We just saw War of the Worlds in Century City -- the seven PM showing. The theatre was packed, people were standing at the back. Every showing of it at our local theatre in Westwood was sold out. I'm so tense from being so scared and anxious throughout this film that my neck and shoulders are in real pain. I know it's just a movie. I know these are just actors, in fact I went to college and was friends with one of them, nevertheless it hooked me and wouldn't let me go for the duration of the film. I was so scared I had to hang on to my boyfriend's arm for comfort and I had to keep reminding myself to close my mouth that was hanging open for most of the film -- the action was that relentless -- it just kept coming and coming.
I know that a lot of jealous, elitist, film buffs like to criticize successful directors and actors like Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, but these guys are successful for a reason; they know how to make movies that work and that consistently deliver. They know what people like to see and they know how to take us there from start to finish. It's true that I would rather watch an independent film, made by people who hate the current state of cinema and are fighting to restore things to the way they were before the bottom line and the opening weekend's box office receipts became the biggest consideration, a movie made by people who have had to scrabble to get it made, with fabulous writing, a totally believable storyline, with characters who are fully developed and who I can relate to, with maybe a little sex and beauty thrown in for the hell of it, than a great big overproduced commercial blockbuster. But hey, for fun, for a thrill, for a serious roller coaster ride of a scary ass movie, with tremendous visual affects, this is the summer movie to beat. I'll take this movie any day of the week over something boring, virtuous and good for me. Maybe I can mix my movies up the way I do books; two deep, well written, growth inspiring books to every fluffy, fun ride kind of book, like a Bridget Jones, or a Devil Wears Prada, and then back to a couple selections from Oprah's book club.
I have to say that, current PR troubles and Scientology aside, I like Tom Cruise. It's hard not to like the guy. He just tries so damned hard, how can you not respect that? Maybe there's something to all of this Scientology. If that's what it takes to keep your body in that kind of shape and achieve the level of success he has, then maybe I should look into it. I like the idea of people wanting to "assist" each other, but then again, when I think about that whole Xenu and the Body Thetans business it gives me the willies. He does work his eyes a little too much -- there's a kind of tension about his eyes that shows up in some of the more emotionally challenging scenes, I guess we'd call this pushing in the theatre, but generally he's just so game, and so adept and athletic that I always walk away admiring his work He's no Ed Harris but then again Ed Harris isn't Tom Cruise. I'm still waiting for someone to find the Oscar he should have been given for Magnolia and give it to him.
The film itself is one hell of a ride. It's scary and moving and complex in some ways. It respects the source material in that the aliens do look like what I remember from the original radio descriptions of them. It draws you in and makes you care about the main characters. In a way it's like some kind of weird, dark, bookend to Spielberg's earlier alien movies -- a complete reversal on his earlier position where aliens are childlike and innocent and we are the bad guys bent on dissecting and making use of them. Here they are totally ruthless and carnivorous, bent on annihilating every last one of us. There's even a note that the tall, tentacled, walking-ship-creatures sound that is reminiscent of the first note played by the ship in Close Encounters.
It's relentless and gruesome, bloody and violent in the extreme. It's very Steven Spielberg; a heroes journey with lots of special affects, and children, with a flawed modern man fighting against all odds to save his beloved children. A man who once weak and lost, like many men who have left their wives and children, finds the strength to sacrifice himself for them and who ultimately wins because of this.
There are references to terrorism and 9/11 in the shell-shocked, human powder covered face of Tom Cruise, (who after witnessing horror and destruction on such an unfathomable level must pull it together and try to create some kind of plan for his family's survival), in the crumbling of large buildings, bodies flying through the air and blowing apart, while people stand and watch in horror, in a comment that Dakota Fanning makes about terrorists, and in the sort of lyrical site of people's clothing and papers fluttering down to the ground through a grove of trees.
I don't know what else to write. I'm still sort of digesting the experience. I definitely recommend seeing the film, if you think your heart can take it. I love Dakota Fanning. I think she is an amazing natural talent and I hope she has a long and successful career. Casting her was such a wise move on somebody's part because from the moment I first saw her on screen I cared about her. The actor who played Tom Cruise's ex-wife had an interesting presence and a voice that was remarkably like Meryl Streep in some of her earlier less character rolls. Of course I was thrilled to see Tim Robbins pop up because I hadn't known he was in this and it was a nice surprise. It's always a little weird to see him in a movie. I'm still rooting for him, but he's such a big star now, it's hard to understand how he went from that tiny supporting roll in The Sure Thing to the position he is in now, when he's still just Tim, my old friend from UCLA to me.
I see a lot of movies. I love them. In many ways movies have gotten me through my life, they've been my teachers and my companions, they've inspired me and made me laugh, turned me on and turned me off; I think they are truly one of the most important art forms of our time. But as many movies as I see I rarely feel the need to come home and write about one of them unless something about it has moved me in some way. So this alone tells me that there is something special about this film. I imagine everyone will be dissecting it tonight and tomorrow and in the coming days. I'm predicting blockbuster returns because it really is that quintessential summer hit kind of film. I think maybe one of the reasons I believe this is that this is the kind of film that can literally remove you from your own life, your own troubles, and take you away with it for two solid hours. There aren't a lot of movies that can do that anymore and there is something to be said for this. I didn't think about my SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR vet bill once during the entire movie. I just thought about Tom Cruise, or Ray Ferrier, keeping his family together, keeping his kids alive, and finding some place safe where they could regroup and hide from the aliens. I also thought about kicking some alien ass; like the teenage son, I wanted to go get those bastards even though I knew the best plan would be to hunker down and hide. Where earlier incarnations of War of the Worlds; the book, the radio play, and the movie, were perfect for their time, this version of the story -- with broken families, a weary working class hero, children wise beyond their years who are all too aware of terrorism, with American flags flapping from every porch despite our hatred of the War in Iraq -- this War of the Worlds seems to be a movie for ours.