The H.G. Wells novel that grew to infamy thanks to an Orson Welles radio broadcast was made into a movie in 1953, and again by the one and only Steven Spielberg in 2005. The big question is, in a world so divided and hateful today, would we even be able to come together to fight aliens to save our own planet? Probably not considering a good chunk of us isn’t even interested in saving our planet as it quickly dies already. Anyway, time to take on this double feature.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)
A long narration opens the film, filling us in as to why the Martians have come to earth. So awesome that this is so old school they call them Martians. Then we meet locals in a town as they witness something streaking down to earth nearby.
In this predominantly Caucasian movie, the one poor Latino guy gets zapped because he makes the mistake of sticking around with two dumb white guys that just stand and watch as something hatches from the large object. A sort of telescope space ship comes out and shoots its lasers at them, turning them to dust. Great way to start a film.
And then in comes the military. Blah. So much of this film focuses on the military, making much of it boring. However, it should be noted that a priest with a God complex approaches the alien while holding up a Bible like he’s the man (foreshadowing Trump over 60 years ago), but all that dipshit manages to do is piss off an alien ship, so it zaps him and then the all the alien ships rise up and open fire on everyone. How poetic…religion started the war.
In the one truly fantastic scene, the leading man and woman hide out in a house only to have the aliens come in looking for them. After some great use of shadow, we get to see a freaky looking alien.
Time flashes forward, there’s an arrogantly American plot point about the White House and DC being the only places still immune from the alien invasion, and then everyone gathers in church to pray away the aliens. Ugh. How 1953.
Despite God getting credit for the ridiculously easy way the aliens are conquered, they suddenly just drop dead because they can’t handle our planet’s bacteria. That’s science, not God.
WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)
Only someone like Steven Spielberg would have the power to fix everything wrong with the original and create a suspenseful two-hour film that is virtually a chase scene from beginning to end.
Naturally, Morgan Freeman is the narrator in this one. But he’s not God.
In a blue collar neighborhood ripe with symbols of American patriotism, Tom Cruise is spending the weekend with his two kids when lightning strikes the earth in various places, causing huge jellyfish spaceships to rise from the ground and begin frying the fuck out of fleeing people. They also destroy a church. I’d say God bless the aliens, but, you know, aliens are our god, we just haven’t figured it out yet.
So begins the chase with Tom, his teen son, and little Dakota Fanning as his daughter. The goal is to get to the house of his ex-wife’s parents (played by the leading man and lady from the original!).
One great scene after another unfolds as they hide from aliens and fight off desperate humans that are also trying to survive. But it wouldn’t be Spielberg if every dangerous situation didn’t conveniently work in the favor of his lead family.
Along with a load of new sequences in which Tom, not the military, kicks alien ass, Spielberg brings us a tight update of the home invasion scene. But I have to say…the aliens in the original movie are freakier!