ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  steven spielberg

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  116 minutes

RELEASED  -  29 june 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  war of the worlds

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $128,000,000
war of the world - a shot from the film


buy the soundtrack from war of the worlds at

buy the soundtrack from war of the worlds at

as earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.

initially estimated to have a 2007 release date, this film was abruptly greenlit in mid-August 2004, for a 2005 release, when director steven spielberg and star tom cruise happened to become available when other projects stalled.


picture from war of the worlds

picture from war of the worlds

picture from war of the worlds

picture from war of the worlds


three out of four possible stars

Working in what has emerged over the past three decades as his most comfortable genre, director Steven Spielberg delivers on all fronts in the science fiction big-budget bonanza War of the Worlds. Although access to the most advanced special effects, the priciest talent and a prime summer release date have all but assured this film a hefty box office take, the fact remains that it's difficult to catch Spielberg with a bad science fiction movie on his hands. And in creating a focus for the story, Spielberg and his screenwriters, Josh Friedman and David Koepp (the latter probably rewrote it?), have created a large budget action film that focuses on the plight of a single family's struggle in the middle of a world-wide panic.

Despite his strange politics and old recent public behavior, lead actor Tom Cruise, as the working class New Yorker, "Ray Ferrier," is able to cast off his public persona and dive into his character with the realism and emotional intensity required of such a role. Since the film is told entirely from his personal perspective, the audience must find his character interesting enough to nearly solely support the character development of a two hour film. This is in contrast to other large budget science fiction films such as Independence Day, which rely on a large cast of actors to tell a series of subplots that combine to create the larger story.

Cruise has pint-size yet strong help in his quest to woo the audience's affections in the eager performance of Dakota Fanning, who plays Cruise's daughter, "Rachel." Fanning has yet to arrive at the difficult bridge of child actor to teenage performer, but while she still retains the innocence of youth, she also possesses the dramatic abilities of an actor many times her age. Likewise Justin Chatwin, playing Fanning's brother, "Robbie," is cast well as Cruise's dissonant son, creating a believable familial conflict in the middle of a life-threatening alien invasion.

One of the most noticeable aspects of any Spielberg science fiction film is the special effects that drape every scene. Working with favorite visual effects company ILM, Spielberg and his production design team have again pushed the boundaries of incredible visual effects and created some truly eye-popping stunts. Much of the film's visual trickery seems focused on manipulating the real and tangible elements of the earth, such as causing a giant bridge to swing violently or making buildings sway and crumble to the ground. Because there is such important focus placed on the story of one individual family, the special effects seem to have been designed to blend into the story rather than consciously wow the audience.

Despite the emphasis on creating special effects that fully support the characters and story rather than pop off the screen, ILM has nevertheless created top-notch visual imagery and scenes. Also impressively done are the effects used whenever a human is killed or vaporized by one of the alien tripods. Although the violence is different from the familiar decimation of, for example, a bloody battle in a war movie, the deaths in this film are handled vividly and occur at what might be considered a "personal" distance from the audience.

Even though it's just a special effect that causes different characters to "dust" away into thin air, there is an emphasis on showing those characters' faces in great detail before their demise. The close proximity of the camera to so many faces gives the audience a more personal connection to those killed, more so than if those deaths occurred amidst the anonymous hoard of a crowded battlefield.

As are many of his science fiction films, War of the Worlds is a dark journey, much like two of his most recent sci-fi films, A.I. and Minority Report. Science fiction, by its nature, is not necessarily a dark breed of film, though Spielberg handles the dark story well, allowing his actors to insert hope and energy into a film that might have otherwise proved too depressing given the nearly complete obliteration of the human race over a few short days of massive invasion. Depressing material can be a powerful statement, though if a story is completely without a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, all the special effects in the world can't guarantee healthy box office.

War of the Worlds is exactly what audiences would expect out of a big budget summer release and this film comes off with more emotional intensity and intelligence than one might expect out of a film which at first glance would seem nothing more complicated than an A-list actor getting his name above the title on the movie poster. Despite the genre existing as one of his most often tackled, Spielberg and his cast and crew bring a high level of creativity to the floor on all fronts, never allowing the traditions of the summer blockbuster phenomenon to overpower a few good risks taken. The focus on a single family's story and the organic visual effects are each welcome changes to an oft portrayed but seldom enhanced genre.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs paramount pictures 2005
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