Friday, September 2, 2011

A running commentary of War of the Worlds, the 2005 Spielburg Turd-O-Rama

Back in 2004, I was very excited about the new War of the Worlds movie that was due out in 2005, since I am the most hugestest War of the Worlds Fan in existence.  However, when I learned that it was to be set in modern times instead of the original late 19th century Victorian era time period, I almost cried.  And when I learned that Tom Cruise was going to be playing the lead, I came very close to actually dying, along with all of my hope for the movie.  However, I managed to live through the anti-climactic buildup before the release, and of course I went to go see the movie.  Even though I knew I was going to be sorely disappointed, I still had a smidgen of hope... for the special effects and possible awesomeness of seeing Martian tripods wreaking havoc, if nothing else... respect for the source material be damned, I guess.

What follows is a running commentary, written back in July of 2005, of my experience immediately after sitting through that giant multi-million dollar turd, and insult to H. G. Wells.  And me.  I was also insulted.  I couldn't get the horror out of my head, so I wrote it as if I were watching the movie while I was writing.  It probably helps if you've seen the movie to understand all the references that I make, but don't worry if you haven't, because the movie sucks huge pee pee flavored lollipops.

So, here we go.  Things seem to start off well. The buildup to the emergence of the Martian... (I mean alien, in this movie they aren't even Martians) well, lets just say tripod... is almost scary. I will always think that it is very hokey that the damn things came up out of the ground, though. This isn't the Time Machine, Spielberg, and those aren't Morlocks!  Anywho.  Like I said, the buildup is almost scary, and actually somewhat enjoyable. The lightning storm (this is before I knew what it was all about) causes me a little bit of anxiety, and increases the buildup nicely. Then when Tom gets to the site of the strike, he picks up a rock, and it is freezing... which I think is weird, but at this time I still have some small teensy bit of hope for this movie. When the tripod climbs out of the ground and raises itself to full height and then trumpets its call to its friends, well... this is just downright awesome. Unfortunately this is where the awesomeness pretty much ends, forever and anon.

The Martians (I mean Morlocks... I mean, aliens) shoot blue beams of death, and lots of people get smoked.  The effect is kind of neat, but I have a huge problem with this method of killing off the human infestation. First off, these blue beams of death do a great job of turning a person into dust, but they don't do any damage to clothing. But then we see one of these blue beams strike a car, and the car goes flying through the air and explodes. So, for some reason, these beams are useless against certain kinds of fabric, probably cotton and nylon. It seems to me like anyone could have figured this out after seeing a few people turned to powdered toast, and the logical strategy would be to cover every inch of your body in clothing. Perfect shielding!

Ok, so Tom Cruise is so scared out of his mind that he doesn't notice that clothes are invulnerable.  So, intent on escape, he finds the only working car in Newark. Supposedly the EMP blast fried all electronics, including car solenoids. No problem - this mechanic dude at the garage just finds a spare one that somehow was miraculously shielded from EMP and installs it in a van. Voila! Now Tom and company don't have to trudge cross country for the first half of the movie. The little girl, whats her face, totally freaks out in the car and I wanted to slap her to get her to shut up. I think this is an attempt at character development, to show that this little girl has serious abandonment issues. It fails utterly.

They finally get to moms house, and Tom reveals himself to be an immature jerk with zero parenting skills. I think this is supposed to be another attempt at character development. Anyway, later that night, what sounds exactly like another alien thunderstorm happens, but despite the similarities, Tom is convinced that it isn't. How many times has he witnessed bizarre flashes of light and bizarre thunderous sounds that aren't natural? Obviously enough times to be able to tell two different types of unnatural flashing noisy phenomenon apart. So anyway, a plane crashes and lands on the house. I assume this is a 'nod' to the cylinder crashing on the house, a major scene from the book. When I realize this, I'm incensed with rage. ARRGGGH! I want to yell out loud in the theater. This movie is heading downhill fast.

The next morning Tom explores the destruction and happens upon a news van. Now the sinister alien plot is revealed, by this reporter chick in the van and some deaf guy. The aliens shoot themselves into the ground inside lightning bolts down to the waiting machines. Call me weird, but I would think that a pod, traveling at that speed (the speed of light, by the way), slamming into solid rock (or asphalt) would pretty much paste whatever organic occupants it contained. But then again, maybe they have the ability to dampen inertia somehow... but if they can do this, why do they ride around in clunky tripods? Why not just hover everywhere or fly a cool anti-gravity ship if they can defy the laws of physics? And whats with this tripod being buried right under the ground in downtown Newark? You mean nobody ever noticed this thing when they were laying the water pipes and foundations? And why does the damn thing have to unscrew the ground above it? You mean to tell me that they built Newark on top of a giant screwhead for a giant container which housed a giant tripod and didn't notice the damn giant thing? Another feeble nod to the book I guess, since the real Martians had to unscrew the end of their spaceship to get out. And whats with the 'million year' scenario? According to the infinite wisdom of this reporter chick, those aliens had been preparing to have a big ole chunk of fun a million years ago, with all of this fabulous weaponry, to take out the human race, which hadn't even evolved past the homo erectus stage. People had only just discovered fire for Petes sake, and had half the brain capacity of modern humans... and these aliens, instead of taking over the Earth then and there, decide to wait a million years? Maybe they just thought it would be more fun to blow up buildings and shoot passenger planes out of the air and stuff.

So, Tom gathers up his fam and his son does a dismal job of pretending to be angry at the aliens. They pass a convoy of soldiers, and I get a little excited. Are we gonna see some butt whomping? No. Instead we get to see Tom and his two brats argue. Yawn.

Now we see Tom and the brats driving past some refugees. Ok, a few of the refugees get a little excited when they see a working car, and this is reasonable. They all want a ride, so Tom and company lose their vehicle to some guy with a gun, narrowly escaping with their lives. Then Tom cries like a sissy in front of his kids, who desperately need to see him be strong. I think this is where the movie stops trying to develop characters.

Now they are trudging along with the rest of the refugees, intent on boarding a ferry which will take them to safety. Ok, I rub my hands together... the Thunderchild analogue scene is about to happen. Although, I am wondering what a battleship would be doing on the Hudson River at that exact moment, but this doesn't quench my hopes. Suddenly, tripods appear. They truly look menacing and bad ass. I start to get a little excited again. Here they come, and they're trumpeting to each other in those horribly frightening voices of theirs. Everybody panics and tries to get on the ferry, and chaos ensues.

Oh yeah... one more attempt to develop Toms son - whats his face - anyway, his character, as he bravely tries to help people aboard the ferry. We now see this character in a new light... he is completely devoted to humanity. He wants to kill Martians with his bare hands. He wants to join the army and kick some Martian (oops I keep saying that don't I?) alien booty. And to top it off, he is a true humanitarian. Oh, and he takes care of his sister, whats her face, to boot. How can dad stand to be around this little punk? He shows him up every chance he can get with his superior morals.  He can't wait to pawn these brats off on mom.

Anyway... so they get on board the ferry and I'm waiting for the Thunderchild to show up, but instead, a Morlock comes up from underwater. Why this one waits until now to appear, I just can't say. I mean... all of its brothers have been kicking ass and taking names for a day or two already. Maybe the water shorted out the lightning bolts and it took a while to get the aliens into their machine. Maybe they were just waiting until the ferry left because it would be more fun to scare the living crap out of the people on it by rising up out of the water right beside it. And about that machine rising up out of the water... it definitely looks about 10 times bigger than the other machines in this scene.  Is this some kind of super tripod? Why would they need super tripods when the regular ones are doing a pretty good job of wiping America off the map? Who knows.

So the Thunderchild never shows up to save the steamer... I mean, the ferry... and the super tripod knocks the ferry over, dumping the fam into freezing water. They narrowly escape death and emerge from the water, soaked to the bone and probably about to freeze to death. When, miracle of miracles, dry clothes suddenly fall out of the sky! I guess these are the clothes of all the people who just got smoked by the tripods.  Nobody thinks to change out of their freezing duds though. They are too horror stricken, I guess.

So anyway, now we have Tom and his brats trudging across country once more. I think this is an attempt to communicate the level of human suffering inflicted by the aliens. Nobody really seems injured, though... just dirty. Suddenly, military jets scream by overhead! Helicopters appear firing rockets! Humvees and tanks are all heading towards a spot behind a hill where a fierce battle is obviously being waged! Soldiers bravely stand their ground fighting this unseen enemy in an attempt to delay their advance so the trudging refugees can escape! Then Toms son, whats his face, goes completely insane. He runs toward the battle, intent on self immolation. He wants to see it, he says. Gone are all thoughts of kicking Martian (I mean Morlock) booty and protecting his sister. Now he just wants to watch as the United States military gets pummeled. Most likely he just wants to die. Tom pretends like he is concerned, but in his mind he's thinking "whew! finally got rid of one of em" and he hurries back to his daughter... who is in danger, not from aliens, but from being kidnapped by fleeing refugees. Oh, how suspenseful... screw the aliens, they ain't got shit on good Samaritans! As they are running, a giant tripod appears, surrounded by flames. The flames seem to have no trouble at all penetrating the alien shielding, as the machine is completely engulfed in them at one point. A few minutes later, we see a missile explode several yards away from a tripod. Whats up with this? Why not just use flamethrowers? You could probably heat up one of those tripods if you were persistent, par broiling the aliens within. Nobody thinks of this though.  Oh, and we never get to see the battle.  Ptthhhbbt.

So, Tom and his daughter are running across the countryside when blind luck falls on them. They have been selected out of the hundreds of fleeing refugees by an insane vigilante to help him single handedly destroy all of the aliens. They are unaware of this however, and see his invitation into his house as a chance at safety. At first this seems like an alright situation. The aliens obviously don't care anything about this house, as they haven't laid the smack down on it. Then the guy introduces himself as Ogilvy, and I seriously want to vomit. Seriously.  Here we have the bastard child of Ogilvy the astronomer and the artilleryman, but with the addled wits of the curate (all characters from the novel) thrown for good measure. In one fell swoop, Spielberg has managed to combine three characters into one, thus saving the expense of actually portraying them as actual... characters. Three for one; what a great deal.

Anywho, soon it becomes clear that Ogilvy is an idiot, as he tries to take on an alien tentacle with an axe. Later, his mental capacity drops even further as he tries to shoot one of the actual aliens with a shotgun. Let us examine this situation for a moment. Say he actually manages to kill one of the aliens. Or, if he's lucky... two, since the shotgun has two barrels (does it? I assume it does, but I'm really not sure). Anyway, there are three aliens, so at most he can kill two. One of the aliens will be left alive, and unless he can take it out with the axe, the other aliens on the surface will be alerted to the presence of these three humans in the basement. Lets say, for the sake of a completely pointless argument, that Ogilvy gets really lucky and takes them all out. I would think that one or two of the aliens would notice after a while, and send that tentacle down again, and this time with no B.S. So, Ogilvy is either very very stupid, or he's just flat out insane with a suicidal streak. Its time for Tom to flex his muscles, and he kills Ogilvy with his bare hands. This show of bravado endears his daughter to him, and she runs to his arms and falls safely asleep.

Now for the real corn casserole, with cheese. Another alien tentacle enters the house. This time there is no fooling it (how it got fooled earlier is beyond me, I definitely saw that boot move behind the mirror) and Tom hacks it to pieces with the axe. Instead of endearing whats her face like before, this time insane violence scares the living crap out of her and she flees outside. Tom runs after her, shouting her name (you know, whats her face), but despite the fact that she can only be a few yards away, she doesn't answer. Maybe she is scared stupid. Anyway, Tom has it out with a tripod and gets thrown around a little, whats her face gets captured, and Tom finds some grenades and chucks one at the tripod. It explodes harmlessly against the shield, but the tripod turns around and grabs him, apparently forgetting that this little human just threw an explosive device at it. I would think... call me weird... that if I were an Alien Morlock, that before I let anything inside my shield, I would make sure it wasn't carrying any explosive devices; especially if it had just chucked  some at me 5 seconds earlier.

So anywho, Tom and the brat are both in a cage now, captured by the aliens.  Every couple of minutes they suck one of the captured humans inside for a snack or something, and eventually it is Toms turn, and he gets sucked inside. While halfway inside, he throws the grenades while the other human prisoners hold onto his legs.  The inside of the alien machine gets destroyed and the cage containing the humans falls onto a spiky tree, but miraculously nobody is impaled. Now whats her face, his daughter, looks at the fallen alien tripod, then turns to stare at daddy with amazement. I guess she's decided that she loves violence after all.  You can almost hear her thoughts... "Wow, daddy saved me from the tripod. Daddy is a bad ass.  This changes everything.  Bye bye, abandonment issues."

Meanwhile, the red weed (which had been growing all over the place) starts to die, and so do the aliens. Tom and the brat happen upon some soldiers who are wondering what to do about a half-dead alien which is just standing there and howling.  Genius Tom notices that birds are resting on an unprotected alien, as opposed to just hovering a foot away from them, as they would have been if their shields had been working. Its a good thing too, since there's no telling what that half dead alien might have done if what's left of the army wasn't there to blow it up with hand held rocket launchers. And this, my friends, is the penultimate battle scene. A staggering, defenseless, drunken alien is pulverized by hand held rockets. No Thunderchild. No small but glorious victory by a well hidden artillery sneak attack. No aliens falling into the river as their incredible machinery is reduced to intricate devices of pulverized metal, whirling to their destruction. No cheers from refugees who have just gotten a taste of hope, however small. No...  just a stumbling tripod getting whomped on by... get this... a bazooka.

Ok, so without shields and sick with the flu, the aliens are wimps, and this one falls over and crashes through a big brick building. Oh yeah, it also falls on one hapless victim who didn't get out of the way quickly enough. I thought that was semi-cool. Then a hatch opens and orange goop falls out. Is this alien blood, I'm thinking to myself? Why all of this orange goop? Now, in a brave but sickening tribute to the George Powell film, an alien hand claws its way out of the hatch, and then the alien dies.

Finally we see Tom carrying the brat, intent on finally dropping her off at mom's. By some miracle, Boston is unscathed while the rest of the world is pretty much incinerated. He quickly pawns her off on the mom, and then his son comes outside. Unless the older brat just got to moms 3 minutes ago, I would think he might have changed out of those smelly, dirty, torn up wet clothes. Anyway, he and Tom do the touching embrace scene. Mission accomplished... the aliens are dead, and Tom doesn't have to deal with these two brats anymore.
The End.

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