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Battle rages in 'War of the Worlds,' but reviewers agree

July 05, 2005

'War' doesn't help the ego


by STEVEN YOUNKINS

The basement of an abandoned farmhouse offers two men a momentary glimmer of safety. "This isn't a war any more than it is a war between men and maggots," one says while slaughter ensues above their heads. "This is an extermination."

Director Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" is perhaps the hardest kick in the stomach that the human superiority complex might ever get.

Set in present-day New England and starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, this sure ain't your grandmother's "War of the Worlds." This might not be your stereotypical summer blockbuster, as there is more than gratuitous violence and cheap special effects. Humanity at its most primal is exposed through the bedlam of the battle not only between man and Martian, but also between man and himself.

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This story might seem overplayed - it's been produced as a radio program, a movie adaptation in 1953 and, oh yeah, author H.G. Wells' original story more than a century ago - but Spielberg breathes new life into the clich-riddled sci-fi genre. Featuring a beautiful soundtrack by John Williams and great supporting performances from Tim Robbins and Justin Chatwin, "War of the Worlds" is not one to miss.

If you see one movie this summer, see "War of the Worlds." If you see two, see it twice.




Aliens aren't so bright; movie's fine


By ROWAN COPLEY

"No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own."

Thus begins "War of the Worlds," with an intro narrated by Morgan Freeman.

In the movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, divorced dad Ray (Tom Cruise) gets his kids for a weekend. He can't connect with them very well. Then his world turns upside down. A freakish lightning storm strikes his New York neighborhood, blacking out the city and frying electrical devices. Giant tripod alien machines appear and start killing humans. Ray flees the city with his kids.

I loved most of the movie. The story is centered on one family, with the aliens often in the background. The acting is good, though I found myself having a hard time getting Cruise's character.

Each scene is well crafted. In one scene, the family is in the basement of a house while one of the lightning strikes is happening outside. We only see flashes of light from the window, but sound effects and camera angles makes this scene terrifying.

One complaint I have is the unrealistic portrayal of aliens. If you had the power to fry everything electrical, could you not just blow up all the major cities?

It would be a good strategy, but it wouldn't make a good film.

Also, the ending seemed abrupt. When the end rolled around, I still thought there was a final climax to come.

"War of the Worlds" is enjoyable, especially on a technical level. I was just hoping that the "intelligences greater than our own" would appear to be smarter.

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