War of the Worlds certainly is not top shelf Steven Spielberg and generally I didn’t like it quite as much as I did 15 years ago, however I will say the visual effects mostly held up and I can’t say I was ever bored.
War of the Worlds
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action
Paramount | PG13 – 116 min. – $29.99 | May 19, 2020
Date Published: 05/11/2020 | Author: The Movieman
Paramount provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
Note: The screen captures below were from the old Blu-ray disc and only here to add images to the review.
THE MOVIE — 2.75/5
Plot Synopsis: Ray Ferrier (TOM CRUISE) is an ordinary man who summons extraordinary courage to protect his children (JUSTIN CHATWIN, DAKOTA FANNING) when a global army of alien invaders set their sights and their devastating war machines upon Earth and the entire human population.
Review (from 2006): I will admit up front that the antics of one Tom Cruise had made my anticipation for War of the Worlds go down dramatically. However, I was still interested enough to see it, and what I found was very much a mixed bag.
War of the Worlds is the second collaboration from Hollywood legends Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, after another sci-fi mystery-thriller, Minority Report. With War, Spielberg presents a film remenescent of the alien invasion movies of yesteryear (though with far far superior visual effects). For War of the Worlds, indeed the first part (to go along with John Williams) is incredible, but there is a certain point in the middle where it all falls apart…
Previous alien invasion movies such as Independence Day, had lame brain multiple characters whose expertise, when put together, could help defeat the aliens. In War of the Worlds, though, it is all about keeping his family safe and learning to survive the oncoming slaughter. And, it is in this case that I liked the film. While at times it is a bit farfetched in what these characters do (even for a science fiction flick), I still liked the fact that it was different from the genre: having a main character who is flawed and who does not have all the answers. Now, there are some eye rolling stretches where characters will come out of nowhere and whose sole purpose seems only to explain what’s happening and let the audience catch up (for instance, they do explain the who’s and why’s of the situation). Given that this is a sci-fi flick at its core, I can forgive those moments.
Although my anticipation for the movie was low, once the film did begin, I found myself engrossed in the action at hand. It wasn’t until the second half that I was brought down again. Without spoiling it, all I can say is the point of departure came toward the latter end of the basement sequence. It wasn’t that the second half was bad, but it was that War of the Worlds became just another generic summer film, departing from such a unique and memorable start that I found it hard to grasp how things could go so wrong.
Despite my misgivings about the second half, Steven Spielberg still manages to bring forth a very good film that, like the Star Wars prequels before it, will revolutionize the way directors will make science fiction films. Spielberg has once again proved that even his “bad” movies, he can still present something of use (or in this case, a good hour plus).
The cast, for their part in this special effects extravaganza, do alright overall. I don’t think Tom Cruise gave a bad performance, but after seeing movies like Magnolia or his interview on The Today Show, he could’ve been much better. But, in fairness, I don’t think the script (or time) gave him much to work with as he is running from one place to another with that Tom Cruise “I’m terrified” look on his face.
It is young Dakota Fanning who, in my opinion, stole the show (cast wise), and that is not a good thing. Now, I can’t criticize her too much since she is just a little girl playing a character in an extraordinary situation, but I also can’t leave this subject without mentioning that she spends a good majority of the film crying and screaming, something that though may be true to life, also became annoying.
Other notables such as Miranda Otto, Justin Chatwin and Tim Robbins, deliver their lines and move on. Personally, I think Robbins is one of the best actors we have out there, but this glorified cameo (and in turn, cameo-like performance) wasn’t done right and could be the reason for the downturn in the story. (2020 me): Thinking about it, given Cruise and Robbins worked together on Top Gun, his appearance does make sense.
In the end, it is about the special effects that makes War of the Worlds a good film, flawed story and all.
2020 Update: When I watched the film recently, it was probably only my third viewing, the first in theaters and second probably on DVD. Reading over my review from 14 years ago, while I didn’t nearly enjoy it, much of my opinions still remain. The visual effects still hold up really well, as does the sound design (more in the audio section). However, War of the Worlds doesn’t have much to offer beyond the visuals, there are a couple emotional scenes to be sure, however these characters, Chatwin especially, was obnoxious while Elle Fanning did her best impersonation of Drew Barrymore from E.T.
In the end, War of the Worlds feels like an old film, that sure-fire summer blockbuster starring Tom Cruise that doubtful would work today as Cruise’s name doesn’t do much outside of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This two-disc set comes with a glossy slip cover with all of the bonus material contained on the Blu-ray disc, which appears to be the same one from 2010.
Revisiting Invasion (7:39) — Producer/Director Steven Spielberg explains his interest in Earth invasions and what drew him to do this remake.
The H.G. Wells Legacy (6:34) is a profile on the author from memories by his relatives.
Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds (8:00) on the cameos of the two actors from the 1953 version.
Characters: The Family Unit (13:22) — This featurette looks at the casting focusing primarily on Tom Cruise and his character.
Previsualizations (7:42) are more or less motion storyboards to map out certain scenes.
Production Diaries (TRT 1:31:58) — This breaks down the filming on both coasts.
Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens (14:07) looks at the elements of the alien and spacecraft designs.
Scoring War of the Worlds (11:57) is on the score by John Williams.
We Are Not Alone (3:14) — Short featurette on Spielberg’s passion on out space and beyond.
Also includes Galleries and the Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1:59).
VIDEO – 4.75/5
|Paramount releases War of the Worlds onto 4K Ultra HD where it’s shown in the original theatrical 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and given a new 2160p high-definition transfer. Can’t say I’m surprised, but this does look excellent, detail is obviously sharper but what I tend to like, or take note of, is the natural film noise that has been retained, giving it a pristine look. Being this has always been a dark movie, colors are tamped down but still vibrant enough while black levels are stark without appearing crushed.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|If the video doesn’t give you that theatrical experience at home, the Dolby Atmos track, does; a clear upgrade over the original release’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which honestly, sounded great in its own right. In any case, the Atmos track delivers, from the fewer quieter moments where attacks in the background can still be heard, to being placed right in the middle of the action, as the pods crush everything in sight or zaps the humans in their path. With every speaker being fully utilized, the LFE channel kicks into high gear, shaking and rattling the room but not to the point where it’s merely rumbling but adding to the on-screen environment.|
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, War of the Worlds certainly is not top shelf Steven Spielberg and generally I didn’t like it quite as much as I did 15 years ago, however I will say the visual effects mostly held up and I can’t say I was ever bored. In terms of the 4K release from Paramount, the technical aspects are still extremely strong and worth the upgrade if you are a fan of the movie (and at least does make for reference-worthy work).