Monday, July 04, 2005

Earth is PWN3D!!!!!!

War of the Worlds taught me two things: One, don't try to drive a Dodge minivan into a sea of desperate people, and two, if there's an alien apocalypse, go to Boston, because it'll be perfectly fine when you get there.

By the way, this post has more spoilers than a high school parking lot. But then again, so does the H.G. Wells work this film is based on, so if you don't know the story, shame on you.

Of course, shame on me. I never read the story myself.

I'm not sure why the film is called War of the Worlds, because there only seems to be one world really doing any effective warring. Earth's counterattack is essentially Tom Cruise with a belt of grenades. It's a bit like exclaiming, "War... of the Species!" just before smacking a fly with a flyswatter. I would have called the film "Massive Assraping of the Worlds," but then that might have upset the parents.

Not that the film as-is wouldn't upset the parents. Aside from showing a realistic family in crisis (well, realistic except for the idea of walking-forehead Miranda Otto as the doting mother who will somehow make it all better if we can just get to Boston and find her), the film shows humanity at its worst this side of a zombie epidemic. I can hear it now: "Mommy, would Daddy kill Mr. Nelson with his bare hands just to keep the aliens from hearing Mr. Nelson's mad prattling while we're hiding out to avoid being captured and having our blood sucked out by a giant Hoover attachment?" For some reason, some people think that Spielberg = Family Friendly, to this day, despite Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan being high atop his list of recent films.

At first, I was surprised to see Dakota Fanning get second billing in the film, with Tim Robbins and Miranda Otto caricaturing about, but she did a fine job being a neurotic child who got that way because her mother and doting stepfather allowed her to. She has a realistic child-scream that rattles the nerves, and she has a way of being sassy without being sitcom-child precocious. She's like the girl version of Haley Joel Osment, so expect to see her pop up in increasingly inappropriate roles as people try to capitalize on the one child in Hollywood who can apparently act. I can already imagine her starring in A.I. 2: Small wonder.

In any case, here's the plot: Aliens come and blow shit up, then die mysteriously from disease. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise is a bad father and must reconcile with his estranged children while being in an apocalypse. Simple, stock plots, both. Luckily, Spielberg takes both plots to their logical extremes: The aliens not only blow shit up, but they do it while looking awesome and being mysterious (up until a point). Tom Cruise is not only a bad father, but he leaves his kids to order food when he goes to work because there is no, count zero, food in the house. The kids order health food (because they suck), and Tom Cruise can't bear to eat it. Tom Cruise then invites his son out to play catch and ends up calling his son a prick. Good stuff.

But Spielberg manages to mess it up, as per usual. Steven, I know you hate guns, but in a crowd of hundreds of people in New Jersey during an apocalypse, I'd think there'd be more than two guns. Aside from the military, which really serves no purpose in the film, the film features three guns. I guess the rest of the people had Spielbergian cell phones.

Then Spielberg makes the mistake of showing the actual aliens in the flesh, and they're frickin' cute. They're like big-headed baby mushroom people with huge round eyes and a tendency to pick up and stare at photographs of Tim Robbins' family. Suddenly all the destruction they caused is cute, like a baby stomping about and breaking your fine ceramic pottery. "Awww," you say, "That ceramic vase may have cost me $100, but this destructive baby is priceless!!"

Finally, any fear that the audience has that Tom Cruise's wife and son might be dead has completely no payoff, because at the end of the film they're perfectly fine, hanging out with grandma and grandpa in the completely un-ruined city of Boston. I guess while the aliens were stomping about and, by this point, falling on stuff, the folks were eating beans and playing a rousing game of Parcheesi. It's supposed to come across as a relief that these characters are still alive, but since you are meant to hate Miranda Otto for treating the asshole Tom Cruise so badly, and since you never get to know Tom Cruise's son or his greasy '80s death-metal haircut, it just comes over as disappointment. After the easy way in which everyone but Tom Cruise dies in the film, for an entire family to have rolled natural 20s on the dice just seems off. I guess plot immunity is a wonderful thing.

The best thing about the film is how grim it is. This could have easily been another huge blockbuster thrill ride, but it's not. It shows humans at the brink of desperation, and it details what depths some people will go to to survive and protect their families. The film does a good job of keeping the threat personal; it doesn't go out to the national or global level, but rather keeps it all down to how it affects Tom Cruise. I'll excuse the "Bad father learns about family" plot because it keeps the camera focused on the human crises and not the cool ships towering about. And these ships really are a threat: We see early on how effectively and indescriminately they kill, so when we see two at once, we go, "Holy crap," and when we see legions, we slap the retarded kid behind us for constantly going, "Whoa" in that deadened I-just-swallowed-my-tongue voice of his.

That's the other thing: We had these annoying people in the seats behind us who just wouldn't shut up. When the film began and we saw a picture of an amoeba, the father of the family pointed, chuckled, and went, "An amoeba!!!" I'm not making this up. Every time something happened that was more exciting than Tom Cruise standing about, the kid went, "Whoa." Like, Tom Cruise goes to the phone and says, "Hello, Dominoes?" and the kid goes, "Whoa." I turned around three times and told them to shut up, which worked for a moment, but they struck it back up. Luckily the film was grim and scary enough to shut down the three working neurons in their brains about halfway through the film.

Anyway, not a bad film, but I probably won't remember it in a few months, which generally tells me that it's solidly mediocre.

Also, Tom Cruise is teh Scientologistz0r, lolroflmgdao.

That is all.