The President's Speech
O'Connor & Conservatism

War of the Worlds

Why are you so anxious, Mr. Spielberg?

I was intrigued when I first found out he was re-making this story. It seemed like such odd material for Steven Spielberg, because the aliens have always been good in his universe. Why was he now making an alien invasion film?

And what an alien invasion film. I don't think I've been that anxious in a movie since I saw Scorsese's Cape Fear in the theatre. No telling what my blood pressure was. The film kept me on a nervous edge for half the movie. In doing so, it may have been the best recent horror film (read the NY Times review). In many ways the movie seems closest to Jaws.

The film has typical Spielbergian qualities -- the story is about a person coping with real life problems in the midst of the fantastical plot elements; there is lots of "Spielberg lighting," as I call it; the endangered child; the happy, resolved ending.

But that ending seems out of place in this movie. In a weird paradox the "Spielberg ending" to a Spielberg film actually doesn't work because of where the movie has taken you. It almost seems intentional.

Spielberg's darkest film is the masterpiece AI where he so successfully channeled Stanley Kubrick in Act One, made an interesting Spielberg film in Act Two, and transcended both into something completely new and awe-inspiring in Act Three. AI doesn't end happily, despite appearances. It is a sad, disturbing movie. Making AI seemed to change Spielberg. Minority Report showed him advancing to a new creative place. I was very excited for what would come next, because I wondered if he was advancing into a fabulous new creative period in his filmmaking. He had seemed unsure of himself as a filmmaker since returning to the craft after his post-Schindler's List hiatus (Saving Private Ryan had twenty amazing minutes and the rest was crap). Yet, after Minorty Report he made Catch Me If You Can, which was mostly noteworthy for being too long, and The Terminal, the only Spielberg film I've never seen because it simply just didn't look interesting at all (and got horrid reviews). So, it seemed that he wasn't entering a new creative period, but was falling back into the late-nineties weaknesses.

Then this. Here is the film that follows AI and Minority Report. It is actually not as well put together as those two. I think War of the Worlds has serious flaws in its structure, in the story, and especially in the last hour. But it is full of incredible moments (I liked this line from the NY Times review about how visually stunning the film is -- "all of these are reminders of how sublime, how aesthetically complete, a few moments of film can be.") And the overall mood of fear, dread, anxiety, and terror is unlike any recent film. This is master filmmaking, even if not a masterpiece.

But, again, why is Spielberg so anxious? Is he this afraid of the terrorists? If the film had been made in 2002, I would get that, but now? I figure he would be more afraid of the Bush administration. So, I'm not sure what's going on. But it is something substantial, to go from Close Encounters and E. T. to this.

4 1/2 popcorn kernels
3 film reels


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I was worried that Dakota Fanning would be too much of that cutesy over-the-top child actress, but in that first scene where she started screaming like a crazy person - it seemed like the most real response. I thought it was great. I also thought Tom Cruise pulled off his role very well. I was prepared not to like him because I'm so sick of seeing him in the press, on the contrary, I thought he did well.


I thought is what good too. Not as great as everyone else who I saw it with thought it was. Dakota Fanning has such an opportunity ahead of her as long as she doesn't go Cory Feldman on everyone. I did like the way it stayed true to the book in some parts with lines being taken directly from it and of course thank you Steve and Tom for not changing the ending.

anne minor jernberg

scott - i don't know any other way to get ahold of you - other than to randomly post a comment on your blog. if you don't remember me -- i'm one of the WBC kids. i'm sorry i missed you at CBF. i'm thrilled to hear of your life via timothy. i'd love to catch up sometime---
rock on brother. ~amj

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