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"War of the Worlds"

Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp.  Based on the novel by H.G. Wells.
Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Tim Robbins.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  6/30/05

Folks-- 

I respect Tom Cruise because he generally makes movies that don't suck.  However, with the Steven Spielberg update of "War of the Worlds", I have to admit that this is the least fulfilling of Cruise's movies I can remember since maybe "Far and Away."  (Sure, I didn't love "Vanilla Sky" or "Eyes Wide Shut", but at least they were ambitious.)

The thing about the "War of the Worlds" remake is that it doesn't suck, as you would expect.  Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, docks worker extraordinaire and divorced father of two.  Ray starts the day late for his meeting with his ex-wife (Miranda Otto) and his two kids, Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning), as Ray takes custody for a long weekend...unfortunately for everyone involved, aliens decide to attack on this fateful day, ruining vacation plans worldwide and demolishing damn near the entire North American landscape.

Spielberg doesn't waste much time letting stuff get all blow'd up; from the word go he blows up nearly the entire production with real explosions and CGI, and this--mixed with some suspenseful moments prior to building detonations and laser-beam attacks--makes for somewhat solid summer-watching fare.  As we watch Ray take in all that is going on around him, unable to comprehend it but certainly using it as a motivator to hop a ride and skip town, Spielberg is working that ol' Spielberg magic.

But, as the film wears on and Ray--with his two kids in tow--makes his way from New York City to Boston, you realize just how fluffy this movie is.  It reminded me a ton of "Jurassic Park 2", with its mindless fun, PG-13 violence and a sprinkle of laughs like that scene near the end of "JP2" where you see Japanese businessmen running from the sight of manic dinosaurs.  "War of the Worlds" doesn't seem to be striving for much beyond giving us Cruise doing his best Running Man impression, jogging from place to place as we watch the entire house/truck/city block/ferry/street blow up just as he escapes the scene.  There isn't much story (at least, in the film; I can't speak for the H.G. Wells novel that I STILL haven't read) here, so dialogue is trim and breaks between explosions are brief.  Tim Robbins does show up as the resident crazy guy, and he's good while he's around; otherwise, there is no support to speak of, since most of the extras are vaporized and Ray's kids don't have much to say (although, as usual, Fanning was excellent; this go-round, all she did was scream a lot, but she does that so well!).

And, "War of the Worlds" has "one of those" endings, the kind of ending that had people in my theater just up in arms over how quickly it came to a resolution.  Frankly, I thought it sucked.

I got the feeling from the trailer that this film would be just okay, and the final product yielded the same result.  Again, the special effects are theater-worthy, so I think $6 or $7 is plenty to pay for this one...but, I was hoping for something with more feeling or even something that made me think a little more, but instead I found myself thinking about how quickly I could get myself out of the theater.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09