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War of the Worlds

Christopher Lyon from Plugged-In magazine has an interesting review on War of the Worlds. It's funny how everyone is looking to read into movies to see how it puts the Bush administration down. I wouldn't doubt that Hollywood has tried to get the message out there, but sometimes, there are more important things to focus on--like the core value-message of a movie, and whether the story is compelling and interesting. With all the news about Cruise, scientology, and his marriage and recent crazy statements, most of the news on this movie has been about anything but the story line.
War of the Worlds is darker and scarier than most of Spielberg's work, especially his sci-fi work. The brilliantly paced action sequences, hair-raising effects and detailed set pieces bring to mind his Jurassic Park, Minority Report or other classic adventures. But the tone of the film comes closer to the gritty, near-hopeless feelings deep inside Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Don't expect the congenial diplomacy of Close Encounters or the good times and chest-thumping found in alien invasion flicks like Independence Day.

Some have suggested Spielberg and writer David Koepp are also working a political angle, following H.G. Wells' path in writing the original 1898 book as an allegory about the British empire overreaching its grasp. Said Koepp to USA Weekend while speculating about possible subtexts, "It could be about how U.S. military interventionism abroad is doomed by insurgency, just the way an alien invasion might be."

ore obvious is the film's wrestling with issues of parenthood. Tom Cruise gives a convincing performance as the less-than-noble Ray. His relationships with his resentful teen son and innocent daughter (the always-amazing young actress Dakota Fanning) are the film's heart. If any lessons are learned, Ray comes to understand that he should have started investing himself in his children long before he was forced to do so by this outside crisis. His family would have been stronger when the devastation hit.

In promoting the film, Spielberg and his team talked repeatedly about their attempts to keep the human side of things "real" within the fantasy of this alien invasion, mentioning specifically the emotions raised by 9/11. That commitment to reality leaves little room for comic relief and traditional adventure "thrills" in the wake of so much violence, terror and loss of life. Yes, the story consists of a series of near misses and escapes. But the John Williams score doesn't swell victoriously when Ray and his family survive another close call; it just warns us to brace ourselves for more of the onslaught. War of the Worlds is expertly crafted and effectively scary, but it's hard to call this summer blockbuster "fun."
While Lyon doesn't think this one is fun (he is thinking of kids I think), it sounds like a good movie to me. But, I don't know since I have not seen it. What do you all think? Anyone out there seen it? I would like to hear comments on the script, and the plot line.


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