At least one of you wanted to know what I disliked about Spielberg’s rendition of War of the Worlds. So:
I’m not going bitch about departures from cannon. I realize that the motion picture is a very different art form from the written word. The fact that the movie diverged so far from the book as to have almost no relation to whatsoever it is irrelevent to my criticisms.
First, plot: the aliens buried their war machines under the surface of the earth “before there were even people”, so that when people evolved, millions of years later, they would be ready! Wouldn’t it have been simpler to have just taken the planet before people came along?
So they have the technology to transport and bury emourmous battle mechs, and to magically transport themselves via lightning storms from wherever-the-hell-they-came-from, but apparently they can’t transport both at the same time. Instead, they had to peer into the future and keep their machines in waiting, until such time as there would be enough humans covering the earth that they can… exterminate them all.
Also, isn’t it awfully convenient that these prehistoric spider holes were largely located directly under modern-day cities?
I expect a certain… laxity in summer blockbuster plots, but this…. did anyone even read the screenplay before they started filming?
And how about characters? First rule of a good movie is to have character sympathy. If the audience doesn’t care about the characters they don’t care your movie. Well, except for the cretins who only watch for the explosions 😉 Cruise’s near-deadbeat dad and his horrid progeny are three of the most irritating protagonists I have ever laid eyes on. Clue to directors: when your heroes are so insufferable that the audience starts rooting for the aliens, you have a problem. Watching the three interact was the cinematic equivalent of nails on a blackboard. Great big martian nails. Oh right, sorry, great big wherever-the-hell-they-came-from nails.
And finally, the film was death-pornography just as much as any slasher flic. Sure, Spielberg “tastefully” pans away from most of the violence, but little is left to the imagination. People are vaporized, crushed, drowned, burned, and exsanguinated as we watch in fascinated horror (at least that’s the idea, presumably). The older I get, the less use I have for these summer disaster flics, trading on the attraction of ever-more-realistically portrayed megadeaths. All this carnage, but hey! So long as our heroes survive, it’s OK!
Call me an old fuddy-duddy, I don’t care. It just has little attraction for me any more. The world has so many deadly real horrors; why invent more? Especially when you don’t even have a decent story to tell?
I have rarely been so ready to walk out of a movie before the end. This was no uplifting tale of man’s triumph against all odds, or even a wow-inducing special-effects thrill ride. It was just tragedy and disaster punctuated by periods of excrutiating, misplaced sentimentality.
Oh, and since it was, after all, a Spielberg film, lots of people looking. Hours and hours of people looking. If you want to experience War of the Worlds for less than a full ticket price, have a friend stand in front of you, looking over your shoulder with wide, horrified eyes while another friend sets off firecrackers behind you for two hours.