Eve Of The War

I chime in (Spoilers)
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Author:  Thunder Child [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 3:07 pm ]
Post subject:  I chime in (Spoilers)

I saw the film on friday, but I haven't had time to do a full review. Given that so much is already being raised in other threads, I'm going to focus on what pops out for me.

Overall I enjoyed the film, although I did find it flawed...and some of those flaws undermine the ending. i'm going to focus on a mix of the good and bad.

I was pleasantly surprised that the film had more of the original than I expected. The structure and emphasis (Aside from the family part) was closer than the 1953 film, and there were lots of nice little winks to people familiar with the book.

The change in the way the aliens arrived was awkward and didn't seem to make a lot of sense. While the lightning storms were cool and creepy, the whole idea of the tripods being prestashed with aliens getting zapped into them really didn't work for me. Oglivy may have been nuts, but he wasn't necessarily wrong in surmising that the tripods would have had to been here for a looong time (Maybe not a million years, but least a few thousand...prior to the cities they were stashed under being built.) Not only is this an awfully counter-intuitive invasion plan, but it also means that the aliens had an even longer time to learn about germs. (And I think the audience felt a bit of that when the end came.) I really think the book's method of arrival would've been better. (Even if it had to be modified.)

I did find the updating of the scenario to modern times effective. Like the Orson Wells version there's a real "YOU ARE THERE" immediacy to having recognizable places and people involved. There's a heavy sense of growing dread in the begining as you meet Ray's neighbors and see them all going out to investigate...and you know before night falls most of them will be dead. It was a bit surprising that a project that would've seemed scuttled by 9/11 winds up making numerous references to it...most chillingly the dust on Ray's face. There's a sense of personal threat in this film that the earlier one didn't quite achieve. Instead of the alien machines spending most of their time blasting aimlessly in front of stock footage of landmarks, we see masses of humanity being chased, snatched or grabbed. The bodies in the water, the burning passenger train, the fluttering burned clothes...all add a dimension of tragic horror.

The tripods did look really cool and felt very Wellsian. The sounds and the way they were filmed gave a sense of size, menace and of physically being in the scene. My one gripe with them is that the walking never seemed to be quite worked out. In most of the movie, we don't see the tripods doing full "Walk cycles" (Animation term) but rather just making a step or standing still. On the couple of occasion where they do, I really didn't get a sense of weight being shifted...the most difficult problem for a three legged machine. It felt like a bit of a cheat.

Ray worked okay for me. Cruise managed to keep his "Joe Cool" shtick down to a minum and convey some real pain and trauma. Ray was maybe a bit more capable than his lifestyle suggested, but overall was an effective everyman. Dakota's character was a little Lisa Simpsonish in the begining, but overall okay and a lot less precocious than I would've expected. Mostly it was just a bit distracting because you start thinking about how deeply scarred for life Rachel is going to be. Robbie worked for me in the beginning. He was effective for showing how Ray had screwed up, and as a liason for Rachel. Unfortunately, he goes of the rails with his whole obsession with fighting the aliens. Maybe the movie was trying to make a point about young men and war, but it was really hard to believe that even a knuclehead teenager could see what he had and still think that he could confront the aliens with a gun. When he disappeared in the battle I had a suspicion that he would reappear (We never see him die) but I had kind of hoped that Spielberg had outgrown these kind of psych outs. His reappearance is easily one of the cheesiest moments in the film.

The ruined house sequence was a mixed bag. Robbins gave a great performance as Oglivey. (Although his height imbalance with Cruise made me giggle.) I liked how he managed to communicate many of the book's ideas. The probe scene was pretty cool, although having almost the same scene again with the aliens seemed redundant. And I agree with Loz that the aliens sucked. It wasn't just that they didn't resemble the book's description, they also seemed derivative of most movie aliens of the past few decades. (Most unfortunately ID4) Frankly, I thought the martian from the George pal version, though no more faithful, was more original, alien and creepier. The bit about the blood and the weed didn't make a lot of sense, but was at least alien and unnerving. I thought the final scene between Ray and Oglivey was well done and a pleasantly edgy surprise. (Considering, ironically, how many people on this board said such a scene would never happen.)

The basket/grenade scene was kind of lame. I didn't buy that they could've yanked Ray back and I definitely didn't buy that they could've survived the destruction of the tripod. It seemed like a sop to the action movie crowd.

The ending came too abruptly. In the book, there's a bit of time where everything's ruined but we don't see any martians, and that builds up some suspense over what happened to them, whereas the movie jumps to it rather quickly. (I also don't buy that everyone's walking out in the open in groups when it's not clear that the aliens are defeated.) The audience at the screening I attended reacted badly to how this played out (Laughing) I wondered if maybe more clues (Having the aliens in the basement starting to look ill.) might have helped. Having his wife and family all clean in an untouched house so shortly after the aliens die, and having Robbie pop up just added to the cheese.

So overall, fun but flawed. i give it three stars.

Author:  oever532 [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 3:13 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the info. Now I know som minor points. Nevertheless, I'm still eager to see it... :D

Author:  Loz [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 5:53 pm ]
Post subject: 

That's a very fair review.

It will be interesting at some point if the makers and writer, perhaps on the DVD explain some of the questions posed. If they have studied us keenly, then how? And why not notice our microbes? Did the lightning that carried them down to the machines, travel across the Univeres from another Solar System, or from a mothership close by? Did the Fighting Machines travel to Earth unmanned and bury themselves or were they brought by the aliens and buried? If brought by them why did they bury them and leave for a later attack? How deep are they buried? Do they have anti detection devices? Self destruct on detection devices? Why don't the aliens wear space suits? How did they study us so keenly? Did they study us from their own side of the Galaxy or from close by?
Lots of why did they do this or that questions of course can be answered by putting down to a cultural or religious attitude on their part. who knows what beleifs or customs they might have.

Author:  Leper Messiah [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 6:05 pm ]
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at this stage id be very interested to hear a commentary on the DVD, to see how much stuff was purposefully included because of WOTW connections and also why the hell they thought the grenade in the tripod was a good idea and their reasons for ending like they did.

I agree with most of your points Thunder Child, there are a few i would take issue with such as the assertion that this was closer to the source material than the 53 film. Also I didn't get the personal threat feel from this at all. Maybe its because I was 5 when I first saw it but the 53 film scared me (and still does a little bit, damn childhood trauma), this didnt, except for the ruined house scene and then mainly because it was so close to the book and previous film. Also I don't like the character of Ray or his son. Otherwise I think I'm in agreement with your points.

Author:  Lonesome Crow [ Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

and having Robbie pop up just added to the cheese.

In the book, The journalist is separated from his wife when he leaves her at Leatherhead, near the end of the book he is told "Leathehead and all it inhabitants were destroyed" and right at the end she turns up at their home alive and well, all Spielberg has done is made the film's character Ray's son and not his wife. I feel Spielberg over did the animosity and contempt between father and son, you got to the point where you didn't care if Robbie lived or died. :|

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