I have to agree with my friend Jen in her assessment of War of the Worlds. It’s generally a good movie and worth seeing, but the major value of the movie is not as a science fiction story, but as a window into human reactions to catastrophe.
In the wake of events like 9/11 and the recent bombings in Madrid and now London, the world is increasingly chaotic and insecure. What I walked away with from the movie was an appreciation for what it’s like to be an alien invasion survivor.
That, and what it’s like to have a Scientologist as your dad.
Seriously though, the power of the movie comes in the way it explores the question: “What do you do when your entire world is turned upside down?” The film is more a movie about how humans react to catastrophe than it is about the catastrophe itself. That may disappoint some popcorn-munchers looking for special effects and Jeff Goldblum saving the world, but those guys always have Fantastic Four.
Overall, this one gets three and a half stars. I hate giving half-stars, but it’s better than a 3 and just not quite good enough for 4. You understand.
Like most Spielberg movies since 1993 (which I consider the point in time where Spielberg the director was replaced with Spielberg the Dreamworks executive), the film has a constrained and limited feeling to it. With the exception of Saving Private Ryan, and Amistad, most Spielberg films of the past decade have felt rushed and cramped.
I keep getting the impression that the man has so many duties, so many irons in the fire, that you don’t see the really well-developed, really well-thought out masterpieces like Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, etc.
The Terminal is an example of a kind of movie that fits perfectly into the new pressed-for-time filmmaking style that I’ve seen from Steven Spielberg. If it can fit all into one location and the story is tight and deep from the beginning, the Spielberg touch can make it magical. But with films like AI, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, the result is a nagging feeling that the final product is not as good as it could have been.
For example, there are 103 entries listed under Steven Spielberg’s name on IMDB at the moment. From 1980 to 1993 (14 years) there were 38 entries, from 1993 to 2005: 63
I think Steven Spielberg is the most talented film director of my lifetime. And I think it’s wonderful that he’s taken the bold step of trying to translate his creative talent into a larger organization (Dreamworks), which can multiply the amount of good entertainment that is created each year. I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of his own work.