|War of the Worlds|
|Released:||June 29, 2005|
War of the Worlds is a 2005 science fiction-disaster film based on H. G. Wells' original novel starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp. It was released on June 29, 2005.
The story opens in Newark, New Jersey, with dock worker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) finishing the third shift in the morning. His ex-wife Mary Anne (Miranda Otto) and her wealthy new husband Tim (David Alan Basche), drop off Ray's 10-year-old daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) at his house. They are staying with him in Bayonne, New Jersey, while Tim and Mary Anne visit her parents in Boston, Massachusetts for the weekend. Rachel suffers from a panic disorder, while Robbie harbors resentment and outright disrespect towards his father. Later that day, Ray wakes up from a nap and is told by Rachel that Robbie has stolen his car and left.
Ray immediately sets out to find him, but is distracted by a strange wall cloud formation near his neighbourhood. As he and Rachel view it from the garden, the clouds begin to unleash electromagnetic pulses, disabling all of the working electronic devices in the area, including cars. Ray finds an apologetic Robbie, and tells him to take care of Rachel in the house while he goes to look at a hole in the ground that Robbie mentioned. Traveling past, he advises a mechanic to replace the solenoid of a Plymouth Voyager he is repairing. Ray and many other people find the mysteriously cold hole in the intersection, from which a large Tripod machine emerges. It begins to vaporize all humans within its range, and starts to destroy all the buildings in its path. Ray however, manages to escape and returns to his house. After packing food, Ray and the kids abandon their home and steal the only operating vehicle in town (the Plymouth Voyager), due to his advice of changing the solenoid in the van.
The family drive to Tim's house, and take refuge in the basement for the night. During the night, a tripod destroys an airliner that crashes into the development, demolishing many of the houses. In the morning, Ray meets a small news team, who show close-up video footage to Ray of the lightning in the previous "storm". In slow-motion, they see what they believe to be a pod, deducing that the aliens "rode" down the lightning into the ground where the Tripods were located. The reporter believes that the machines were buried in the Earth long before the rise of humanity. After hearing the siren of a nearby Tripod approaching the area, the news crew flees, leaving Ray to assemble his kids with the intention of driving on to Boston.
As the family continues on their journey and stop for a toilet break, they are passed by a convoy from the U.S. Army. Robbie begs the soldiers driving by to allow him to join and fight, but is ignored until Ray confronts him along with Rachel. In the evening, their van is attacked by a mob along their travel route - who are desperate for transport - and the family only survives the small riot because Ray had a revolver. However, after a man steals the van by holding Ray at gunpoint (forcing him to drop the revolver), Ray and his children are forced to continue on foot. They reach a Hudson River ferry in Athens, New York, but as a Tripod appears over the hills on the horizon (joined by two others), the crowd panics and the ferry immediately sets off. However, evasion proves futile as a fourth Tripod hiding underwater capsizes the ferry. Ray, Robbie, and Rachel manage to escape and swim to safety, while other refugees are captured or killed. On a hill, they witness the town of Athens being destroyed.
Later, the family come across American military forces somewhere in Massachusetts, attacking a group of Tripods; an entirely fruitless effort as the machines are protected by force-fields. Although their weapons are ineffective, the U.S. Marines continue with their assault to delay the advance of the Tripods, and give some time for the refugees in the area to escape. Robbie attempts to join the battle, and Ray reluctantly lets him go in order to save Rachel from being taken away by a couple nearby, who see her waiting alone by a tree and worry for her safety. In the ensuing chaos an enormous firebomb erupts, and Robbie is separated from Ray and Rachel, and they assume he is dead.
Immediately following the battle, Ray and Rachel are offered shelter in a basement by a man named Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins), who lost his family to the Tripods. The invaders settle close to the house where the trio are hiding, and tensions start to emerge between Ogilvy, who wants to strike back at the aliens, and Ray, who is preoccupied with his own safety and that of his daughter. Later that night, a Tripod probe gains access to the basement, and the three barely manage to escape detection. A small contingent of aliens then enter to explore afterwards, and Ray struggles to stop Ogilvy from attacking them. But the aliens are summoned back to the Tripods by a siren, before Ogilvy has an opportunity to shoot them with his shotgun. Meanwhile, the invaders begin spreading a strange "red weed", which appears to be a mysterious plant fertilized with the blood of captured humans. Subsequently, Ogilvy mentally cracks after witnessing one of the Tripods harvesting blood and tissues from a helpless human victim. Ray, concerned that the commotion Ogilvy is creating might draw the attention of the invaders to himself and his daughter, makes the decision to murder Ogilvy and thereby silence him. Rachel goes to comfort her father afterwards, who is clearly affected by having to carry out the killing. The pair then fall asleep, but are awoken by another probe entering the basement, which sights Rachel. Ray attacks the probe with an axe and it retreats, while Rachel flees the house.
Ray attempts to find Rachel, but is attacked by a Tripod. As he tries to find safety in a truck which the Tripod tosses upside down, Ray spots his daughter standing nearby, screaming as the Tripod advances towards her. The Tripod captures Rachel and ignores Ray's provocation, forcing him to harass it with some hand grenades he finds nearby. Though the shield protects the Tripod, it immediately captures Ray and deposits him in a metal cage with many other refugees and a traumatized Rachel. A closed chute above the cage releases a mechanical arm which periodically grabs a human, to be violently processed within the machine. After it grabs Ray, the other prisoners fight to save him, and successfully pull him out from within the interior of the Tripod. Ray reveals that he left the remaining grenades primed within the Tripod, and they detonate, destroying it. The cage is dropped on a tree, and Ray and Rachel - along with the other surviving captives - escape.
Soon afterwards, Ray and his daughter continue to move towards Boston. It is there that they find that all the "red weed" is dying, and the Tripods are beginning to seriously malfunction. After seeing birds fly near, and land, on one still-moving Tripod, Ray realizes that the shields are no longer operational. He draws this to the attention of a group of soldiers who are trying to lead refugees to safety, and the soldiers attack the Tripod with several Javelin missile launchers - successfully bringing it to the ground. When the soldiers advance towards the Tripod afterwards, it discharges a cargo of blood-colored liquid, and one of the dying aliens within. With the threat gone, Ray finally brings Rachel to Mary Anne and Tim at her parents' house, where she has been waiting for them. Robbie also comes out of the house, revealing that he survived too. The movie closes with Ray and Robbie hugging, and Ray crying in relief.
Afterwards, the narrator reveals that the Tripods were breaking down because the invaders and their weeds were suffering from terrestrial diseases, which they have no resistance to.
War of the Worlds draws elements not only from the H. G. Wells novel, but also the 1938 radio play and the 1953 film. Hence, to place this film in proper historical context as an adaptation requires some knowledge of all three previous incarnations of Wells' story.
As in the original novel, which takes place in and around London, the narrative is told from the point of view of civilians caught up in the conflict. Whereas the novel portrayed the experience of a solitary British journalist late in the 19th century, War of the Worlds is, according to Spielberg, purported to show the war "through the eyes of one American family fighting to survive it". It is set in the early 21st century, and as in the radio play begins in New Jersey. Part of the movie was filmed in the Newark, New Jersey Ironbound District. The scene in which the alien first appears from the hole in the ground was shot on Ferry Street. Filming in Newark was reportedly canceled due to the noisy environment and prospect of storefront owners losing business from the closed off set. Main parts of the film was shot in Bayonne, New Jersey, with the Bayonne Bridge being destroyed.
"I'm more interested in concept shots and money shots than I am in tons of MTV coverage, which certainly takes a lot of time. But if I can put something on the screen that is sustained where you get to study it and you get to say, 'How did they do that?' That's happening before my eyes and the shot's not over yet, it's still going and it's still going and my God, it's an effects shot and it's lasting seemingly forever. I enjoy that more than creating illusion with sixteen different camera angles, where no shot lasts longer than six seconds on the screen. To pull a rabbit out of a hat, because you are really a smart audience and you're in the fastest media, the fastest growing new media today and you know the difference between sleight of hand visually and the real thing. I think what makes War of the Worlds, at least the version that we're making, really exciting, is you get to really see what's happening. There's not a lot of visual tricks. We tell it like it is, we show it to you, and we put you inside the experience."
He described the story as follows:
"It's nothing you can really describe. The whole thing is very experiential. The point of view is very personal — everybody, I think, in the world will be able to relate to the point of view, because it's about a family trying to survive and stay together, and they're surrounded by the most epically horrendous events you could possibly imagine."
At the world premiere in Tokyo, Spielberg said he was proud to bring it to Japan, referring to Japanese monster movies including Gamera and Godzilla, and explained the first tripod is killed in Osaka because "Osaka has a lot of experience [with monsters]."
In August 2004, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the film was "poised to make history in Hollywood as the most expensive film ever made — surpassing Titanic's $198 million budget." The report stated that "so far rumors are pushing the Worlds budget well beyond that figure". The New York Times, the original source for this number, ran a notation a few days later that the budget is $132 million.
The film garnered a positive box office response, with reviews being generally positive. As of August 8, 2008, Rotten Tomatoes had the movie rated as 73% fresh. Overall reviews have praised the film for its special effects and the direction of Steven Spielberg, but have criticized the film for putative gaps in the logic, and holes and inconsistencies in the story line. Some critics such as Glenn Whip (LA Daily News) and Bruce Westbrook (Houston Chronicle) consider the film a near masterpiece.  Critic Armond White, who also named the film the second best of the year, stated that "the film steps beyond the simple conventions of genre filmmaking (a sci-fi flick about an invasion from Mars) and expresses our very contemporary concern with survival", also describing the scene where the Rachel Ferrier character asks "Are we still alive?", as the "unexpectedly avant-garde moment" in the film .
Critic James Berardinelli gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, he wrote in his review: "…War of the Worlds may not stand up well to careful inspection and it may not be the smartest science fiction film brought to the screen (although, when considering movies such as the like-themed Independence Day, it's far from the dumbest), but it is an intense, visceral experience."
Some thought otherwise, Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 2 out of 4 stars and regarded it: "...a big, clunky movie containing some sensational sights but lacking the zest and joyous energy we expect from Steven Spielberg."
Critic Isabela Boscov from Veja, Brazil's main weekly magazine, noted that the film was modeled after the taste of the United States' post-9/11 audience by downplaying the original notion of the stronger civilization subjugating the weaker one and the moral questioning of that, as H. G. Wells had intended when writing during the height of the British Empire domination. Instead, she wrote, Spielberg tried to demonstrate that conservative values, such as family, can withstand any evil. She otherwise praised the film for its realism.
Press coverage in May and June 2005 leading up to the film's release focused on Tom Cruise's proselytizing for Scientology. Around this time, Cruise had changed publicists, from Pat Kingsley to his sister, Lee Anne DeVette, and spoke to interviewers more frequently about Scientology — and his sudden engagement to actress Katie Holmes, as well as his public argument with Brooke Shields — than about the film itself.
Some press coverage noted the similarity between the film's promotional poster and the front cover of The Invaders Plan (volume one of Mission Earth) by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. This similarity is not singular to the film, however, as the image of a hand grasping the Earth is a recurring one in science-fiction: it was used, for example, for the 1975 film Rollerball. Moreover, the image used to promote it is very similar to the image that was often used in advertising Paramount's War of the Worlds TV series during its first season.
The press preview of the film raised severe criticism, since every journalist who wanted to take a preview of War of the Worlds before it premiered had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This NDA stated that the undersigned could not publish a review of the film before its worldwide release on June 29, 2005. Many people have argued that the film might not have been able to catch up with the great expectations that might have been postulated by such reviewers.
Furthermore, at the New York premiere of the film at the Ziegfeld Theatre, all members of the press were required to check all electronic equipment — including cellular phones — at the door, as part of a larger sweeping anti-piracy campaign by the film's producers hoping to keep the film from leaking on the Internet.
Among other efforts to curb piracy, the producers also prevented theaters from screening the film at midnight the night of June 29, despite the recent success of midnight screenings of such films as . The producers also chose not to screen the film in any DLP-equipped theaters.
Despite the controversies detailed above, War of the Worlds received positive reviews and made an impressive box-office performance. As of November 22, 2005, (the last day it was at the box office), it has earned $234,280,354 domestically and $357,465,186 overseas, making the total $591,745,540. It is the 4th highest grossing movie of 2005 (after , and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).
Spielberg has not seen such a massive success since Saving Private Ryan in 1998 ($481,840,909) — another Paramount/DreamWorks co-production — and the $100-million Minority Report in 2002 — his first collaboration with Cruise — earned a reasonable $358,372,926 worldwide. In the case of Cruise (whose 43rd birthday coincided with the movie's release), War of the Worlds is the biggest blockbuster of his career, since the film opened its first weekend with $65 million (which is a record-high for Paramount Pictures), beating s nearly $58 million (also from Paramount). By July 31, it had surpassed Mission: Impossible II in terms of total domestic box office receipts, a film that earned $546,388,105 worldwide on a $125 million budget.