A film by Steven Spielberg is sure to manifest loads and loads of visual and special effects, and his latest offering, Paramount Pictures’ cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is not an exemption as I expected. Because the science-fiction film stars Hollywood giants like Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, I also expected the film to deliver well with their superb acting. In War of the Worlds, a terrifying alien invasion sends surprised city people running for their lives, including an incompetent father, Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise). Prior to the Martian attack, Ray’s ex-wife (Miranda Otto) leaves their son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) for a weekend that proves to be an abnormal one, what with news reports about an absurd lightning storm in Ukraine. A similar phenomenon soon puts out machine and electric power in New Jersey, disturbing Ray and children. Out of curiosity, Ray checks a 26-fold lightning strike at the heart of the city, underneath which emerges an 80-foot alien tripod that lasers people away. Suddenly, other buried tripods come out of the asphalted city, scaring the rest of the living humans. Ray and his children begin a fateful journey back to his ex-wife’s home up to the Boston refuge of Ray’s former in-laws. Having found a working car to get them there, the father and children manage to arrive in the already deserted house, only to be driven back on the road when the Martian invasion sends an airplane crashing onto the house. Along the way, their car gets driven off by some desperado and the family has to walk all the way to the port for a free Boston boatride. Next thing that happens, tripods frustrate their ride to redemption, and getting inland, Ray and kids attempt to hike up to the Massachusetts city. Ray reluctantly relents to his son’s joining the military battle against the aliens, and settles with Rachel at an underground home of a psychotic (Tim Robbins). Surviving the ground onslaught of the aliens around their hiding place and their capture by spaceship’s tentacles, Ray and Rachel finally get reunited with Robbie and the kids’ mother in Boston. The technical superiority of the film is attributed to Spielberg’s genius. The director’s Midas’ touch in such classics as E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List is evident in the recent film adaptation of Wells' novel. At one point in the film, the swimming people from the capsized ship were viciously fished out by the tripods’ tentacles, giving one the creeps with the haplessness of humans in the contrasting ruthlessness of the machines. Also, the landscape looks eerily desolate, what with the aliens turning it into a stark red vegetation of blood spurred from human sacrifices captured at random. The creative production of squid-like, hooting incinerators inspires pure fright. In the acting department, Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning seemed to have engaged in a talent competition. Hollywood's child wonder did not let herself be overwhelmed by the prowess of Cruise. In what appears as sharper maturity than her father's right after the weird atmospheric phenomenon seen from their backyard, Fanning's character jumps under the table along with her father, and instead of Cruise' character asking “Are you okay?”, the daughter checks out her father herself. Here, Cruise is glowing in acting as a good-for-nothing father who realizes that in the midst of turbulence like this, he can be a father too. From day one of the alien attack to the last, he did his best to look after and protect his kids, notwithstanding his initial lousiness. The possible flaw the film may be faulted with is the way Spielberg ended the story, a manner that the literary source seemed to share. Surrounded by the country's armed forces, the tripods suddenly lost ground, plunging like feeble buildings and their manipulators, the reptile-like aliens stumbling lifeless, with homing birds as the only possible reason for their destruction that I can think of. Then the screen blooms with a montage of what resembles double helices and fetuses and chromosomal matter, and a voice-over that suggests humans have triumphed many cycles of evolution and an outworld invasion is not one to interrupt human dominance of our planet. Just that. Spun chronologically like a regular narrative, the plot of alien invasion in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is the cinematic parallel of our present time’s real-life war on terror. From the unforgettable 9/11 twin tower attacks down to the most recent bombings across the globe, our current events prove to be a time when nothing can be very sure of safety, not even or most especially the world's lone superpower. However, the fighting power that the survivors showed and the pre-credit roll suggestion of revival after near obliteration point out that even at unpredictable times like this, we should manifest an indestructible human spirit.
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