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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?

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Discussion

10 Comment(s)

  1. Kevin

    5 July, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    Tony,

    Thanks for ruining the ending (lol)…

    Question Numbe One: The atomic energy used to stall all electrical appliances, car batteries and such, has short-term effect…not quite sure how long it lasts — I suppose it has something to do with climate activity…

    Question Number 2: Good thing the scene was not filmed on the Cross Bronx Expressway (lol)…part 2: the laws of physics are magical — when a plane crashed into a nearby building situated by Teterbore Airport all vehicles in the vicinty (parking lot) were OK…as for the corpses — this is a family movie (lo)…

    Question #3: Ray’s son was born in NJ, and everyone knows that Jersey babies are “born to run.”

    Question #4: Correct me if I am wrong here, but I thought HG Wells wrote the book and Orson Welles created the radio event? Part Two: Actually Will Smith piloted the space-craft — Jeff Goldbloom (spelling) was the man with the Apple that held the virus…part two: I guess 1 million years ago there was no such thing as a common cold…who knows?!?

    Question #5: Don’t know…artistic vision?!?!

    Cheers,
    – Kevin –

  2. 5 July, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Kevin

    Jumping sraight to number 4… YOu are probably right; I wrote my critique in the car last night. In fact, by the tiime you read this, you will be proven to be right, as I’m about to edit my original post to prove I know my Wells from my Welles. As for Independence Day, that’s a good memory you have- unless you watch that movie more often than is good for you!!!

    Thanks for jumping in… I like the idea of the comments section here.

    tony

  3. Kevin

    6 July, 2005 at 9:17 am

    Hi Tony,

    Scout’s honor — I saw Independence Day once…not a bad flick for what it was — mindless action…

    So I am riding home, last night, and one of the talking heads was chatting about War of the Worlds — some caller complained that a Catholic Church was wiped out within 20 minutes, and no other religious gathering places received such special treatment — AND — of course, Mr. Spielberg’s religious background came into question…all I could think was that some people just have too much time on their hands…

    Be well,
    – Kevin –

  4. 6 July, 2005 at 11:11 am

    “all I could think was that some people just have too much time on their hands…”

    Or that you’re listening to the wrong talk radio station….. ;->

  5. Kevin

    6 July, 2005 at 11:53 am

    No-no…that was too easy…

    I like listening to Bob Grant on the ride home — he reminds me of many of the men I once worked with during my years spent at the warehouse…grumpy old-timers who see black-and-white with no bits of gray…anyway, Bob blasted the guy with his trademark “get off my phone!”

  6. 13 July, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    Tony I waited until seeing the movie until reading this- and I just saw it this afternoon and thought many the same things. When the guy tries to film it I was like what the fuck? Anyway you are spot on. And I thought this was going to actually be a good summer blockbuster.

    When was the last great summer blockbuster? I’m thinking ET? Once again the sci-fi mighty have fallen. Kinda like an alien with the flu.

  7. 16 July, 2005 at 10:34 am

    I know that Ray is supposed to be the ‘everyman’ archetypical American male but who lives in the NYC area and doesn’t know what hummus is? And then to try some and make a face and say, “Why didn’t you order food?” I’d like to make him eat a shit sandwich.

    Talking about Blockbusters I stayed in and rented Air Force One last night because I remembered watching it for the first time in a NYC theatre near Harlem and how all the people in the audience were cheering when the black lady was parachuting to freedom. Of course I couldn’t relive that moment but I did realize one thing. I think Bush must have seen this film and has based every decision he has made since 9/11 on this movie. So the person to blame for all this American mess is a German named Wolfgang Peterson.

  8. 20 July, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    That whole hummus business was way too much of a cheap laugh for the masses. I spent a fair time trying to figure out Ray’s routine: he starts the movie working at the docks in Red Hook up by Brooklyn Heights, but then my wife reckoned he lived over in Bayonne. Guy has a hell of a nasty commute, down the BQE, Verrazano, right across Staten Island to the Bayonne Bridge. Really though, it was one ludicrous proposition after another.

    Newsweek just ran this silly piece about A-List actors and which of their movies would stand the test of time, running a batting average in which Nicole Kidman scored low, Nicolas cage scored high. They gave CRuise credit for good roles and good movies, but selected War Of The WOrlds as a movie we’ll be watching in 30 years. (And Vanilla Sky, by its absence, one that we won’t be watching.) What ya gonna do?

    Tony

  9. 21 July, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    The spanish film that Vanilla Sky was based on was very good. Like the Argentine film Criminal, I saw the originals first and the US remakes were just shit.

    What you gonna do? is right. I can’t remember the film I saw in a theatre that I really liked.

  10. 21 July, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Oh yes I can…I liked both Shaun of the Dead and Pete Tong…but truth be told I mostly liked them. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe I’m past the time in life when you get blown away by a film. I hope not.

    Still I’ll never go back to being terrified like I was after Empire Strikes Back or hopelessly in love with Jessica Lange after I saw Tootsie. I had the bad puppy love for her, in fact I didn’t even ‘like girls’ until I saw that. And since girls my age had a long way to go until they became soap stars that lived in NYC, I fell for a French teacher after that… but I guess who cares.

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