Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin
War of the Worlds is lower tier Spielberg, and that’s a big disappointment. That legendary director, this classic story, a bona fide star leading the cast, one of the best child actors we’ve ever seen; this should have been a bigger moment and a greater success than it was at the time, and also how it watches now. Audiences deserved more impact from a story this famous, compelling, haunting, and historic, but what we got instead were performances and filmmaking that all felt phoned it, rather than completely committed. And, you know, that’s a real shame.
Across the globe, bizarre lighting strikes and power outages cause concern among the citizens of Earth, as they walk out of their homes to see storms but witness something much more deadly instead. Beings from another planet have arrived on ours, or have they been here all along? Doesn’t really matter, it’s a moot point, and soon all of humanity will be an afterthought, as the creatures in their machines begin decimating the populations of every major city and destroying everything in their paths. One man, along with his semi-estranged son & daughter, see the entire mess unravel as they trek across the country, trying to stay alive.
The set-up is a little silly; divorced man, doesn’t understand his angry kids, a little unstable, forced to show his love to them during a disastrous situation. It’s silly, but it’s an OK vehicle for us to watch events unfold from, so that is what it is. But the rest of the movie doesn’t really ever pick up from there, we simply go with the flow, and there are never moments that will make you glad you were along for the ride. Cruise is cool, Fanning is great, the acting isn’t the problem, and, I guess, neither is the direction or the visuals; looking at this movie is pretty fun. It’s the story that isn’t compelling, oddly enough, since it’s based on something so colossal and directed by such a genius. We are simply never drawn in or fully invested, the film just doesn’t force us to care, it’s far too surface level, and when the end comes we’re all like “huh”. A lackluster cinematic experience if ever there was one, War of the Worlds isn’t awful, it’s just alright, and that’s not good enough, Steven.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆