Classic Film Review: War of the Worlds (2005)

‘It’s a fairly decent film hampered by its acting, storytelling and time’

War of the Worlds, 2005

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

 

Classic novel, brilliant director, big-name actor, rising young actress, remake of a popular film; what could possibly go wrong?

Based on the novel by H. G. Wells, and a remake of the 1953 film, War of the Worlds focuses on a family of three, father Ray (Tom Cruise, American Made), daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and son Robbie (Justin Chatwin), as they get caught up in the middle of the alien invasion, and their subsequent journey to Boston to meet up with Rachel and Robbie’s mother. There’s also the issues of Ray being largely an absent/poor father, which particularly is evident in his relationship with Robbie.

While the original focused more on the aliens’ invasion, and the response from the army, this version focused on a more character-driven story of Ray’s fight for survival with his family (and the writers obviously felt that having tension between Ray and his family would further fuel this fight), however it doesn’t work quite as well. For one, the dynamic between Ray and his family takes away from the aliens far too much and Robbie’s character is quite awfully written and acted. There also isn’t too much backstory behind their actions (all we know is Ray is divorced from their mother and now doesn’t have much money). It’s also not helped by pretty poor-to-average performances by Cruise, Fanning and Chatwin. Fanning easily stands out (albeit not with much competition), but I was never truly invested in them.

War of the Worlds, 2

The sheer amount of plot coincidences that Ray and his family survive is also distracting from a believability point. From them finding the only car that works, to them being the only two people invited to a home for protection to them being one of the few survivors when the town, and large crowds of people, are exterminated. These are too much to believe at times which is disappointing as it means the audience can’t relate to the heroes of the film.

Visually, though, the effects are really well done and the aliens look great (even if largely completely different from the original), however there’s a lot of shaky-cam footage and some strange camera shots. It’s a fairly decent film hampered by its acting, storytelling and time (far too much time was spent hiding away in the home they were invited in to, and it slows down the film far too much).

 

Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¼

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