Web Edition

lead stories
other news



chess forum
town talk


press releases


last week's issue

real estate
classified ads


For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Andrew Cooper)

photo caption:
DON'T WORRY, WE'LL FIND A WAY OUT OF HERE: Ray (Tom Cruise, above) reassuringly hold his daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) as he tries to comfort her by promising that he will lead them to safety. end caption.

War of the Worlds: It's Armageddon All Over Again in Invading Alien Adventure

Review by Kam Williams

Before Steven Spielberg suggested that aliens might be friendly, most alien invasion movies were high body-count affairs in which the humans found themselves in a fight for survival against an army of malevolent creatures. His pictures Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E. T. (1982) presented a different viewpoint by showing peaceful visitors from outer space.

Spielberg has flipped the script with War of the Worlds, and produced a science-fiction movie which reverts to the pulp fiction notion of aliens as the enemies of earthlings. The film is based on the H. G. Wells novel from 1898 about a spaceship from Mars which lands in London.

The intelligent creatures unload 100-foot tall, military machines from their spaceships which easily defeat the English army. However, rather than decimate the population, the conquerors proceed to herd people like cattle in order to be able to suck human blood for sustenance.

Wells wrote the cautionary tale as a warning about the dangers of imperialism, implying that the British might not like it if they were to find themselves at the other end of the oppression equation, facing social, economic, and cultural extermination at the hands of a technologically-advanced civilization. At the time of the book's publication, England was at the height of its influence around the globe.

When this literary classic was adapted for radio on October 30, 1938, it triggered a panic during a live broadcast narrated by Orson Welles who described widespread death and destruction caused by Martians who had supposedly landed in New Jersey. The 1953 Hollywood screen version, set in California, turned the morality play into an action-oriented extravaganza which won an Academy Award for its special effects.

Spielberg downplays the novel's political message in favor of computer-generated imagery and a plotline which focuses on one man's struggle to protect his two children from death. Tom Cruise stars as Ray Ferrier, a Jersey dockworker whose immaturity was to blame for the divorce which broke up his family.

We find Ray receiving his kids for a weekend visit from his recently re-married ex-wife (Miranda Otto) who is off to Boston with her new husband. Though Rachel (Dakota Fanning), a precocious 10 year-old, has come to terms with her less-than-perfect father, rebellious teen Robbie (Justin Chatwin) exhibits little patience or respect for his father.

Before the kids settle in at their father's place, ominous clouds form overhead, followed by lightning storms which not only rip giant fissures in the pavement, but also knock out all electrical and battery-powered devices. Chaos ensues as towering tripods equipped with lasers appear out of the holes in the ground.

Lucky for the Ferriers, Ray has uncanny survival instincts, somehow understanding what is happening better than anyone else, knowing where to find the only operable automobile, figuring out which direction to head in, and how to outsmart the invaders at every turn. Spielberg proves himself a master at conveying the utter sense of dread of those unfortunates caught up in the invasion.

Although War of the Worlds offers no agenda other than to frighten you, it does that well, often evoking memories of such recent real-life tragedies as 9-11, Rwanda and the tsunami. Spielberg also alludes to Titanic, Signs, and a host of other disaster and science-fiction movies, in the course of making a spectacular movie.

Excellent (4 stars). Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images and frightening sequences of violence. Running time: 116 minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


Website Design by Kiyomi Camp