PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST IS LIABLE TO CONTAIN A SPOILER OR TWO ABOUT THE FILM, WAR OF THE WORLDS. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT AND YOU WISH TO BE SURPRISED, STOP READING HERE.PLEASE MOVE QUICKLY AND QUIETLY TO THE NEAREST EXIT. THAT'S RIGHT... NO SHOVING... HEY! YOU! I SAID NO SHOVING. NONE OF YOUR SHENANIGANS. DON'T MAKE ME CALL SECURITY, PAL.
Are they gone? Can we talk? Good. Okay. Let me just say that I really usually like Steven Speilberg. Really. And I so wanted to like this movie. I love the original story by Wells, I even loved the quasi-campy 50's movie. So, this weekend, I saw it. I was deeply, deeply disappointed. There were a couple of interesting moments when you really thought something fascinating was going to happen. And then, they just.... didn't.
Nothing fascinating happens in this movie. Well, no, I take that back. Some really fascinating stuff seemed to be going on... off camera.There is so much wrong with this movie, it's just hard to know where to start. The biggest problem is with the script. The credited writers are Josh Friedman and David Koepp. That big, fat and is there for a reason. It signifies that Friedman and Koepp were most likely never in the same room at the same time. If they had been writing as a team, there would have been a big, fat & between their names instead. No, my guess is, Josh wrote the earliest accepted draft, and they brought Koepp in to doctor it per Spielberg's specifications. I am not sure why Spielberg is so in love with Koepp. I find most of the movies he works on to be full of formulaic, antiquated cinema clichés that grate on my nerves. A graduate of UCLA Film School, he's learned all the tricks of the trade, and he uses them at every turn. I'd love to read one of his screenplays. I'm sure it reads like a textbook on "how to write a screenplay that sells."
Here's one trick he missed in WotW, though. Act II. A movie lives or dies on it's Second Act. In the First Act, we learn who we're dealing with and why we should care -- a guy who is so self-centered that he's totally detached from his children and their lives. He doesn't know his daughter is a claustrophobe. He can't talk to his son without provoking him. Blah, blah, blah. You've seen it a hundred times. Which wouldn't be so bad, since a lot of real-life dads are like that, and I'm sure every one of them handles it in a different way. But Friedman and Koepp don't handle it in a different way. They handle it in the same way. Tired, worn out scenes of father facing off with angry, beligerent teenage son. Tired, worn out scenes of ex-spouses facing off against each other -- she's remarried to Mr. Wealthy Nice Guy and pregnant now, and presumably has the life that our (anti) hero could never give her. Blah, blah and more blah. But Act II is supposed to set us up for the Big Climax. You know, that moment when our heroes are in "the box" -- the inescapable, insurmountable, unsolvable dilemma that must be escaped, surmounted and solved by Act III. In WotW, there is no dilemma. There's just Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Disgruntled Teen Boy Actor. Running. And running. Then driving. And driving. Then doing a little swimming. Then running some more. Which begs the question....
So the fuck what?
At no time, ever, do you really learn about these aliens. Clearly, the spaceships were buried, as the Narrator (Morgan Freeman) tells us, "before there were even people here." Why? If people weren't here yet, why bury the damn ships? Why not just take the damn planet then? Did the aliens stop and ask themselves, "Ya know... it's been a bad milennium, we're kind of cranky. This planet's empty. We could just take it over, but where's the sport in that? Why don't we wait until these little nute-like creatures sprout legs, learn to walk upright, and then we'll come back, shoot down to our buries tripods and beat the living crap out of them before we drain their blood to spray all over the countryside. Just for fun. Cuz we aliens, we're wacky and capricious like that?"
An audience shouldn't have to work so hard to fill in the blanks, to make excuses for lame-ass scripts full of holes and white space.I mean, maybe there is a story here. But you'd never know it. Because we don't get a whole lot of story. We get some GORGEOUS special effects. But then, Minority Report was a movie full of gorgeous effects without any storytelling glue to hold it together, too. Which begs the other question... Will Speilberg and Cruise top making movies now? Please? Because, really, it's not a mutually beneficial partnership. And I say that from a place of love... if not for Cruise, then certainly for Spielberg.
Anyway, I felt it was generally a waste of $10.50. It will make money because, as I discovered on Monday, the 4th, while searching for a movie to take the bitter WotW aftertaste away that it isn't up against anything. Bewitched (don't even get me started on that piece of drek), Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Batman Begins, Cinderella Man.... ugh! Please. Is it any wonder that moviegoers are staying way from the multiplex in droves? So this movie will make money for Paramount and Dreamworks.
And there is one bright spot in an otherwise dismal fare -- Dakota Fanning. She's a phenomenal little actress, and one that constantly surprises. She's your Jodie Foster. She'll grow up to be a first-class movie star. If you want to see Dakota Fanning, rent I Am Sam, Hide and Seek, or Man on Fire. Not that the latter two are too much better than WotW, but you don't have to pay $10.50 for the privilege.
Rant over... I'll wait for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Please don't be a disappointment... please don't be a disappointment... please don't be a disappointme... ) Good grief, are you guys still here? Get out of here. In the immortal words of Tracey Ullman...