War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds (2005) — I think I might be alone in how much i like this movie. Most people don’t like it or only kind of like it. I really like this movie. Part of that is Tom Cruise. He gets a lot of shit for being totally bugfuck insane but he’s not a bad actor. He coasts through a lot of movies with that shit-eating grin instead of trying but in movies like Magnolia or Collateral the dude proves he actually has some chops. The main character in War of the Worlds could be a pretty standard action hero dude, especially being played by one of the biggest movie stars in the world but the thing about Steven Spielberg is that he likes the people in his movies be actual characters so you give a shit about what happens to them. Cruise’s Ray is one of those people who was probably the most popular person in high school but has no idea how to handle the real world. He tries to charm his way out of shit, is way too obsessed with his car, and demonstrated the basic maturity of a cocky teenager (given what we know about Cruise this may not be acting). Nowhere is this more obvious than in his complete inability to relate to his two kids (Justin Chatwin and Dakota Fanning). Then aliens start fucking everyone’s shit up. Suddenly, being a parent becomes a whole lot simpler: keep the kids alive. That includes simple shit like hiding in basements and tougher things like [SPOILER] flat-out murdering a crazy asshole (Tim Robbins) who will probably get Ray and the kids killed. [END SPOILER] Usually movies about overgrown teenagers finally coping with adulthood tend to be a little more like Knocked Up. This one decided to go with aliens with heat rays. I dig that. A lot of the people fleeing in panic scenes are pretty good and the whole people-bursting-into-ash-as-their-still-intact-clothes-float-to-the-ground makes for a pretty awesome visual (and a pretty chilling scene where it sinks in for Cruise that the ash he’s covered in IS PEOPLE). Of course there’s the issue of the total deus ex machina ending (from H.G. Wells’ book) but this isn’t really the global story of humanity’s struggle with the aliens, it’s the story of one family’s attempt at survival. It tells a human story, so that’s why we care. Anyway, I don’t think it goes down with Spielberg classic like E.T. (with much friendlier aliens) or Jurassic Park, but it’s better than a lot of people give it credit for…

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