by Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

H.G. Wells was a genius for sure.  It seems inconceivable that War of the Worlds, an exciting, horrifying, and truly groundbreaking tale of a Martian invasion of Earth, was written 107 years ago.  It's a story that's thrilled the world since its debut.  It's a story that drove the masses into hysteria in 1938 when Orson Welles tricked America with a dramatization of the classic disguised as an actual news broadcast.  And in the hands of Steven Spielberg, it's a story that makes one kickass edge of your seat adrenaline overdose that finally gets it right on the big screen.

The modernized retelling of this movie works perfectly. As I type this, I’m still disoriented, blown away, and am reeling from the experience. War of the Worlds gave me that thrill ride feeling that a great special effects extravaganza is supposed to, but unlike so many disastro-explosivo-BANG movies as of late, you don’t have to be apologetic and use those lame “eh…just turn your brain off and enjoy it” excuse.

This doesn’t feel like a remake, but like the movie that should have been made originally. I always thought the 1953 original dragged and was rather boring, just itching for that alien to actually show up. Spielberg’s take on the book kicks your ass from the start and just doesn’t stop.

What works so well in this movie is that there aren’t any rules laid out. Horrific things just start happening that don’t make any sense at all. Giant robotic tripods just come out of the ground and start fucking things up. You’re as confused and disoriented as the people in the film. When crowds stagger down the street after chaotic events unfold, you’re right there with them, unable to comprehend how the hell something like this can happen.

Some of the characters try to put it in the context of a terrorist attack, but when clothes start raining down from the sky because hundreds of people were just vaporized, nothing makes sense at all.

The deaths in this movie are very real feeling and tragic. The CGI is done so well that it doesn’t look one bit of fake. I don’t know how many times I just mumbled, “Holy Shit!” watching awful things happen to people. I’ve seen countless thousands of movie deaths, but Spielberg shows he’s the master of this sort of thing and makes it all new again. This was the thrill of watching Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. Independence Day Director, Roland Emerisch is probably going to hang himself in his closet after watching this one.

Tom Cruise is an easy media target as of late, and perhaps deservedly so, but any goofy feelings about the guy evaporate as soon as the movie starts. Like him or not personally, the guy can act. And he carries the role of a divorced dad tasked with taking care of his teenage son and little daughter while the whole world is blowing to shit amazingly well. He’s a fallible character that is doing the best he can.

Dakota Fanning is great, as Cruise’s daughter. She’s a scared little girl that is told to shut her eyes when the world turns to shit. The things she sees are enough to give permanent brain damage to any kid, but she’s appropriately tough, and when she keeps quiet in circumstances that would make any other kid have an aneurism, you can’t help but applaud her performance.

Spielberg is able to craft situations for the actors that work so well. You can be amazed at Cruise running down the street while aliens blast the shit out of everyone around him, or equally scared while he and his kids are in a mini van with hundreds of people shaking it and trying to get in.

Perhaps only James Cameron’s brilliant sinking of The Titanic comes close to the incredible stuff pulled off in this movie.

The sound crew in this film easily deserve an Oscar. The unearthly buzzing moans that the alien ships make is scary as hell. Definitely see it in the theater with the best possible sound system. At one point, my entire row looked back because it sounded like the projector booth was collapsing on us.

John Williams pulls out an all original masterpiece score as well that fills you with the proper sense of dread throughout.

Every critic and fan I talked to at the screening loved this movie.

And Mr. Spielberg, thanks for kicking my ass!

 

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