Thursday, February 14, 2008

What I've Seen: War of the Worlds

When I was younger, I loved the slightly cheesy George Pal film of War of the Worlds, and today I have a queasy fascination with end-of-the-world movies. Considering those facts, it's a bit strange that I only just got around to watching Steven Spielberg's 2005 remake starring Tom Cruise. I recall the film getting generally good reviews, but it seems unlikely to be remembered as anything more than a good-enough Spielberg blockbuster. I won't argue that it should rank among his half-dozen or so masterpieces, but I will say this: Steven Spielberg has made more important films, more influential films, more entertaining, artistic, and personal films, but I don't think he has ever made a movie with such a sustained sense of dread and with so many utterly terrifying images. Unlike the briefs shots of the shark in Jaws, Spielberg uses slow zooms and long tracking shots to practically sear the images of carnage into your retinas. One of the movie's recurring themes is Tom Cruise's efforts to shield his young daughter from the horror surrounding her, and I sometimes wished that the director would show the same concern for the welfare of his audience.

And yes, the ending is a cop-out, but that's probably something you should take up with H.G. Wells.

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