise may hurt some filmmakers,
it doesn't affect Spielberg at all. He hides as many flaws as he can and
delivers a great thrill ride that will keep views glued to their seat until
the very end. War of the Worlds is a great reawakening for Spielberg
and I am glad to be the first to say... Welcome back!
Sources: Images property of Paramount
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> Vince Reports in on War of the Worlds