War of the Worlds ★★★½

The Box Office Bashing Season: 2003 to 2014

ONE OR TWO SPOILERS

This project hasn't been going so well so far, but this was a fair bit better even though I wasn't expecting it to be.

I do count myself as a sizeable Steven Spielberg fan even though, before this, I hadn't seen anything he'd made since the excellent Catch Me If You Can. I guess I've always been slightly reluctant to visit his later films because I was worried I would always come into them with the expectation that they would be as amazing as his earlier classics. But I actually came into this with no expectation at all, so maybe I'm ready to tackle them after all!

For the most part, War Of The Worlds doesn't feel much a Spielberg film at all. It actually felt more like a Roland Emmerich film, for better or worse, and was more of a disaster film than a sci-fi film. But there are a couple of recognisable Spielberg traits here. The scene where the aliens are searching around the cellar is pretty much just a remake of the 'raptors in the kitchen from Jurassic Park. Showing the aliens in this cutesy manner after the amazingly destructive slaying of thousands upon thousands of people was pretty stupid, I thought.

And there's the family shit. There always has to be the family shit, Steve. You know, I've never actually minded it all that much in the past but it really grated on my nerves here because I felt it weighed the damn thing down so much at times. We get it, we know the point being made is here - redemption and all that. But how about we just shovel that shit-pile to the side rather than having it take centre stage in too many scenes? Plus it leads to Tom Cruise singing, and who the fuck wants to hear that?

Even so, Cruise is a pretty interesting 'hero' simply because he is a convincing layabout and useless dad. It does lead to some of the film's most enjoyable comedy - the sandwich scene was hilarious and the debate about where the aliens came from ("Europe?!") and who they are ("Are they the terrorists?!") and he's got just enough about him to be a slightly more interesting lead. Plus he's Cruise - he can do this kind of thing well even in his sleep.

There's a lot wrong with it - the ending where the aliens just sort of die, which we then have to have explained to us by the stupid over-earnest voiceover, was a bunch of shit if you ask me. I was hoping for something better than them just getting a bit sick and then spinning round, falling over and carking it. Plus, as good as Dakota Fanning is, I could have done without the screeching. I have four kids. I don't need to listen to it in a film as well.

But I did really enjoy it. It was consistently exciting, enjoyable and brilliantly destructive in everything it did. The initial attack, where people are vaporised all around Cruise, is absolutely superb. The river of bodies was also awesome, and it's surprisingly gory and violent considering it was a 12 certificate, I think. It rarely stops for more than about a minute at a time, plus you get Tim Robbins as a crazy survivalist proving to be far more convincing than usual.

It's nowhere near vintage Spielberg, but it's a lot of fun with huge flaws that are mostly covered up some tremendously entertaining carnage. Not bad at all.

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