Monday, July 04, 2005

War of The Worlds - Movie Review

Should one feel happy that Steven Spielberg after all his Oscars and blockbusters is not satisfied yet, and is still trying to make movies (or) should one feel sad that he is failing in that process and thereby diminishing his brand name? When I saw War of the W. -- I was reminded of Sivaji Ganesan, the great actor, and his 1970's 1980's movies where as a 50 year old he was making a fool of himself acting with 18 year olds like Sridevi. I have watched all the movies of this great director called Spielberg and seen the DVD commentaries given by him. It feels as if he is my family member and I know the way he works and thinks. But he lets you down. So bad. And you are left thinking "Is he getting old?" After an eccentric AI (which I actually liked in patches), a decent Minority Report, Spielberg has given a drab and insipid, "Catch me if You can" and stale over-sweet, rank bad "Terminal". And now it is War of the Worlds. Ok so tell me once more ..why do these Aliens want to invade the earth and that too in such a primitive badly planned fashion?

Agreed that even in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" the aliens did not have a purpose to come and visit the Earth. However, here in this movie, for the aliens to come and destroy the earth after going through a rather extravagant process of planting some industraial revolution era machines gzillion years ago seems a little too contrived. It was almost as if Mars(or whoever else it is) was fighting a huge intergalactic war with some other huge planet and sent a moquito army to destroy the Earth as a bonus out-of-syllabus question attempt. Instead of planting the machines then, they could have simply taken over the earth then itself and not allowed humans to flourish or at least breed humans in some poultry like farms and then eat them. There wouldn't be any bacterial problem this way would it?

There are some good aspects to the movie too. After all Spielberg is just out of form and not completely spaced out. The biggest plus of all is that movie has a linear narration style. There are no multiple threads in the movie's narrative, which Spielberg has to tie and converge later down the movie. The movie does not focus on global equations -- like it does not care about what Earth's strategy to counter attack is.. it does not have "experts" talking to some blinking president and tell them how to "Whoop E.T's ass". This movie tells a story of one person who survived the attack and Tom Cruise plays the person. Tom Cruise is not a hero. He doesn't survive because he is Tom Cruise (and Tom Cruise simply can't die). Tom Cruise excellently plays the role of a frightened, selfish man who somehow manages to survive. Tom Cruise is a good actor. You see the world through the eyes of Tom Cruise and like any body in such a world you do not know what's happening globally or whether there is any hope for human survival etc. If this happened to me, I would have pissed in my pants and run for cover. I wouldn't have cared if human beings win or not. I would have wanted to run away from the scene of action and just stay in hiding until the army does its job. Tom Cruise does the same thing. He is a completely selfish person, who only wants to get away from anything interesting these martians are doing. So selfish that if anybody gets in the way of his survival he will kill them. Fair enough.

I liked the chaotic way in which the movie progresses. You don't know whats happening. You expect the camera to widen its focus and take you aerial view into the White House for an important Security meeting any moment. That does not happen. The Camera never expands into a bigger view. It is shown from a single person's point of view. Even the things that Camera focuses is shown from the point of view that a normal eye can see. It doesn't show the entire Earth, Europe , Asia etc burning. It shows three to four streets completely destroyed. Thats it. Typical of Spielberg's movies a young child is your reference point. She is your connection with "what would I do if I were in that world?". You already have Tom Cruise to identify with and then there is this girl. The character Rachel blows your heart out. Boy can she act well! The one scene in that basement alone is worth the price of the ticket. But then again Spielberg has done this before. His orchestrated movements of a particular situation getting worse was on full display in (a) the final scenes in Jurrasic park where the 2 kids escape from the raptors in the kitchen (mirror was used there also) (b) the scene in Lost world where the 3 people try and escape the trailor falling from the hill top. He starts with a situation and tunes every parameter in the situation to make things progressively bad and thereby increase your anxeity levels and then slowly unwind it down to safety. All the time the background music of John Williams plays tricks on you with sudden silence. But much like this movie even this scene is not Spielberg's best. The scene where the train of fire runs through was quite eerie. See... those are the magic moments Spielberg is known for. If only the movie had many many many more of them.

Neither I nor anyone else who did not like this movie can exactly articulate how the movie could have been made better. To put it simply -- It lacked the magic of Spielberg that was present in his earlier movies. The magic which surprises you and makes you think "this guy is intelligent". I guess he has underplayed the movie and overplayed the hype too much. This is atypical of Spielberg. I know he is a master money maker but usually puts his money where his mouth is.. that is up until now. The movie is so low key always that it never really gets up and seriously kick ass. Maybe its not Spielberg's fault for giving so many awesome movies so early on in his career. Our expectations now are so sky high that it is impossible for even Spielberg to exceed them. Spielberg may already have given his best to us. That makes me even more sad. I love Spielberg and I can't bear to this. I think the Oscar folks should have held on to the awards a little longer and not given Spielberg any Academy awards. That would have been the motivation factor for Spielberg to continue giving us great movies. This would have prevented him from giving overly optimistic, too sweet movies where *everybody survives*. Why the hell can't he kill the boy at least for heavens sake? The last time I thought he gave us a truly great movie was after watching Saving Private Ryan. I just hope it is not the last time ever.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bharath

You have a thing for watching movies the first week :) I havent watched this movie yet. But going by your previous reviews, I shouldnt be making a judgement on this one yet. I recently saw chandramukhi and mumbai express and thought both were really bad.

But, a again, a very detailed review.

Karthik

Ram.C said...

Yaanaikkum adi sarukkum...

but, a good detailed review, bharath...

Hawkeye said...

karthik,

:-) i always understand that individual tastes may differ. but i would be interested in knowing if ur War of the W opinion matches this review.

some people connect with just my rajini movie reviews or just kamal movie reviews or just hollywood reviews. there is no 1 review that everybody will agree with.

Hawkeye said...

ram.c,

ya i felt he wud deliver this time.. but he did not

anantha said...

hmmmm... I felt the same thing too.. There is something missing in the movie. Can't pinpoint what, though!

Babs said...

U hammered the nail on the spot machi, I felt the movie was good but that magic was missing indeed, but I do disagree with you in Minority Report that was just classic, A.I. was Kubricks full hands on hence that sort of artistic emotion and Chase me if you can (sorry catch me :-) was not bad at all but Terminal was mediocre. Having said all that his ability of story telling from any perspective/angle has not altered a bit since Duel. He narrates any story for that matter very well, but the problem was we have already exp this sort of movie making style in other movies like Sign, ID4, Jurassic Park etc etc earlier hence not able accept it much....also that hassy style of picture from Minority report. Hollywood is running out of think tanks, all the movies lately are remade or same crap, i guess the british directors r coming up Scott bro, Nolan etc etc

Anonymous said...

Never been so disappointed after watching a Spielberg movie...I hate to say it, but Independence Day seems much better after watching this movie. There was no logic at all in this movie....how on earth does the son Robbie manage to reach his grandparents' place unscathed? And...in the final scene, where they show the family...Gosh! How come they appear so unaffected by all this....when there is so much destruction and bloodshed and guts spilled out all around them? Puke! The tripod looked so lame!
Tim Robbins has been wasted in the movie. Any dud could have played his role.
The only thing I appreciated in the movie was Dakota Fanning's superb performance. Gosh! is she just 8?
The good thing that happened though was that we got free tickets while walking out of the theatre, cuz the picture went dim for about 20 seconds I believe! We didn't even notice it!. paisa vasool.
~Anu

Hawkeye said...

anti,

i think spielberg is choosing to direct movies which he shouldn't be touching. I dont think this movie had enough meat for spielberg to touch. look at jurrassic park. when u read the novel u think ..wow! this should be a challenge in film making.

Time Machine ...yes.. that was a good Wells novel. But it was done by the wrong people. War of the W. was not a great novel to start with... especially in the post ID4 era.

Hawkeye said...

babs,

minority report is certainly a very good movie. technically its a even better movie that what it has been given credit for. the matrix xequences are used so much but you cant even notice them.. isnt that really special effects.

i think spielberg has either lost the fire to do good movies or his writers are now doing a bad job or he has hit a streak where he is picking up the wrong scripts to direct. i think the magic will appear when the script is good.

Hawkeye said...

Anu,

robbie should have died. its stupid and almost naive to show him alive..the end is where people form the biggets impression and in this movie we go.. what.. come on.. i understand spielberg has a philosphy to throw in optimism when everything in this world is negative. he always has the +ve twist in his movies. there are no tragedies and he ends in a sprightly note.. good intentions but it doesnt look probable.

i had to bling twice to believe if it was really tim robbins i ws looking at.. there is no scope for that role..why did robbins take it up is itself mind boggling. the spielberg name i guess carries lot of weight.

Anonymous said...

I think the movie had its moments.
The human garden of blood and guts is a classic - a little too morbid for Spielbergs style - a first I think .
The ending sucked, the characters weren't really well developed even though there was no action for a long time in the first half.
It really isn't a bad movie, it just isn't good enough.

Ashwathy said...

Hey hawkeye...

I started following your blog a week ago. I am almost done reading all of your earlier posts. They are a real pleasure to read.

And, of all the posts that you have written, this was the one I was compelled to leave a comment in :). I know this a really old post to be leaving a comment.
I am a big movie buff and I guess have always been the one to argue when it comes to movies.
Anyways, I was really surprised that you called 'Catch me if you can' drab and insipid. I think it was a brilliant movie. The rest of the movies you mentioned I agree with the description. I have actually never heard anyone saying that they did not like 'Catch me if you can(CMIYC)'.

I dont want to sound like I am giving you the third degree, but why exactly did you not like the movie(CMIYC)?

Hawkeye said...

Ashwathy,

thanks for reading.

the reason why I came away unimpressed with CMIYC was the cliched way in which DeCapiro's con job was dealt with. I felt the same topic had been touched by many other older movies and done in much stylized way. The pace was lacking. The movie was slow and deliberate. See the first episode of remington steele, where a similar concept is superbly presented. brosnan mustve been the same age as decapiro during the respective performances. But thats bring out pace, style and a sense of coolness

Ashwathy said...

hhhhmmmmmm.....i have watched remington steele but dont remember the episode you're referring to....
probably i haven't seen too many of the 'conning' movies to analyse CMIYC to closely.....but i still enjoyed it thoroughly......

anyways great writing and keep them coming :).......

black leather jacket said...

great review of war of the world ill congrats all the cast and crew of war of the world movie especially tom cruise