I avoided WOTW in the theatre when it originally came out for two reasons: I couldn’t stomach any more Tom Cruise and I really wanted to read the H.G. Wells novel on which the film is based before I saw Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of it. The film left theaters long before I got around to reading the book, but I didn’t feel like I’d missed much. No one I knew raved about it; most people were disappointed and I heard Dakota Fanning spent much of the film screaming.
Last month, the Siskel Film Center screened WOTW so I was able to see it on the big screen–the only way to view a film that’s 110% special effects. With such low expectations going into it, I guess it’s not surprising that I found it fairly entertaining. Tom Cruise takes a back seat to aliens and SFX, which is a good thing. The premise is an intriguing one–aliens sweep the globe, exterminating it of human vermin so they can make it their new home.
The film’s opening is the most exciting and fantastic segment: the first aliens land and the tripods emerge from under the streets to begin blasting away at people, with Cruise and his children (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin) always one step ahead of the danger. Of course, Cruise’s father-protector is able to speed his family to safety in the only working car–the aliens have disabled all electrical devices–and he pilots the car down the freeway, slaloming around stalled cars, through a perfect path that just happens to be left down the middle, (rather than just driving down the open shoulder of the road.) Sloppy plot holes like this bug the heck out of me.
It all looks great and the John Williams-ness of the soundtrack is thankfully toned down. Tim Robbins is a bit over-the-top as a crazy man hiding out in a farm house. And I thought the 9/11 references were in poor taste–Tom Cruise fleeing for his life through the ash-covered store fronts and missing relative fliers, unrealistically posted mere hours after the first tripod attack.
Otherwise, it’s a diverting, action-packed ride, though in my opinion, no substitute for reading the book. [*** out of 5]