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War of the Worlds

War of the WorldsRating: **
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Tim Robbins

Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds has a rather difficult hurdle to overcome: Why would anyone pay money to watch Operating Thetan Tom Cruise battle fake aliens on the big screen when they can watch him battle the real aliens that live in his head on live television three or four times a week?

War of the Worlds is a series of technically flawless special-effects sequences held tenuously together by a disjointed plot that cannot remain true to its own roots as a character study.

The movie is theoretically about how bad father Ray Ferrier (Cruise) becomes a good father to his two children—with the minor prompting of an alien invasion.

Cruise is joined on screen by miniature adult Dakota Fanning, who turns in a fairly believable performance as a young girl, Cruise’s daughter. Quite an accomplishment for someone who had an agent and a publicist while she was still a fetus.

Some other kid plays Cruise’s son. He came across as likable and seemed like a pretty good actor, but his subplot is nonsensical and I really couldn’t make myself give a rat’s ass about him one way or the other. So I won’t bother talking about him.

The problem with the film is that it cannot remain focused on this personal story. Spielberg is constantly distracted by the big scary aliens, so we get huge, amazing action set pieces that do nothing to advance the plot and ultimately add up to nothing. In fact, they detract from the real plot—the smaller, intimate story about Ray and his family.

To give Spielberg his due, he action sequences showing the aliens attacking are frighteningly real. The terrified populace running in the street effectively evoked memories of 9/11 ““ perhaps too effectively for lightweight summer entertainment. But the large-scale horror remains anonymous. It never touches Ray or his immediate family.

War of the Worlds

Spielberg’s protoge in spirit, M. Night Shyamalan, already made this movie. He called it Signs ““ a flawed film, but a film that never forgot what it was about.

Oh, I forgot about Tim Robbins. The film accidentally shipped with a 10 minute scene from a completely different movie featuring Robbins. I liked this movie, and I want to see the rest of it.

five degrees of seperation