War of the Worlds (2005)

war of the worlds poster 2005 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visual: 9/10

Great visuals

The decision to make the family the story instead of the invasion hurt the film

Movie Info

Movie Name:  War of the Worlds

Studio:  Paramount Pictures/DreamWork Pictures/Amblin Entertainment

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  June 13, 2005 (Premiere)/June 29, 2005 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

war of the worlds alien tripod

We just wanted to ask if you wanted to join Amway…It isn’t a pyramid scheme!!!

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) isn’t the best father.  He rarely sees his children Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin) who would rather stay with their mother (Miranda Otto).  When Martian invaders target the Earth for a takeover, Ray finds he’s the only thing standing between the Martians and his children.  Robbie wants to join the battle against the Martians, and Ray is just trying to keep Rachel from her fears.  Traveling north to Boston, Ray, Rachel, and Robbie see the effects of the Martian invasion and the worst of mankind.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, War of the Worlds a sci-fi fantasy adventure.  The movie is a modern adaptation of the 1898 novel by H.G. Wells which has been adapted multiple times.  This film was well received and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

war of the worlds aliens martians basement dakota fanning

These humans are sloppy pigs

I really enjoy the story of War of the Worlds and both the Victorian setting of the novel and the ’50s setting of the original film really work well…this film just doesn’t have the class of the previous mentioned settings.  While the film looks fantastic, I feel it lacks heart by trying to make it have too much heart.

The original story is much more analytical.  There you have an almost scientific approach to the invasion which is followed by horror.  Here, there is an attempt at making it a personal attack by the aliens…something common after 9-11 in films.  The aliens aren’t just attacking the U.S., but they are attacking society and the homes of the people of Earth.  Despite making the film personal, it feels more generic and more of a stereotype than the generic science fiction of the original story and film.

war of the worlds alien walker tom cruise

I’m being eaten by alien sphincter!

The main reason for this is that the War of the Worlds is incidental…the movie is about a family.  Tom Cruise attempts to be a jerk in the film but still comes off as charming.  The promotion for this film included a stop by Oprah with Steven Spielberg, but when Spielberg had to drop out, it led to the infamous Katie Holmes couch jumping episode (which could argue hurt the reception of the movie).  Justin Chatwin is rather nondescript and one-dimensional as the “let’s fight-’em” son, and Dakota Fanning instead of being a Gertie from E.T. comes off as an annoying liability that leads to tons of problems.  It might be a realistic portrayal of a kid in a crisis, but it is irritating.  The movie also features a small role by Tim Robbins (which almost is lifted from the original story), and a cameo by the 1953 stars Ann Robinson and Gene Barry (in his last appearance)…plus, you get narrator extraordinaire Morgan Freeman.

war of the worlds alien ending martian

America once again being friendly to outsiders…

Visually is where War of the Worlds excels.  The general idea that the invaders plot is ancient is fun and the Tripods of this film more resemble those describe in the book.  The alien invaders process humans and the red vines come as a result in almost a terraforming method (something also in the novel, but not generally in the adaptation).  The actual invaders are also a cool design and the scene in which they appear is a nice, tense part of the film.

War of the Worlds is big and robust…but still lacks something.  It is a very post-9-11 film and has an almost saccharin quality to its patriotism (which isn’t wrong, but already feels dated).  I know overly dramatic acting and stories are what many people want from a film, but I find this part of the film hard to stomach.  Go into the movie for the visuals, but don’t expect to get much more out of it.

Related Links:

The War of the Worlds (1953)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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