War of the Worlds
This Thanksgiving on Fox: “When Parade Floats Attack!”

Golden Mug

NOMINEE: Sound, Visual Effects

Theatrical Release Date: 06/29/2005
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning

Finally, more of L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings are being brought to movie screens worldwide in Steven Spielberg’s”War of the Worlds”. What was that? This isn’t Dianetics 2: Electric Boogaloo? Huh. Actually, while I was concocting all sorts of cute Tom & Katie quips and Scientology jokes before I saw the film, I’m really in no mood to carry through with any of them now. That’s not to say this film is going to win any awards, short of maybe visual or sound effects. But it does deliver what a typical summer blockbuster is supposed to: explosions, aliens, Tom Cruise (Will Smith was unavailable), and escapism.

As one might expect, Dakota Fanning steals the show, grounding the audience in the surreal chain of events. Her performance creates the audience’s empathy for the characters. Really, she’s the only one you’ll care about. As other poeple die, get lost, or come back, it’s only Dakota that you’re worried about.

Though Tom Cruise is not as bad as everyone had been telling me. But that’s because he’s the same person in every film. I wish he’d just keep the name Cole Trickle and continue on in the movie universe; saving the planet and completing impossible missions.

The Tim Robbins cameo is more of a distraction than an addition. His character could have been played by any actor who has seen screentime on Law & Order, and without causing us to pause and say, “Hey, that’s Tim Robbins.” There are only a handful of other actors who have speaking parts that don’t include the words “help” and “oh my God” and that’s fine. This movie isn’t about acting, it’s about deadly alien machines tearing humanity a new one.

And one place this film excels in is the visual effects and how the aliens kill off humans. The alien vehicles look nice and move fairly fluidly. Without giving too much away, their ‘death rays’ basically cause people to spontaneously combust and more than a few times, I felt the need to quote “Soylent Green”. And the ferry scene is spectacular, far better than watching the Titanic go down … though at least Dicraprio does freeze to death in that one.

The sound design is truly great, make sure to see this somewhere with a nice sound system. It makes a difference. This movie definitely delivers creepy noises and loud bangs. And I hope I’m not the only one to think the sound emitted by the alien crafts, while probably a distorted fog horn, reminds me of the ‘brown noise’ episode of South Park.

Now on to the problems. There are far too many instances of lucky environments. There’s always a nice, little path laid out for Cruise and family to drive/run through. It’s practically reminiscent of a video game, only letting the characters take the necessary path. They might as well have shown Dakota Fanning hitting an invisible wall if she ever wanders off. Also, while many, many people get killed, you get the feeling many more should have died. Even with all that cool weaponry, the aliens are apparently members of an interstellar union and take their mandatory breaks between exterminating the humans.

All in all, “War of the Worlds” delivers what a huge Hollywood summer movie is supposed to. No more, no less. If you are on the fence, there are simple ways to predict if you will enjoy this film -
1. Do you like Tom Cruise?
2. Can you deal with an oversimplified look at aliens wreaking havoc on the human race?
3. Do you need the film to explain how things were able to be resolved?
4. Do you enjoy Spielberg’s ‘people looking’ film style?

If you answered: Yes, Yes, No, Yes – then go ahead and check this film out. Any variation of that answer scheme and you may want to make sure you aren’t paying for this one. I’d say to truly enjoy this film, bring along a 6 pack of Old Style and someone who claims they were abducted by aliens while on vacation in Florida. It gets a 3 out of 5.