Friday, July 01, 2005

War of the Worlds (2005)

Spielberg Lets Us Witness The
By Reymundo Salao

WAR OF THE WORLDS is the grandfather of all alien invasion movies. Published in 1898, it is probably the first alien invasion literary work that has become the classic pioneer storyline from the mind of American science fiction genius H.G. Wells, from which all other alien invasion storylines followed. It is only fitting and perfect, that Steven Spielberg, one of the most revered master directors of the science fiction drama will be helming as the director of this masterpiece. And indeed, he does justice to the H.G. Wells classic, delivering a profound tale that is as good as the book itself.

(May contain spoilers)
The storyline is pretty simple: Aliens (Martians, as implied by the book) have sent their machines of destruction to exterminate mankind. Man's defenses are helpless against the weapons of the aliens. Cities fall and civilization is crumbling. What seems like mere luck, is actually an irony on the part of man, as the ones that defeated the aliens are the creatures that man has long been having war with.

Spielberg has brilliantly improved the storyline of the book to meet up with today's standards. Understandably, as the book was written a little more than a century ago, the standards for science fiction writing were still pretty simple, and adapting it into film in its purest & perfectly faithful form may only produce a very bland stereotype sci-fi film. So Spielberg had to make certain additions and slight improvements to the storyline, layering it with enough tension-drama and gripping suspense. But strictly, Spielberg never altered the core storyline, so as to maintain the fact that, although not page-by-page perfect, it still can be considered a faithful adaptation. In the book, the storyline is told from the point-of-view of one of the fleeing human survivors, his eyewitness accounts as he travels from the city, to the countryside, and the carnage, panic, and war that has gripped the planet. In the film, Spielberg injects it with a bit more tension as the main character, who is a simple laborer named Ray Ferrier (played by Tom Cruise), flees along with his daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning), and son Robbie (Justin Chatwin). His eyewitness accounts are not much different from that of the book. But with Spielberg's adaptation, there is more stress and dramatic brilliance as it focuses more on the emotional level of the events that have occurred in the storyline. There is even one scene wherein the family comes across a crowd driven by panic forcibly trying to steal their car. It has become more of a suspenseful horror film because of its efficient manner of interpreting the terror that goes on in the movie. You can be infected by the same sense of dread in the storyline as mankind is helpless against the chaos brought forth by the alien invaders. This is so, because Spielberg has put up a main protagonist that all of us can relate with, a simple guy who wouldn't know where to begin in dealing with a situation like this. In comparison to the film INDEPENDENCE DAY (which also has also based its storyline from War of the Worlds), the main characters of that film include a pilot and a scientist, and with that, you can expect a sense of "action-film hope" that sooner or later, they'd have to find leverage against the horrific alien bad guys. But in this "War of the Worlds" movie, you have a simple family man, and his sense of hopelessness is contagious to the audience. It is only in the 80's and 90's that some alien invasion movies are regarded as action-adventures, this film takes us back to a time (1950's & 60's) when alien invasion movies are regarded as horror movies.

The film is set on the present day, so there is a tweaking of the storyline as instead of having the aliens coming into Earth as meteorites or flying objects, this adaptation establishes that the machines have been buried under the Earth way back before civilization and has planned the extermination for centuries already. On the other hand, with the design for the alien creatures and the alien machines, Spielberg has based it faithfully in the book, also combining it with the designs of the 1953 film version, giving homage to it. Also faithful to the book was the red fertilizer scene, which was creepily translated onscreen. Up to the end, (this one is for those who didn't "get" the ending) when the aliens gave in to death as they can nevermore survive the atmosphere of our planet for they have no antibodies to protect them from germs, as was narrated (by Morgan Freeman) in the epilogue, which closes down the end of the film.

Screenwriters Josh Friedman and David Koepp did a magnificent job with writing an excellent screenplay for this classic. Also immensely impressive is the acting prowess of child star Dakota Fanning who, in her young age can act very very convincingly. And of course, once again, Steven Spielberg who (as one article wrote) explores the dark side of his other alien movies, and indeed does justice to the iconic sci-fi classic War of the Worlds. If he once made you love aliens when he made E.T., this time he will make you hate the aliens to pieces. You can truly imagine the end of the world with this movie. Frightening and disturbing, the film is so excellent; it makes "Independence Day" look childish.

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