We didn’t post a discussion forum because we knew one of us would have a review up this weekend. Here it is.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier

Dakota Fanning as Rachel Ferrier

Justin Chatwin as Robbi Ferrier

Tim Robbins as Ogilvy

Written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp, based on the H. G. Wells novel.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Complete information is available from the IMDB.

Premise

Alien tripods attack the Earth, and one man desperately tries to get his family to safety. (Well, many do, but only one gets a significant amount of screen time.)

High Point

Some of the images are absolutely incredible. Truly awe-inspiring. A close runner-up would be the integrity shown in preserving the novel’s ending. It’s just far more plausible than, say, writing a computer virus on a Macintosh laptop that happens to cripple just the alien force fields, with no impact on say, flight, life support, or any other system that could shut them down immediately.

Low Point

The jarring tone shift when Ogilvy is introduced. The suspense/action film suddenly becomes a suspense/thriller film.

The Scores

How original can this really be? This is not the first adaptation of this story, and it’s far from the first alien invasion movie. It’s not even the first time they moved it to the United States. However, compared to the 1953 version, it’s considerably more true to the spirit of the novel, if not the letter. I give it 2 out of 6.

The effects are amazing. There is a complete integration of CGI with physical effects. Amazing job. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is thin. There’s a little more here than there was to the original novel, since the lead character has a family with him, but there’s not much more. This is not a plot-driven movie by any means. (The functioning camcorder shows how much attention was paid to story details.) I give it 3 out of 6.

The acting is great. Dakota Fanning is a great actress, regardless of age. Tom Cruise came across as sane, and from what I’ve seen lately, that implies incredible acting talent. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. There’s a slight derailment when the tone shift happens near the end, but it’s still got a very powerful build-up. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was great in most respects. The continuity editing had more issues than most films, but the problems all appeared in scenes with heavy use of child actors, so that might be a result of piecing together a large number of takes. I noticed no other problems in the production. The sound design was absolutely fantastic, and the pacing, cinematography, and mise-en-scene were extremely well done. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a fun summer movie. The more I think back on it, the more I think it’s an updated Jurassic Park. It’s an incredible summer film that should be viewed on the big screen, but repeated viewings at home won’t have the same impact unless you have a very impressive home system. Check it out in a well equipped theater now. If you have kids, get a baby sitter: there are some moments that will be genuinely scary for the young. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, War of the Worlds receives 31 out of 42.