COLUMN: “War of the Worlds”: Spielberg’s Remake for a New Generation of Sci-Fi


Drew Coffey

Drew Coffey, Columnist

“War of the Worlds” directed by Steven Spielberg was released in 2005 and is based on the novel by H.G. Wells. It stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, and Tim Robbins.

It tells the story of a divorced, incompetent father named Ray, played by Cruise, trying to protect his teenage son and younger daughter during an attack from extraterrestrial life. The film follows the family’s struggle to make their way to refuge while encountering aliens in technologically advanced space crafts and dealing with the threat of fellow fearful citizens.

The film starts off with an excellent first act that displays Spielberg’s amazing talent for special effects with a hint of mass hysteria. After a mysterious thunderstorm continues to strike lightening in the street, the people of New Jersey surround to investigate.

Shockingly, the first seen alien spacecraft begins to emerge from under the ground releasing one of the most haunting sound effects bought to film. This film was nominated at the Academy Awards for sound mixing, sound editing, along with visual effects.

After the first alien encounter, we are treated to an intense scene where the alien craft begins to evaporate the people of New Jersey while Tom Cruise narrowly escapes death. As he returns home to his children in shock, the family gathers food and seeks safety.

This film has highly creative camera movements where the characters will be talking to each other, and the camera will sweep across the environment to give the audience a profound sense of scale.

The first two acts of the film are an extremely fast paced series of set pieces along with character moments between the family. But while there are hints of character development throughout this film, the characters end up being the weakest part of this film. Tom Cruise plays the normal action hero and the kids, while annoying in instances, represent the generic, rebellious generation for him to conflict with.

While it is slightly interesting to see Tom Cruise reveal his parental instincts when it comes to protecting his kids, it just does not feel as though he develops by the end of the story.

This is uncharacteristic of Spielberg who directed films with characters such as “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones” who have become extremely memorable in pop culture.

The film also jarringly slows its well-established fast paced story when the family enters the basement of a generous civilian played by Tim Robbins after another alien encounter. This leads to many scenes where the aliens almost find the group but fail, mirroring the raptors in the kitchen scene from “Jurassic Park.”

However, the amount of time spent in this basement feels too drawn out to get to a very unsatisfactory ending where we are given a narration explaining the future of both humans and aliens.

In the end, “War of the Worlds” offers an exciting sci-fi action film with impressive special effects, only being flawed in the execution of its final act.

Drew Coffey is a freshman television and video production major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].