Five Questions for Steven Spielberg upon seeing War Of The Worlds.
Warning: Major Spoiler Ahead….
1) An electro-magnetic storm – instigated by the aliens – cuts all the electricity, telephone lines, car batteries and mobile phones for miles around. But when the aliens start zapping people, one guy gets a perfect image on his portable video camera. Wow. What’s the brand and does it really come with a combined Act of God/Act of War/Act of Alien Invasion guarantee?
2) Tom Cruise as everyman Ray whisks his children to his ex-wife’s house for the night. (She’s not there, having left the kids with him while taking a trip with her new husband to her parents in Boston.) Let’s leave aside the fact that the roads are not completely blocked by all the stalled vehicles – New Jersey’s roads are routinely blocked even when the engines are running! – and that the curiously fully functioning SUV Ray has commandeered actually makes it to the posh part of Jersey. Let’s jump instead to the fact that when Ray comes out of the house in the morning, he finds a large passenger plane has crashed into the house. Um, how does it manage to leave Ray’s SUV, parked all of about five feet from the fuselage, perfectly intact – and why are there absolutely no corpses in any of the seats?
3) Later on, Ray’s teenage son Bobby escapes his dad’s clutches, and heads over the hill into battle against the aliens alongside the US Army, whose vehicles are quickly shown returning on fire. We’re allowed to assume that Bobby must have died, though of course we’re encouraged to think he might just get out alive. And sure enough, when the movie ends, it turns out that Bobby made it to his mother’s house in Boston before Ray. Why do you think we’re not owed an explanation on how he got there, considering it’s taken all your special effects and all Tom Cruise’s acting skills for Ray to make the journey with his nearly catatonic ten-year old daughter?
4) And sorry to have to ask this – maybe it was made clearer in HG Wells’ book or Orson Welles’ radio series – but how is it that the aliens are actually defeated, again? Ray kills one of them by letting off grenades inside its intestinal-like suction tube (about as plausible, even in a sci-fi film, as Will Smith setting off a virus on his Apple laptop in Independence Day); he instructs the army to fell another by shooting at the back of its head. And, then, as the credits roll and we’re still trying to figure how Bobby made it through to Boston unscathed, we’re assured via voice-over that the aliens were destroyed by their own lack of immune systems. Let’s see: they plant tripods under the earth’s crust a million years previous, and carry off a perfectly synchronized precision attack on the planet using electro-magnetic storms – but never get round to a vaccine for the common cold?
5) Oh, and why does every one of your aliens – from ET to the little green men in Close Encounters – have to ultimately conform to human form, with a long scaly hand? Or is that what makes you an auteur?