We are big War of the Worlds fans in our house and not just of the book – Jeff Wayne’s Rock Musical Version often blares from the speakers (nice and loud so as to cover up our voices as we sing along) so, I had thought a lot about how it would be adapted to a modern Hollywood blockbuster because it wasn’t going to be easy.
When you think Hollywood blockbuster, especially starring Tom Cruise, you think (well, okay, I think) big Hero pic – and the problem with War of the Worlds is that there is no Hero – or, rather, the Earth kinda saves itself. I had a couple of ideas – would Tom be a scientist (a popular hero in recent years)- THE scientist to discover that if everyone can just lay low, the germs will do their work? Well, no because that wouldn’t be enough to make him a hero. Perhaps he (still a scientist) could make the realization and engineer the bio-weapon to spark the victory or perhaps he could be the warrior who delivered the missile (though we aren’t as enamoured of military heroes these days) Of course, the latter sorts of changes would destroy Wells’ intent but, hey Hollywood does that (and, let’s face it, if you’re updating a story – that’s exactly what a modern defence force would do, no?)
To my surprise, Spielberg stuck to Wells’ intent and left the fabulously designed aliens and the plucky Earth germs to play out their own story and we simply follow a parallel story of a father and his children coping with the situation. It’s a sweet story, Fanning and Chatwin are excellent as the siblings who trust only each other after the dissolution of their parent’s marriage and the gradual development of the relationship between Cruise and Fanning , after Chatwin’s character disappears, was, I felt believable. I think it would have strengthened the premise (which I take to be Fatherhood after divorce) for Chatwin’s character to stay with them and for Cruise’s character to have to become a champion in his eyes, too but that’s just me.
I’m still not really sure what the purpose of Tim Robbins’ character was, I know it was so that Cruise’s character could kill something but story-wise I’m still confused. Why was Cruise the only one to notice him standing out there waving his gun and why did Robbins give up trying to flag down survivors after Cruise and Fanning joined him? I won’t do more than mention the fact that Otto’s Boston street appeared to be untouched by what we had been told was World-Wide destruction – enough people have gone into that…
In the end, I felt neither cheated nor fulfilled having seen this film and based on the discussion between my three friends afterwards: "So, what did you think?" "Hmm, don’t know really." "Yeah… It was alright." they felt the same way. I guess, when it comes down to it, we all want to see the good guy actually defeat the bad guys – somehow.