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June 29, 2005

War to KO competish but still may face non-boffo business

Fenster Moop writes:

Dear Blowhards,

It will be interesting to see how War of the Worlds does at the box office. This article points out that it has opened to generally disappointing reviews and that it is not selling out in major cities.

How does 9/11 figure into this, if at all? I wonder if it has anything to do with Spielberg's apparent sympathy for the idea that America might actually have an enemy, and that if might need to be killed. The reviewer for the Newark daily--where much of the movie was filmed, in the shadow of the twin towers--was appalled and offended by the 9/11 theme. Is that a fair take, or is there a political tinge to this objection?

Whether liberals are put off or not, it does seem that the reverse might be the case. The National Review loved it, as did Nathan Lee in the New York Sun.

I guess we'll have to see how vox populi unfolds.



posted by Fenster at June 29, 2005


Bad link to the National Review (an extra "http").

Posted by: Mike on June 29, 2005 6:37 PM

I will definately see this. I am a devotee of the George Pal version, which is brilliant, and which was a formative childhood experience. I have seen a few reviews which make dismissive reference to the 1953 version, which is irritating and unnecessary. This version sounds like it is very true to the book, which is a truly timeless work. I read the first few chapters of it aloud to my oldest kid a while ago, but he decided it was way, way too scary and we put it aside.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 29, 2005 8:00 PM

I fail to see why a perfectly good, still frightening movie has to be redone with a huge budget, a big star, and all sorts of special effects. Actually I do understand why - the movie industry's utter lack of creativity.

Posted by: Peter on June 30, 2005 12:05 AM

What bad reviews? It has a 71% on

Posted by: tc on June 30, 2005 4:24 AM

Speaking a little more generally, it'll be interesting over the next few years to see if/how/when the moviebiz will ever manage to win its audience back. Seems to me that the people who run the biz have (what with digi-tech, target-marketing, etc) kinda killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Younger people just don't seem to care much about movies. They seem to consider 'em -- very sensibly, given what the industry has been purveying -- conglomerate-made pop-trash. Which they may or may not be halfway fond of. But they don't seem to see movies as a respectable art or entertainment form, worthy of being followed once you're out of adolescence. Oopsie.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 30, 2005 10:12 AM

I would be very surprised if it had anything to do with political stance. I'm not all that pumped about it because the previews were kinda "been there, done that". Spielberg has shown he can produce a stinker. A lot of movie fans have a problem with Tom Cruise (in work and party discussions, he's always the most universally reviled of the modern superstars), and this was before his recent Scientology shenanigans. Since this has been done before, not only in the G. Pal version, but "Independence Day" and even Spielberg's cable series "Taken", perhaps people are smelling a faulty retread. I'll see it, but more for the spectacle, not because I think it's any good.

So far, the best summer flick (in terms of big movies, that is) is "Batman Begins".

Posted by: Yahmdallah on June 30, 2005 10:41 AM

The reviews have been excellent.

Posted by: jult52 on June 30, 2005 1:10 PM

It is hard for me to believe that the same director who recently delivered the one-two punch of “Catch Me If You Can” and “Minority Report” is the same director of such a flabby, disappointing mess of a movie, and trying to view “War of the Worlds” as a kind of post-911 allegory doesn’t make it a better movie. Sadly, aspects of HG Wells’ original premise are outdated and just don’t work anymore, so Spielberg made a crucial mistake in honing to much of the original story. In a nutshell (and trying not to spoil anything), the aliens behave more like 19th century bug-eyed monsters than they do like beings who know anything about space exploration. More critically, the Tom Cruise character is essentially a bystander, so you get a sense that whole chunks of the story is happening beyond his frame of reference, but because he is the star, he must remain the primary focus. It just doesn’t work. Also, the film seems under-populated since Tim Robbins, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto and others are given little to do. And for the first time ever (as far as I can recall) in a Spielberg film, some of the editing is so sloppy in key scenes (characters run away and then magically are right back where they started) that it often dragged the narrative to a halt for me. Ironically, although Spielberg, like Martin Scorsese, is for me a director whose films I want to see no matter whether they succeed or fail because they often will be tinged with brilliance (e.g., some of the special effects, a witty reference to Hitchcock’s “The Birds”), for the first time I felt that Spielberg had been eclipsed: M. Night Shyamalan's “Signs” (2002) is a far more coherent, successful and scary “family-in- jeopardy” alien invasion film than is “War of the Worlds.” So far, Spielberg and Lucas have struck out this summer, and “Batman Begins” is so far the best film of the summer, and one of the best of the year.

Posted by: Alec on July 1, 2005 2:00 AM

Wow. I completely disagree with Alec. It's as if we saw two different films. I've recently read/watched/heard all of the War of the Worlds incarnations, and Spielberg's is actually my favorite. I think it does a fantastic job of adapting the original story to the present day. I was impressed with how many details from the novel that the film retained. (And I loved the little homages paid to the earlier film, a film that scared the daylights out of me when I was a child.)

I don't think the new War of the Worlds is a great film, but I think it's a very good one.

Posted by: J.D. on July 2, 2005 10:57 AM

For J.D: I see that people are split on this film, but I gotta ask (and still not trying to spill the beans about the film), Why hire an actress like Miranda Otto if you aren't really going to use her except as set-up? Why hire a great child actress like Dakota Fanning if she is largely going to be reduced to an alternately catatonic or screaming ninny? (semi-spoiler here) And although the original novel and its many incarnations does retain the power to scare in many ways, the idea that aliens have fantastic technology but are too stupid to buy a microscope might have worked in 1898 (the date of the original novel) but just doesn't work for me in 2005. And no matter how much we all might love Spielberg, you must acknowledge that some stuff related to Cruise's son in the picture (to put it obliquely and mildly) comes out of nowhere and absolutely needed to be explained or dramatized, but was not, leaving one of the biggest narrative loose ends in recent movie history.

Posted by: Alec on July 2, 2005 12:36 PM

Figures that conservatives would love this movie -- neocon foreign policy is essentially based on fantasy anyway, so it's not a big step to add rampaging space aliens to the mix. Maybe that will be the next reason they will audition for the war in Iraq -- we have to do it or the space aliens will win!

Anyway, I'm with Alec that it was a pretty lousy and pointless movie for Spielberg, although the special effects were great. It was nice to learn that the Tom Cruise character *really did* deserve visitation rights with his kids, but did we really have to sit through an alien invasion to establish that?

Posted by: MQ on July 6, 2005 1:07 AM

Didn't think it was that rightwing a movie - hell, the only think that made it tolerable was treating it as an allegory for the Iraq occupation (and then I was a little put out when (spoiler) Cruse fought against the resistance).

Posted by: chris on July 6, 2005 2:41 AM

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