Eve Of The War

War Of The Worlds - Leper Messiah Review
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Author:  Leper Messiah [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  War Of The Worlds - Leper Messiah Review

Ok, I your beloved Leper have returned via the discovery of a free internet centre in town and I have done so because I have been to see War Of The Worlds at the cinema and I thought I would offer my review on it. This will be spoilerific so if you haven’t seen it yet and you don't want to know what happens, use your back button now. It should also be noted I have not read any reviews of the film at the time of writing this so these are 100% my own thoughts and reactions.

So there I was, Ashford Cineworld on Saturday night. The cinema is absolutely packed. Looking around I would think it is fair to say that the majority of people that are here are here because this is the new Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg film followed by those who quite liked the 50's film and the musical. There seem to be few like myself present although this is of course going by pure appearances.
During my blown-up-computer-enforced absence from this forum I have mellowed ever so slightly towards this production and I have resolved to judge this film fairly with no bias derived from what I've seen of the pre-release stuff and I think I have managed it, so here we go, the lights are dimmed, the curtain raised and thirty minutes of adverts have passed.
War Of The Worlds starts well. With voiceover by what appears to be Morgan Freeman virtually word for word to the book what more could be asked for at this stage? So having set the scene its exit Mr.Freeman until the tail end of the picture and it's enter Cruise. My first impression of his character was an indifferent one really. He was pretty much as I expected him to be so nothing really to remark on at this point. The arrival of his kids and ex-wife does agitate me a little as I suspected it would, it does after all have nothing to do with the story I want to see, that of course being War Of The Worlds. However it's a pleasant surprise as this doesn't last long and we're on to creepy thunderstorms and a surprisingly strong atmosphere of tension. Cruise and Fanning do an excellent job with the hiding under the table sequence. Lightning's never been so scary! I want to point out that thunder and lightning and wind blowing the wrong way has nothing to do with War Of The Worlds directly but instead I'm going to let it go because I enjoyed it and the atmosphere was right even if the events weren't.
And then in a wonderfully short while its Tripod time! I personally think that the lack of a cylinder and a gradual revealing of the alien machines was a mistake. Granted there's no doubting the excellence of the special effects as the Tripod rises from the ground nor the quick transition from curiosity to horror but I like the build up of the book and previous productions and I think there should have been more of that here. But hey ho, I don't think it’s a make or break factor by itself, and besides would you look at that Tripod! Now I really like the tripods in this film, it looks to me like someone has paid real attention to previous War Of The Worlds art as well as the description given in the book. There is even a hint of the '53 film design. I approve. So there's a big menacing tripod on the scene and really it would just be rude if we didn't get ourselves some heat ray action here. We are duly obliged, and gosh darn it; the people at ILM have produced something truly fantastic again. The heat ray is pretty close to invisible and the effect on the people it hits is great. Again, I like. But I'm not too dazzled by special effects here to notice one departure from the source material that persists throughout the movie. The Tripods seem very concerned with killing or capturing just about every human in sight. This runs against the book because the Aliens just don't care about individual humans that much until after they are in control. Again it isn't really a critical point but it does stay in the back of my mind.
So having escaped this first encounter Cruise and family escape in the only working car in town. They drive through the first human exodus of the film and Cruise is scared of the car being stolen in a pretty obvious connection to the events of the exodus from London in the book. So far, I have to say, the film is doing alright - the source material is in there with a shout and its being reasonably well represented on screen.
However now we reach the airplane crash scene and the question that lingers in my mind about this whole sequence is why is it there? It just doesn't have a reason to be. It must have cost a fortune to make, takes up quite a bit of time in the movie and for what? It doesn't really move the story on in any way that couldn't have been done much more easily which would have left time and money for, say, a Thunder Child. Not a fan of this bit at all, especially since there is going to be a second ruined house scene later.
I was a little bit miffed by the airplane incident however the film soon got back on track for me with the troops that pass our heroes on the country road spouting their banter which rung obvious bells for me, being similar to the arrival of troops in London in the book. The atmosphere of the film was also emphatically restored for me with the bodies in the river that poor little Dakota sees.
After this though we're on to a second disappointing scene and that is the Thunder Childless scene. The boat scene appears to be an effort to combine the book's Thunder Child scene as well as the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton scene and the result is it doesn't really capture either although it is closer with Weybridge and Shepperton. I mourn for the lack of a Thunder Child but put it to the back of my mind, where stuff is mounting up. The scene isn't a complete failure however; the fact that ferry actually gets caught is an interesting nightmarish alternative version of the Thunder Child sequence.
So we move on from aquatic adventures and into a pitched land battle. Now the one and only thing I dislike about these Tripods is that they are invincible. Why this is I don't know. In the '53 version I liked the shields because the Aliens needed a weapon that would seem weird and otherworldly, the biogenic Black Smoke having become very much a reality in human terms by that time. However shields are no longer a new idea and really something else should have come out of the creative team's locker. Again though, it gets chucked on the pile in the back of my mind. It is at this point we lose Cruise's son till the end of the movie. Thank God, is all I can say. The Ferrier/Son storyline was about as bog standard stock Hollywood trash as you can get and was one of my biggest hates of the movie.
From here, we get to a great scene, the ruined house scene with Tim Robbins. Why he should be called Ogilvy I really don't know. I think that was just a "put it in so we can say its there" kind of job. But here is where the source material really shines through. The ruined house in the book is about as scary reading as you can get, and that translates very well to the film. There are big time book influences as well as '53 film tributes. Here we get to see the Aliens themselves for the first time too. Although I must say they disappointed me. Not for their lack of resemblance to book aliens mind you, but because, very surprisingly for ILM they didn't look at all convincing. They looked poor from a realism perspective more so than any other. But that isn't too important, and it didn't take anything away from this excellent scene. I really enjoyed the little things in this scene like the Alien's apparent lack of familiarity with the wheel, a nice little book element to get in I thought. It's also enter Red Weed here which looked very good but I was a little confused when it appeared that the aliens were using blood to water it. Unfortunately the '53 style telescope finishes the scene on a poor note as it kick-starts the film's downfall in my opinion.
We progress from the movie's best scene and I'm feeling pretty good about things. I really believe that this film is going to prove me wrong on everything I said about it before it came out. And then it happens. Tom Cruise blows up a Tripod. The massive metal warlord comes crashing down bringing the film's credibility with it. When Fanning and Cruise were put in the Tripod basket it was a departure from the original story but I was willing to indulge the film because I was still pretty happy about the ruined house scene and also I think a basket scene is something that had previously been missing from War Of The Worlds productions that should have been explored. Of course the problem is anyone goes in a basket, a credible escape is pretty much impossible. No problem here though, a credible escape was never the plan. The Cruise/Spielberg Hollywood factor I was so dreading before the film has finally reared its ugly head. The film's chance of recovering is so slim in my eyes that it could hide behind Kate Moss.
So we come to the ending, and the meaning of the words that the ending would "neither stray from nor mimic" the book. Yes the Aliens have the sniffles and yes they are dying because of it, but this is 2005 and this is Hollywood and that's just not good enough damn it. The remaining tripods get themselves killed by Bazooka in our day and age. My problem with this ending is pretty big. For one thing the empire of man has most definitely not passed away. The very fact that there still is a military is a failing here. As the story goes, mankind as a civilisation is dead, there are only individuals left. But that really is unimportant next to humans finishing the aliens off. As much as I criticised the Tripod's shields earlier, where are they now? did the shields get the cold too? Why could the tripod be shot down? After that we get a virtual replica of the '53 film's ending with the dying alien but I'm sorry I don't get won round as easily as that.
So in the end I really have to consider, did this film fail as a War Of The Worlds adaptation? As a film and a story in its own right I will say it's quite good, very atmospheric and very suspenseful with special effects that are out of this world. But it isn't a film and story in its own right. It's an adaptation of War Of The Worlds and that's the basis on which I feel it must be judged. To my mind it has serious flaws including the Ferrier and Son storyline, and everything that occurred after the ruined house scene. Ferrier himself is a threadbare character that is just Hollywood stock really and that is a pretty big flaw when you consider that the main character of War Of The Worlds is what everything is about (except of course the scenes about the Narrator's brother). Dakota Fanning did well in her part but I can't ignore the fact that hers is a 100% made up character with no part in the original story. Although in the end she is more a plot device than a character.
Before making my conclusion I will also mention the two people I saw this film with had never seen, read or listened to any version of War Of The Worlds and they hated this film. The main criticism they levelled at it is that it had no real ending. Not knowing how the Martians died from previous versions it was left until the final voiceover before they found out what had happened to the invaders.
So my conclusion? Was it a failure? I've thought long and hard about this because I don't want my answer to that question to be influenced by not wanting to have been wrong about the film all this time. I don't want to say it was a failure to defend my pre-release attitude to this film. Certainly the film had its moments and even at times more than that. but in the end did it fail? Well, yes, it did. And I say that because when it could have crossed the finish line, and when it could have proved me wrong it gave way to the easy Hollywood action movie route. Also the little failings all along the way mounted up until they were just too distracting to ignore. So yes, in the end I feel justified in putting a big old rubber stamp saying "fail" on this but in the end it was a much closer call that I ever thought it would or could be.

Author:  Thunder Child [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 1:26 pm ]
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Interesting, i had totally missed the wheel connection with the ruined house scene.

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 1:55 pm ]
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it was when one of the aliens was looking at the bike on the wall. it span the bikes wheel and seemed quite suprised by the consequences

Author:  Thunder Child [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 2:01 pm ]
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I remember the scene, I just didn't make the connection to the aliens' wheel-less technology. Good call!

Author:  oever532 [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 2:06 pm ]
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My tv-guide gave Spielbergs adaptation 3 stars out of 5, noting: Spielberg against the rest of the world.

Author:  Loz [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:30 pm ]
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Good to hear from you Lepper Man.
I agree with a lot of what you have said. But it wasn't enough to ruin it for me. I thouroughly enjoyed it. Most films, records, books, paintings etc have some aspects to them that dissapoint me. This film definately has asspects which dissapoint me but the good stuff far outweighs the bad for me, I've seen it twice and can't wait to see it again. I have been affected by the imagery.
Seen Pendragon yet?

Author:  gypsywlf [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 6:42 pm ]
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Glad to hear you made it back online, Leper. Guess I'm also glad you didn't find the Spielberg movie quite as bad as you feared.

Yes, a few scenes were typical action film stuff, like the hand grenade escape, but I let that one slide, balanced out against getting to see the baskets and the they-eat-us aspect highlighted.

While the grenade-toppling scene was not strickly from the book, it seem to me to key off of the book scene in which the artillery takes one out. That (book) scene had a bit of the hooray-for-our-army quality too.

The bazookas at the end, however, I thought was too ID4 for my taste. It smacked too much of the humans actually whooping the aliens. My wife hadn't read the book (but had suffered through the Pendgragon film), and also commented that it just seemed to be over w/o warning. This was how the book ended, as we know, but perhaps the modern audience has grown too accustomed to bigger, more dramatic endings.

I also found the aliens themselves to have been anticlimactic. They read much better as shadows on the wall or the occasional glimpse of weird flesh. Getting a full look at them seemed to cheapen them. Ah well.

Not a perfect movie, no, but a pretty good effort.

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 8:41 pm ]
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well the key difference when tripods are destroyed in the book is that it is all utterly in vain. the tone is much different in the movie. Wells wrote from a point of view that didn't glorify these victories in fact they simply added more to the invaders power as they became stronger after each one.

ive yet to see the pendragon movie but i ordered it today, so once ive watched it a review will be forthcoming from me for that as well

Author:  gypsywlf [ Tue Jul 05, 2005 9:31 pm ]
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Leper Messiah wrote:
well the key difference when tripods are destroyed in the book is that it is all utterly in vain. the tone is much different in the movie. Wells wrote from a point of view that didn't glorify these victories in fact they simply added more to the invaders power as they became stronger after each one...

I guess I read (in the book) a bit more of the human elation at a victory. (even if fleeting)

"...The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged,
flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh
and glittering metal.

"Hit!" shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.

I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I
could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation..."

Yes, it did all prove too temporary, but I thought Spieldberg's grenade scene still captured some of that 'flash' of victory feelings. (albeit in a more post-rambo culture which doesn't think in terms of artillery very much)

It was that last scene with the bazookas that I felt disappointed in. It was too much like the Army and human weapons had some part in the aliens' demise.

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:50 am ]
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the difference is that the destruction of one tripod at weybridge and shepperton wasnt a victory. in the book humans do not score even one victory over the martians. that is where the film departs from the story.

Author:  oever532 [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:57 am ]
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You forgot that the Thunder Child managed to demolish two Tripods, so there was a little victory for the humans indeed.

Author:  eveofthewar [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:49 am ]
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Good to see you back leper!

And a well done on the review. I can understand where you are coming from and see your points. I must admit I loved the film, but perhaps I love it more for the fact of a good action movie, than for being a War Of The Worlds based movie....

By the way, you have a lot of posts to catch up on, we have members creeping up to and now over 1000! Get to work mate... :mrgreen:

Author:  Loz [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 1:37 pm ]
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Well you know what Messiahs are like, they like to wander of it the wilderness, eating only honey and locusts.

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 5:55 pm ]
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a Messiah never has too few posts Lee, neither does he have too many, he has precisely the amount of posts he means to :D

anyway back to topic, stop diverting attention from the review in hand [-X

by oever532

You forgot that the Thunder Child managed to demolish two Tripods, so there was a little victory for the humans indeed.

I forget nothing :p remember that the Thunder Child sequence was actually the final defeat of humanity as a civilisation, it was not an upbeat passage at all. The Thunder Child itself is implied to be destroyed and no concrete fate is established for its third and final Martian opponent. Yes the ferry gets away but if it didn't how was the narrator to tell any part of the story from his brother's perspective? I draw your attention to the aftermath of the Thunder Child battle and the end of book one -

"The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of the greyness--rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it flew it rained down darkness upon the land."

the chapter ends with the veiled introduction of the flying machine, and the total dominance of the Martians, it is in fact arguably the most crushing of the human defeats.

Author:  lepter [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:14 pm ]
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Leper, if you dissed the paramount version, just wait until you see the pendragon version (which incidentaly I thought was better the paramounts ofering!)

Come on timothy, GIVE US A SEQUEL!!

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:20 pm ]
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lepter wrote:
Leper, if you dissed the paramount version, just wait until you see the pendragon version (which incidentaly I thought was better the paramounts ofering!)

Come on timothy, GIVE US A SEQUEL!!

im unlikely to say anything against Pendragon for similar reasons that I would say anything against Paramount. However it does look very much like Pendragon with have its own catalogue of things to criticise. Ah well ill wait till my dvd gets here. Anyone who has shipped it to England from America and Amazon.com, how long does it take?

Author:  oever532 [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:24 pm ]
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If Pendragon is THAT bad, then I don't wanna know anything about a sequel!!!!!! :a091: :a093: :a013:

Author:  Loz [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:56 pm ]
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I doubt anyone will fund Hines again!

Author:  oever532 [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:58 pm ]
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I doubt that too...

Author:  eveofthewar [ Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:41 am ]
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All my mates who are seeing the movie are saying the same thing...

Loved the film, but it needed more story. The action was great, but kicks in too quick...

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:59 am ]
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not enough story eh? that is a serious problem to be levelling at a War Of The Worlds film, indicates quite a large failure.

Author:  oever532 [ Thu Jul 07, 2005 1:54 pm ]
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