Thursday, June 30, 2005

Notes on War of the Worlds 

Steven Spielberg has actually provided us with an interesting case-study in comparative directing, in this case by remaking Signs. It turns out he's a lot better than M. Night Shyamalan (who was heralded as the next Spielberg, before he made any other movies), but it also painfully reminds us how awful Signs was. Spielberg's remake is much better, don't misunderstand me. But it is the same movie.

When I heard complaints about the ending, I assumed that meant they changed it from the original ending, as they seem to like to do in remakes these days, but no, indeed it is the familiar ending. I guess people don't really know how the original ends. Of course, in this day and age, it might be much harder to buy such an ending; the alien technology certainly requires an understanding of the atom, and it seems unlikely that they'd miss microbes on their way to investigating the atom, and similarly unlikely that their species evolved without stopping off at the single-cell stage, so that they might be fully unaware of such a thing. Also, Spielberg's need for happy endings is a disease. When an annoying character does his billionth unbelievably stupid thing and dies, you know he didn't really die. I would have liked an explanation for how he managed to save his unbelievably stupid ass from the totally unsurvivable fate that befalls the entire regiment he's right next to, though. At least the stepdad didn't die, resparking the romance between Cruise and his ex-wife. Ugh.

Anyway, other stupid things: An EMP knocks out every electronic device near the lightning storm in the beginning. Including his wind-up watch. OK, that's stupid. But then just two minutes later we see a shot of someone using a camcorder to film the tripod. How did that happen to survive? The plane wreckage was totally unrealistic, and there's no way a house would survive the flaming jetfuel of a 747 falling on it. Nor would the engine still be spinning the next day, not to mention that the plane shouldn't have even been flying that night, given what we know about US emergency flight policy after 9/11. So yeah, there's not a lot of following the rules in this movie.

So it's pretty similar to Signs. Why is it somewhat better? Well, it has some more action (although from the ads I wasn't expecting half the movie to be spent in a basement). Spielberg has a genius for intense scenes in thrillers like this, and several are quite well done. There's nothing like the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park, but the honk sound that the tripods emit is fantastic, and sounds like alien death.

And then that ending, though.
Missing from WotW: as far as I know, no one's pet gets killed by the aliens. This must have been a conscious decision on Speilberg's part.
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