Review: Steven Speilberg's War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise as a dropkick dad who turns out pretty OK in the end

07 June 2023
Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" is an enthralling science fiction film that skillfully combines a gripping narrative, stunning visuals, and powerful performances to captivate audiences. Drawing inspiration from H.G. Wells' classic novel, Spielberg infuses the story with a fresh and contemporary perspective, resulting in a remarkable addition to his legendary repertoire. In this review, we will explore the film's key aspects and delve into what sets it apart as a standout cinematic experience.

 "War of the Worlds" follows the journey of Ray Ferrier, a divorced father played by Tom Cruise, who finds himself thrust into a full-scale alien invasion. As the Earth falls under attack, Ray must protect his children and navigate a perilous landscape ravaged by extraterrestrial forces.

Spielberg approaches the adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel with care, retaining the core elements of the original story while skillfully updating it for the 21st century. The film balances homage to the source material with a contemporary sensibility, allowing modern audiences to connect with the timeless tale of alien invasion.

war of the worlds film poster

"War of the Worlds" explores profound thematic elements throughout the narrative. It delves into humanity's vulnerability in the face of a superior force, highlighting the fragility of our existence and the potential consequences of our own technological advancements. Additionally, the film examines the resilience of the human spirit and the lengths to which individuals will go to protect their loved ones in times of crisis.

Spielberg's Vision: Spielberg's directorial style is evident in every frame of "War of the Worlds." His meticulous attention to detail, skilled pacing, and masterful control of suspense elevate the film's intensity. Through his direction, Spielberg immerses the audience in the chaotic and terrifying world of the invasion, heightening the emotional impact of the story.

The film's visual effects are nothing short of spectacular. From the awe-inspiring alien spacecraft hovering over cities to the thrilling and harrowing action sequences, the visual spectacle of "War of the Worlds" is a testament to Spielberg's ability to create breathtaking imagery. The destruction and devastation unleashed upon Earth are visually stunning, adding a sense of scale and realism to the invasion.

The role of sound design and John Williams' score in "War of the Worlds" cannot be overstated. The strategic use of sound amplifies the tension and fear, immersing the audience in the chaos of the invasion. Williams' powerful and haunting score complements the on-screen events, creating an atmosphere of suspense and unease. The combination of sound and music heightens the film's impact, enhancing the overall viewing experience.

Tom Cruise's Performance: Tom Cruise delivers a compelling performance as Ray Ferrier, effectively portraying a flawed yet determined protagonist. Cruise brings depth and vulnerability to the character, allowing the audience to empathize with Ray's struggles and emotional journey. His portrayal captures the essence of a father who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances, showcasing Ray's growth from a disconnected individual to a selfless protector.

Dakota Fanning, as Ray's daughter Rachel, delivers a standout performance, showcasing her talent at a young age. Fanning captures Rachel's fear and resilience, providing a genuine and heartfelt portrayal. Tim Robbins, in the role of Ogilvy, a survivor encountered by Ray, adds an additional layer of complexity to the story. His performance balances both paranoia and desperation, contributing to the film's emotional resonance.

The film effectively depicts the growth and transformation of the main characters throughout their journey. Ray evolves from a distant and estranged father to a self-sacrificing protector, driven by his love for his children. Rachel's character arc reveals her transition from a frightened child to a courageous survivor, displaying resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors. These character arcs, along with the struggles, sacrifices, and ultimate redemption of the protagonists, add depth and emotional weight to the narrative.

"War of the Worlds" excels in building and sustaining tension, creating a palpable sense of impending doom. Spielberg's expert direction, coupled with the film's intense sequences and relentless pacing, keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. From the initial moments of the invasion to the desperate survival attempts, the film consistently maintains a high level of suspense, heightening the viewing experience.

The exploration of family dynamics and the lengths to which individuals go to protect their loved ones form the emotional core of the film. Spielberg delves into the complexities of parental instincts, depicting Ray's unwavering determination to shield his children from harm. The film elicits strong emotions as it portrays the sacrifices made and the resilience displayed by the characters, highlighting the depth of human love and the instinctual drive to protect one's family.

 "War of the Worlds" presents several thought-provoking scenes that prompt deeper reflection on humanity, survival instincts, and the consequences of war. One such moment is the chilling basement sequence, where Ray and his daughter hide from danger. This scene raises questions about the human capacity for survival and the lengths individuals are willing to go to save themselves. Additionally, the film's depiction of the destructive consequences of war and the vulnerability of human existence sparks contemplation on the nature of humanity and the impact of our own actions.

"War of the Worlds" occupies a significant place within Spielberg's illustrious filmography. The film reflects his recurring themes of family, resilience, and the exploration of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Spielberg's skillful storytelling techniques, such as his ability to balance spectacle with intimate character moments, are evident throughout the film. "War of the Worlds" showcases Spielberg's mastery in creating emotionally resonant narratives within the science fiction genre.

The film made a notable contribution to the science fiction genre, particularly in the realm of alien invasion films. Spielberg's approach to the invasion narrative, emphasizing the human perspective and the emotional turmoil experienced by the characters, influenced subsequent films in the genre. "War of the Worlds" set a high bar for the visual effects and immersive world-building of alien invasion stories, inspiring filmmakers to push the boundaries of cinematic spectacle. Its impact can be seen in the subsequent exploration of similar themes and concepts in films and television series that followed.

While "War of the Worlds" primarily serves as a thrilling science fiction tale, it contains elements of potential social and political commentary. Released in 2005, during a time of global anxiety and geopolitical tensions, the film may be seen as reflecting the fears and uncertainties of the era. The invasion and destruction depicted in the film can be interpreted as a metaphor for the vulnerability of societies in the face of external threats. 

"War of the Worlds" is a cinematic triumph that expertly weaves together gripping storytelling, stunning visuals, and powerful performances. Through faithful adaptation and a fresh perspective, Spielberg brings H.G. Wells' timeless tale into the 21st century, offering a thrilling and thought-provoking experience for audiences. The film's exploration of themes, emotional resonance, and cultural impact solidify its place within Spielberg's filmography and the science fiction genre. "War of the Worlds" stands as a testament to Spielberg's directorial mastery and continues to leave a lasting legacy on the cinematic landscape.

"War of the Worlds" stands as a testament to his directorial prowess and storytelling mastery. The film expertly brings H.G. Wells' classic tale of alien invasion to life, captivating audiences with its thrilling narrative, stunning visuals, and emotional depth. Spielberg's vision and attention to detail create an immersive experience that explores the vulnerability of humanity and the strength of the human spirit. "War of the Worlds" is a timeless science fiction classic that solidifies Spielberg's place as a cinematic legend and continues to captivate audiences with its enduring impact.

15  points of production trivia about Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds":

1. The film marked Spielberg's second collaboration with actor Tom Cruise, following their successful partnership in "Minority Report" (2002).

2. To achieve the realistic destruction of cities during the alien invasion, the production team used a combination of practical effects and cutting-edge visual effects. Real-life locations were enhanced with computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create the post-apocalyptic landscapes.

3. The iconic tripod alien machines were designed to stand approximately 150 feet tall. They were constructed as a combination of practical models and CGI, with actors later interacting with green screen elements during filming.

4. In order to create a heightened sense of authenticity, the production team consulted with real-life disaster management experts to ensure the depiction of chaos and survival in the film felt genuine.

5. The film's sound design played a crucial role in building tension and immersing audiences in the invasion. Sound designer Richard King used various techniques to create the eerie and otherworldly sounds of the alien tripods.

6. The film's budget was estimated to be around $132 million. It went on to gross over $591 million worldwide, making it a commercial success.

7. Dakota Fanning, who played Rachel Ferrier, Tom Cruise's on-screen daughter, was only 11 years old during filming. Her remarkable performance garnered critical acclaim and solidified her as a talented young actress.

9. The iconic ferry scene, where the characters attempt to escape across the river, was shot on location in Connecticut. The production team had to build a section of the ferry to sink for the sequence, with the rest created using CGI.

10. Tom Cruise performed many of his own stunts in the film, including running through the chaos of the alien attack and being near explosions. His dedication to the role added a level of authenticity to the intense action sequences.

11. The film's script was penned by screenwriter David Koepp, who previously worked with Spielberg on "Jurassic Park" (1993) and "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997).

12. John Williams, a frequent collaborator with Spielberg, composed the film's score. Williams' music added tension, suspense, and emotional depth to the storytelling, enhancing the overall cinematic experience.

13. The film's release date was deliberately chosen to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, which famously caused panic among listeners who believed it to be a real news report.

14. During filming, Spielberg used various improvisation techniques to capture natural performances from the actors, particularly in intense and emotional scenes. This allowed for authentic reactions and heightened realism.

15. "War of the Worlds" received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. The film's visual and technical achievements were recognized by the industry.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
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