from TUNBRIDGE WELLS, ENGLAND
, 01 Oct 2010
A film so ridiculous that one finds difficulty finding the words to express one's state of extreme flabbergastedness as to its sheer silliness.
Herbert George Wells' original novel never made much sense. It never dealt with the rather obvious fact that any sufficiently advanced, technological civilisation would NEVER travel to another planet to colonise it without first determining that the atmosphere of that planet was not a threat to the very survival of the colonisers. And yet that's EXACTLY what transpires here. They'd wear spacesuits first, for Christ's sake; wouldn't they?
This was just an ending the author came up with in the absence of anything better. It perfunctorilyâended a story that appeared to be very much the tragedy for the human race that any domestic contact with a malevolent civilisation would be given that our puny weapons could never possibly defeat them. It was always a copout.
The original, 1953 version of this same story got around this plot problem by focussing on a love story that would involve the audience and get us wanting a happy ending no matter what. That is what Hollywood is good at, after all; which is why it's such a wealthy and successful industry.
Instead of this, what we have here is lukewarm soapâopera where Mr Spielberg employs a recalcitrant teenager with whom Tom Cruise doesn't get on with very well. But, a mother who, although divorced from Mr Cruise, has a good relationship with her son. The son disappears halfway through the film only to turn up at the ending in a mawkishly sentimental denouement. This sends us away from the cinema feeling good but offers us no real insights into the nature of father/son relationships.
The unspectacular special effects are the main characters here and they merely CREATE a sense of the awesome destructiveness of advanced technology rather than of Man battling against larger forces. These effects do not RE-CREATE, since the events depicted have never happened, so we have no way of knowing how good they are because we have nothing to compare them with - from our own experience.
The other problem with the story is that it ridiculously claims that an advanced race would use humans as slaves for fertilising a new earth. Why would such a civilisation do this when it can use its advanced technology to do this?
Slavery in the West, for example, was not abolished because Whites suddenly moved from being misanthropes to being philanthropists. It was abolished because using slaves is more expensive than using machines Â the ultimate material product of all advanced civilisations known. If you can plough a field with a single machine rather than a hundred slaves and you were a trueâblue capitalist, then why on earth (or on any other planet) would you not do so?
Are aliens exempt from such rational considerations? Are aliens mentallyâill? How can mentallyâill people build and pilot spacecraft across the vast, egoâcrushing distances of space? And if they could, then how on earth did they get to be so advanced?
The Soviet Union collapsed because it turned its people into physical and mental slaves; and a mind enslaved cannot create the labourâsaving devices to make slavery redundant and unnecessary. All creation and advancement in life requires a free mind Â neither can flourish without it. The people who made this cinematic dreck presumably have free minds and yet they're unable to harness them to create cultural artefacts expressing the typical creations of a free mind. They posit slavery within the context of a high technology that they constantly bombard us with in largeâscale special effects. Only a 'highlyâpaid slave' would produce rubbish like this on this scale. No wonder interviews with filmâstars and filmmakers are often embarrassing when you quickly come to realise that these very wealthy people are actually mostly quite stupid!
Wasn't the tv series and subsequent films of star trek saddled with this risible notion in the creation of the Klingons? A race of cryptoâcommunists who Â like our earth-bound Soviets vis-Ã -vis the United States - never developed a technology sufficient to challenge the United Federation of Planets. This is why the Soviets lost the race to walk first on the moon, after all. Only in the movie Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country is this idiocy faced when the Klingon Empire collapses, through implosion, as the Soviet Union did.
Even so, the technology of this supposedly advanced race is underârealised in that humans are pickedâup oneâbyâone by the Martian tripods; instead of using some kind of net to pick them up wholesale. Imagine how long it would take to herd the entire human race with such devices? Advanced technology? Laughable!
Our hero takes his family onto a ferry only to have said ferry overturned. It should have become obvious by that time that the Martians are moving against population concentrations and that these are, therefore, the most dangerous places for any survivalâminded human beings to be. But no, that would scupper the chance to add the spectacular capsizing of said boat. Dramatic but not drama because the characters we're supposed to be relating to do incredibly silly things.
To make the War of the Worlds more palatable to a modern audience, terrorism has been shoehorned unsuccessfully into the plot. This works very well when Tom Cruise is covered with dust from headâtoâfoot; representing the remains of those who've died around him as he successfully evades the Martian deathârays. This replicates the many New Yorkers similarly covered in dust after the Twin Towers fell on the morning of 11 September 2001. Yet, this idea Â being the only one the filmmakers have in their arsenal of vain hopes that special effects will tell the story on their own Â is trashedâtoâdeath. Mr Cruise steps out from his exâwife's home to find a civilian airliner crashed on his front lawn without leaving a scratch on his four-byâfour! I know these vehicles are wellâbuilt and everything, but that's simply absurd.
Although Tom Cruise's daughter, Dakota Fanning, is excellent Â as always Â her relationship with him never comes across as atâallâbelievable. It's possible that, unlike Mr Spielberg, Mr Cruise doesn't know how to play against children; and is competing with her rather than acting off of her.
A movie whose poverty of imagination isn't compensated for by the large amount of money spent making it. Mr Spielberg obviously directed the film as a favourâforâaâfriend or, worse, he's simply run out of things to say. In which case he should give up filmâdirecting for producing and nurturing the directorial talent of the future.
Clearly, Mr Spielberg doesn't really believe in malevolent aliens for the reason that it's hard to imagine any advanced society surviving and transcending a tendency to selfâdestruction that such malevolence always breeds. Saying that this is not life as we know it isn't enough since ALL drama is about us Â whom we know - not about them, whom we cannot know. Any lower animal that could speak English would be unintelligible to us because we could not understand the experience behind the statements that it would make. If we learn nothing about ourselves from he experience, then we've learned nothing save the conjecture that it's possible to be bad and survive; even though there's no evidence from our own experience to validate this. This movie just doesn't understand the human purpose of drama nor human nature.
(Gene Barry and Ann Robinson make an allâtooâbrief appearance in a film that is never as good as the version in which they starred. See this, itÂs much better:
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