I just got back from seeing the new “War of the Worlds” movie, and I have to say that I’m stunned. As a long time fan of mindless alien invasion epics, I’m what you might call a discriminating consumer, and trust me, this one really delivers the goods. Hopefully, it permanently raises the bar for stupendous, colossal, end-of-the-world extravaganzas. There’s not a false note of any importance in the entire film.
Cloying, saccharine moments? A few, but only as needed. It’s as though Steven Spielberg had his treacle sac surgically removed for the duration of the production. Never fear, it’s probably in cryo-stasis somewhere, waiting for another chance to ruin his work. Damned shame, too.
If Spielberg could excise his sentimentality (as he did for this film) on a regular basis, his films might be critically adored masterpieces for the ages instead of just being the hugely popular mega-scale money machine cultural icons, beloved by millions, that they are.
Oh well. He had his chance. With this movie, he partially redeems himself. And why is that, exactly? I’m happy to tell you.
This is quite simply the finest screen adaptation of H.G. Wells that I have ever seen. Ever.
Purists may argue that liberties have been taken. True. Nevertheless, I believe that they were necessary and beneficial. Let me go further. I believe that if we could resurrect H.G. Wells and show him this film, he would be delighted with it. Genuinely delighted. It’s that close to the spirit of the original. In fact, it manages to fuse an intelligent and informed appreciation of the book (the entire text of which is available here) with an equal knowledge of and respect for George Pal’s 1953 production of the same name.
Realistically, I could not be better pleased with this movie.
Carpingly, small-mindedly, ungratefully, I find that there are just a couple of small points bothering me.
First, I grow weary of Hollywood physics. Normal people cannot fall seventy feet without grave injury. More and more, characters in modern movies just shake off impacts that would kill a trained paratrooper or martial artist. Whenever I see it happen, it jars me. I can’t help myself.
More reasonably, continuity errors rub me the wrong way. A reviewer at IMDB has already remarked on the still-working camcorder. Yeah, that’s annoying. A more subtle error, but still readily apparent, was the sliding-scale size of the tripods. A small spoiler follows…
Comparing the sizes of the (presumably) identical war machines, we find that they expand or contract as needed for purposes of awe-inspiring spectacle. The ferryboat capsizing machine is a behemoth compared to the more modestly sized blood-sucking abduction machine. I blame arrogant storyboard artists. They think the average moviegoer won’t notice such things. They think that their eyes are more sensitive, better trained, than ours. They condescend to us, and it irks me.
But these are mere quibbles. If you enjoy a good alien invasion (as who among us does not?), this is the movie to see.
As an extra-special bonus feature, it came bundled with a trailer for Peter Jackson’s newest movie, which looks absolutely terrific. No, really. The first minute might make you think it’s a depression era showbiz movie. Nice fake. Only gradually do you realize that it concerns an ocean voyage by tramp steamer, a lost island, hostile indigenes, prehistoric beasts, and a profound exploration of the limits of “Furry” culture. Can love conquer all? I think we all know how it ends.