Earth vs. the Aliens

It seems like every year there’s a big ‘disaster’ film featuring a lot of doom and gloom. The lineage of this genre can be traced from last year’s ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, all the way to 1936’s ‘San Francisco’ and beyond.

Most such films do well at the box office, pointing to a solid segment of the audience wanting to see mass destruction. So, its time for this year’s disaster, and it comes in the form of an alien invasion. The surprising thing is that this one is directed by Steven Spielberg, who is wont to portray benevolent aliens, as in ‘E.T.’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

Based on the sci-fi classic novel by H.G.Wells, ‘War of the Worlds’ has been adapted and imitated a number of times, perhaps most memorably in ‘Independence Day’. But, leave it to Spielberg to find a new hook into the material. By following the entire story from the perspective of a blue collar worker (Tom Cruise) and his children, Spielberg makes the film more about the human reaction to a natural disaster rather than focus on the fireworks.

The result is an often chilling look at the repercussions of disasters and the struggle for survival. While other such films seek to impress with visuals of famous monuments destroyed, this one shows the panic and terror of the average Joe.

The film does falter in the third act in an attempt to have a rousing finish and turning Cruise into an unlikely hero. It’s quite a jump because Cruise’s character up to then is very much part of a dysfunctional family, which is something of a tradition in Spielberg’s films.

This is quite an interesting film, especially as to how it fits in to Spielberg’s oeuvre. It’s a big budget movie but not really a crowd pleaser in the summer-film tradition. It’s certainly a commercial film but one that maybe will leave the audience thinking. ‘War of the Worlds’ is the disaster film with the key ingredient missing in most – a heart.

‘War of the Worlds’ opens soon at the Marquee cinema. Check ad for play times.