Hello fellow Earthlings, I hope you are well. It looks like I have found another project to work my way through. I recently watched The War of the Worlds, 1953 and was a little surprised by my reaction to it! I grew up with that film and always held it in high regard. Don’t get me wrong, I still do, but I think I only realised a couple of weeks later why I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around. In 2005, Steven Spielberg reimagined H.G Well’s science-fiction classic story, and I have to say, I think it’s brilliant. I realise that it gave me a lot more enjoyment than the 1953 version and is currently my favourite retelling of this story. But is it the best? I think it’s only fair to give the other iterations of this wonderful tale a chance to be ranked, not that my thoughts hold any credibility, but it’s simply going to be fun. I do remember reading the original story, but it was a very long time ago. I have listened to some of Jeff Wayne’s album but never learnt much about it, and its adaption to the stage. I have also listened to the Orson Welles radio play and never really thought about its place in history. Plus, a lot of other projects that I haven’t even heard about before. Hopefully, I can understand the impact this novel has had on society and learn something new along the way.
War of the Worlds, 2005 is a Steven Spielberg science-fiction film. It was written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp and produced by Paramount and Dream Works Pictures. The film stars Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier as a crane operator who is currently looking after his children, who are slowly fading away from his life. As the city around them crumbles, his son Robbie Justin Chatwin and daughter Rachel Dakota Fanning need to rely on their dysfunctional father to protect them as extra-terrestrials invade the Earth. Ray can’t hide away anymore and must do anything he can to get his children back to their mother.
I guess I better try and explain why this is my favourite version of the War of the Worlds then. The opening of the film feels like a Twilight Zone episode, and I’m very much all for that. It’s pretty spectacular that you witness the building blocks of life coming together in a tiny drop of water. This is followed by some footage, showing that humanity is also multiplying, as our footprint on the planet expands. Regardless of our consciousness, we look like nothing more than a global farm, that is ready for harvesting. I think it’s a strong opening and hits home about the wonder of life and its complexities. It also has Morgan Freeman, which is always a pleasure.
I love that Steven Spielberg tried to honour the legacy of H.G Wells. The director invited some of the late writer’s family was invited to the set during filming and tried to understand the true vison of the story. The tripods themselves are reminiscent of those early pulp magazines that caught my imagination and scared the life out of me at the same time. The tripods stood at 150 feet tall, the height described by Wells in the novel. I also think Spielberg adds something that works well along with the original novel, that the tripods have been buried on Earth for a long time. Wells himself, had a degree in zoology and had a great interest in science and biology, and it makes sense that a creature from another planet would wait for their crop to come to fruition. It is a great twist to the story and makes you realise just how fragile we really are.
Another great thing about this film is that I think it’s the first time that a director had used both practical and computer-generated effects so harmoniously. Steven Spielberg respects the craft of filmmaking and understands what the audience want. I think CGI and practical effects are a marriage made in heaven, and the great films like Blade Runner 2049 are using this same approach to filmmaking today. The first introduction of the tripod is truly spectacular, watching that machine come out of the ground and cause utter mayhem is beyond satisfying for me. You can feel the weight of that moment, and also the panic as the intersection becomes a disintegration zone. You don’t get that in a studio using green screen, you know the people, roads and scenery are real and it gives you a sense of tangibility.
The big blockbuster scenes are amazing, and it would be hard to pick one. I think the ferry scene is beyond beautiful, and watching those birds fly around the tripods is wonderful. It’s pretty hard to sit here and talk about some of my favourite moments because I love them all. It has everything I want from a War of the Worlds movie. I love the fact that we get to see the tripods up close and personal. I enjoy the sense of scale and just how vulnerable we would be in such a situation. The bodies floating down the river gave it a horror edge that I appreciated.
Apart from showing his enjoyment and respect for the original novel, it’s also great that Spielberg managed to give some love for the 1953 War of the Worlds film. As the war continues, the landscape starts to change as a red weed starts to cover the ground. You can see that the farmhouse used in the film is set on a sound stage, but that made me think about the original film, and I loved that change in the texture of the film. I had some issues with the 1953 version when I watched it last time, but there is also something I love about it, and Spielberg reminded me why. I think the original War of the Worlds inspired Steven Spielberg, and I can see some of the same tones in his movies. Let’s not forget that Anna Robinson and Gene Barry also have a small cameo role in this film at the end. I thought that was pretty sweet, considering it was Gene Barry’s final film before his death.
I know it’s not perfect, but for a War of the Worlds film, it’s pretty much my favourite at this moment in time. The story isn’t great but I thought young Dakota Fanning made it at least enjoyable. This is just about the cool action pieces and these characters are just playing witness to it all. The ending is pure Spielberg, as Ray Ferrier finally manages to get his children back to their mother. Actually, son Robbie is already there and I think it would have been a lot more realistic if he didn’t make it, or was missing a leg or something. I have to admit, the score isn’t very memorable either, which is funny really because it suits the film perfectly. There are no bangers in there though, that makes you want to listen to it as a piece of music.
As for Spielberg and Cruise, things went a bit sour after the release of this film. Steven Spielberg didn’t like the way Tom Cruise went on Oprah and said the interview “hurt” the film’s reception. Plus, the Scientology stuff, which will always get in the way. Tom Cruise is the kind of man you would love to hate, considering his success and status in the cult world. However, I always enjoy his films, and he is pretty good in all of them, to be fair. I say hate, maybe dislike would be a better word. Spielberg and Tom Cruise’s previous film, Minority Report, is one of the best science-fiction films ever. I think it’s sad that they never worked together after this, as a third film would have been the cherry on top of a great collaboration together.
The most important ingredient to the film is that it puts you in the middle of the invasion. That is something I have always wanted, and you get that in abundance in this film. I have always enjoyed this film, but now it seems to have turned into a bit of a classic, and I think it’s far too underrated in popular culture. However, when the people decide, there isn’t much you can do about it, and I can’t see Spielberg or Cruise losing any sleep about it. Thank you for visiting today, and I hope you come back because next time, I will be taking a look at the radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles from 1938.