In all honesty, I had forgotten that this film existed until very recently. It returned to my life through my sister, who had been asked to write an essay for class on why the main character is so dislikable. She informed me of it’s Twist Ending, which I had clearly buried in the back of my mind, and the more she told me the more my mouth hung open in shock. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
This film exists in two parts, both in genre and thematically, so it seems only fair that i review it as such. Hour One is an action film which focuses on the survival of our main character Ray as well as his children Robbie and Rachel. Ray is looking after them for the weekend whilst his ex-wife and her new partner Tim go on holiday to the exciting state of Boston. So when aliens rise from the ground and start disintegrating people, Ray figures that escorting his children from New York to the safety of Boston, where he can leave them with their mother, is the best option. The score for this film is used sparingly, being completely absent for the first 20 minutes and only kicking in with a harmony of ominous strings when the aliens attack. This works to the films advantage, allowing tension to build whilst we stew in the uncomfortable silence. The cinematography also deserves praise, emphasisng the majesty of The Tripods and the other-worldly hue of their weaponry. There is a beautiful array of blues, purples, oranges and greens which contrasts well with the dull tones of own reality. This is a big story with a big scale.
Hour Two on the other hand is quite the opposite, drawing focus into a farmhouse bunker and going with more of a Thriller about resistance. Robbie is now dead, having gone with the army into a sudden and fiery explosion. A move which his father allowed, thus ripping him of his “Father of the Year” award. We pend the next fifty minutes with Ray, Rachel and another survivor called Harlan, as tensions rise and aliens seem to be ever on the verge of discovering them. Unfortunately this half of the film drags a bit towards its conclusion, but before we get there it’s time for some history.
H. G. Wells’ novel “The War Of The Worlds” was published in 1897 to mostly positive reviews and since then has seen many adaptations. There have been 9 films, 3 television shows, 14 radio broadcasts, 4 musicals, 6 games (both tabletop and arcade) and 8 comic books. Yes really. This means that anybody who has read the name, and certainly those who know the plot, know how this story ends which means that any adaptation is always inevitably leading to this climax. One final note before I dive into it though. I don’t think of this as so much a “war” of the worlds as much as a “decimation” of ours. War implies that both sides have a fighting chance and we most certainly did not.
So that ending. In which the aliens are killed by the smallest of Earths microorganisms, which we have become immune to but they have not. I can’t really fault this ending as it is one of the greatest plot twists of all time, one that nobody would see coming and makes some legitimate scientific sense. But what of Ray and Rachel? Well this is a Steven Spielberg film and he is one of the masters of keeping dreams alive as well as delivering a happy ending, so of course they make it to Boston. There they meet with Rays ex-wife, Tim and Robbie who has somehow miraculously survived the actual flames of oblivion. This is never explained and feels like a bit of a cop-out but it also distracts from the ending which now feels a little bit forced.
Overall “War of the Worlds” has a solid first hour and a half, making great use of its soundtrack and cinematography. The main characters all have their moments where you don’t feel like rooting for them. Robbie is a stereotypical mopey teen, Rachel screams consistently and Ray is just a bad parent, but I don’t really hate any of them. Any proper issues I have with this film fall in the last 20 minutes with an ending that feels rushed and kid friendly but I would still recommend seeing this film at least once.
Until next time…