War of the Worlds – Book vs Movie


Yesterday, I watched War of the Worlds, the Steven Spielberg directed, Tom Cruise starring movie based on H.G.Wells excellent sci-fi thriller.

Movie Poster

Movie Poster

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.

Tom Cruise very sensibly fleeing from the aliens

Tom Cruise very sensibly fleeing from the aliens

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 πŸ™‚ . 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.

  • Pingback: Reviewing Two Mediocre Thriller/Horror Books I Read Recently « Nishita's Rants and Raves()

  • Very nice site!

  • We’re so tired of ‘heroic’ deeds that a human impulse makes the movie better πŸ™‚

    Do visit:
    Book Reviews at BookRack

  • I have neither read the book nor watched the movie but will do both. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Ava

    I saw the movie first and read the story later. The story was super-awesome. More than a make of a movie based on a story, it was actually a remake of an earlier movie. I discussed the movie with my mother who had seen the earlier one. The earlier movie also put in a spiritual angle by having everyone taking shelter in a church.

    You take about Tom Cruise being non-heroic and just trying to survive is a good point. Although throwing in the ‘bonding with children’ angle is really so hollywood.

  • I read the book after watching the movie, so, yes, I defintiely felt the book was better.
    But then, like you said, this was one of the better book-to-movie movies. And, the non-heroic role was what made this memorable.
    So, yes, good movie, much better book.

    • Steve Brunnlehrman

      Regardless whether or not the Steven Spielberg film captured the essence of the book (I have read the book in high school and as an adult), I thought the movie had a number of weaknesses that could not be overcome. First, it was easy to tell when the movie was shot inside a studio lot: example, scene by river to get on boat was obviously filmed on a studio lot. Second, blue screen (or perhaps green screen nowadays) was obviously everywhere–looking out the windows of Tim Robbins’ house. Unlike many of Steven Spielberg’s earlier films, this movie felt narrow and small. The exciting and dramatic part is in the first 3rd of the movie. The 1953 movie, for all its”primitive” special effects felt much more expansive, large. Not sure how to desribe this in cinemagraphic language.

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