Yesterday, I watched War of the Worlds, the Steven Spielberg directed, Tom Cruise starring movie based on H.G.Wells excellent sci-fi thriller.
The book was one of my favorites – a chilling story of a Martian attack on a small town in England and how a man fights his way through the carnage to get back to his wife.
The movie, of course is Hollywoodized and Americanized. The setting changes from London suburbs to Boston and its suburbs. Tom Cruise plays the hero – a divorced dad who neglects his children shamefully. On a weekend when he has custody of his children, the aliens attack and they are forced to flee their small town, making their way towards Boston where the children can be reunited with their mother. The movie setting is also contemporary, and not in the early 20th century when Wells wrote this book.
So how does the movie fare in relation to the book?
Well, the book does diverge quite a bit in the actual telling of the story – the addition of Cruise’s children, his troubled, distrustful relationship with them are additions to the movie. But these additions work. They add some depth to Cruise’s character. However, the change in the time period does not work so well.
We are expected to believe that these aliens have been planning the invasion for millions of years, and have buried their machines deep into the ground, so they can be activated for the time the invasion is planned. But, in these days of underground trains, and sewers, it’s rather unbelieveable that machines hidden in the ground would have remained undetected by humans for so long, right?
But, if you ignore the ludicrousness of this aspect, and also the silly appearance of the aliens (they looked like giant octopuses – only with three legs), you can enjoy this movie. At least, I did!
From the few reviews I read on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems that not many people liked the movie – and most especially hated the ending.
But, to me the movie ending was just perfect. It stays true to the book; there are no over-the-top scenes of Tom Cruise battling the aliens and saving the world – I was terrified that would be the case. Thankfully not. In this movie, Tom Cruise is not at all interested in fighting the aliens; all he wants to do is survive each day, and somehow bring his children back into safety to their mother’s arms. I really loved the non-heroic aspect of it.
One thing I would have loved is if Tom Cruise had put a muzzle on his annoying daughter (played by Dakota Fanning) who keeps screaming, and behaving erratically at all the wrong times. I really felt for that poor man having to carry his (quite a big girl) daughter while fleeing from the aliens!
And it’s a Steven Spielberg movie – so you are literally in the hands of a master when it comes to action, and special effects – especially when it comes to alien monsters . I also love that he retained one of my favorite lines in the book -
This isn’t a war…It never was a war, any more then there’s a war between men and ants
All in all – this movie surpassed my rather low expectations as I am always dubious about Hollywood remakes of books I love.
How about you guys? Anyone read the book and watched the movie? How did you like it? I do think this movie is better appreciated when you have read the book.