Reactions to War of the Worlds

Last week I went with my girlfriend and my sister to see War of the Worlds here in Tampa. Overall, we were not impressed.

I think my girlfriend was one of the few people in the theater who didn’t know how the movie was going to end. She said when the movie was almost over, she was thinking, Tom Cruise still hasn’t figured out a way to defeat the aliens? This must be a really long movie!


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Da Xiangchang Says: July 14, 2005 at 9:49 am

    I was VERY disappointed. I mean, with Independence Day, you get a stupid but fun flick, but with Spielberg directing, I expected a more serious, intellectual endeavor. I was stupefied to find a movie as equally dumb as ID! The script was lazy and irrational. Practically everything in this movie was a cliche:

    1) The shiftless dad driven to heroic acts when his family is threatened.
    2) The rebellious teenage guy who calls his dad by his first name.
    3) The reptile-like aliens.
    4) The force field protecting the alien machines from the earthlings’ feeble weapons.
    5) How a worldwide tragedy helps the dysfunctional family members reconcile with each other.

    All of Spielberg’s wizardry couldn’t save this piece of junk. The best recent movie about an alien invasion remains Signs. And the best summer movie of 2005 has to be Batman Begins, and even that ain’t all that great. Where is this summer’s Spider-Man 2?!!

  2. DXC,

    I agree that the movie was a big disappointment, but a lot of the so-called sci-fi “cliches” (such as the shields) may have just been elements from the original that have been copied so many times since that they just seem cliche now.

  3. Da Xiangchang Says: July 14, 2005 at 10:41 am


    True, true, but then, I haven’t read the original novel. But often, even if you have a well-known source material, you can still embellish or interpret it in a new way. One of the things I liked about Batman Begins is how seriously the filmmakers treated the material. They inserted a ridiculous concept–c’mon, it’s a guy in a bat suit!–into a wholly realistic world. Thus, the why and how Bruce Wayne became Batman is logically explained. This was a TOTALLY different interpretation than Schumacher’s Batman movies, which were like fluorescent flying circuses with braindead character development. So the source material could be interpretted any number of ways . . . just like the force fields. Instead of missiles bouncing off like in every other sci-fi movie, why not have them enter then get absorbed or something? Why have aliens who look like every other damn alien who’s ever lived on celluloid?!! Why not have fish-like aliens who can’t live in the air but must wear water-submerged space suits on earth? You get the idea. Respect for the source material doesn’t necessarily mean slavish adherence.

  4. Kikko Man Says: July 14, 2005 at 11:48 am

    Most of the basic sci-fi elements are straight from the original by Wells from over 100 years ago. Crab-like tripod robots operated by little Martians, force fields, blood roots and aliens living on blood, death by Earth’s bacteria, the heat-ray turning people to dust, the now cliche big headed long thin limbed aliens are all from the original 1890’s work. Other than the setting and the addition of the children, much of the movie is similar to the book.

  5. Ke Meng Says: July 14, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    Signs is just so so. Most of the time is used to wait an expectable result, boring.

  6. DXC… that list typifies Spielberg’s movies…

  7. Luo Dawei Says: July 15, 2005 at 1:14 am

    I thought Spielbergs interpretation was pretty good and more true to the source material than the 1953 version. The first half hour after the tripod climbs out of the ground and starts blasting everyting in site is pretty intense. I thought he nailed it when the whole neighborhood is standing there all agog at this thing, wanting to run but facsinated at this monstrosity just the same (like the tsunamis last year), until it started atomizing people.

    For me the movie works because Spielberg does not dwell on the GCI effects and let them be the “star” like too many Sci-Fi films do these days. Instead it is the human drama and confilct that ratchets up the tension. He puts Ray into a situation where he must decide to murder an unhinged Ogilvy in order to protect his daughter from discovery and sure death. It made me wonder, what would I do in a situation like that. Also how he shows how quickly law and order disentigrated into chaos and anarchy (the Ferry scene). I tend to think that it would unfold just like this.

    BTW John, was your GF able to follow the dialoge without Chinese subtitles? (I don’t know how good her English is) When I first brought my wife here 9 years ago, and we went to the movies, I would have to give a running explanation to her (in Chinese) on what is going on. She’s a pro now.

  8. Da Xiangchang Says: July 15, 2005 at 6:43 am


    Certainly, there are elements in War of the Worlds that are in Spielberg’s other movies, but I think the list applies only to this movie. His other alien movies are far better. For example, in Close Encounters, the dad character completely neglects then ditches his family to chase (friendly) aliens! Sure, as a director, Spielberg is often sentimental (check out The Terminal!). But his best movies are mostly free of cheap sentiment and big cliches. The best movies, I think, are Schindler’s List, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, despite its obvious manipulation and sentimentality, even Saving Private Ryan.

    Here’s one BIG problem I have with Spielberg’s aliens, however: why are they naked?! With any developed race, beings are clothed, yet in every single Spielberg movie with aliens, they’re naked like dumb animals even though they’ve mastered intergalactic travel. ET’s naked, the War aliens are naked, and so are the Close Encounter ones. WTF?!! This is just plain retarded. Mass nudity isn’t a logical end product of cultural and scientific advancement.

  9. I will try not to spoil the plot for those haven’t seen the movie yet.

    At the beginning of the movie, if the aliens have disabled all electronic devices on earth (including automobiles, telephones, radio, etc), how come one person’s digital video camera was still able to work?

  10. Tian,

    Yeah, I noticed that too. Sloppy. Of course, I could be that the aliens used an EMP attack only in certain areas, which had limited ranges.

    I thought it was really dumb how the tripods were supposedly “always” buried there in the Earth with us, and somehow in the entire history of human civilization, humans never uncovered one.

  11. John,

    I have not enjoyed a single sci-fi movie for long time. It is a curse after all the physics, math, and engineering courses I have taken in my life.

    Ignorance is a bliss…

  12. First of all, to put Tom Cruise in any movie degrades it before the first frame comes on screen. I have not seen this War of the Worlds because I fear it will destroy the passion I had for the original version for so many years. I do agree that with the exception of Signs, the era of good scifi movies is at an all-time low. Frankly, I get much more enjoyment from some of the “horror” films I’ve watched recently, such as The Grudge (an American version of a well conceived Japanese movie), Jeepers Creepers 2, and a few others.

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