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War of the Worlds

Genre: Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto
Released by: Paramount Pictures

In Short: Good special-effects moments and a classic sci-fi premise can't save this clichéd, cornball tale from being Spielberg's worst movie ever.

A World of Clichés
H. G. Wells Rolls Over in His Grave as This "War" Commences
by Jenny Peters

There's a reason H. G. Wells' 1898 novel War of the Worlds has remained popular for more than a century. It's because the premise, the idea of being assaulted by evil aliens from outer space, just naturally strikes terror into most human hearts—which makes it unforgivable that Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise have collaborated to create the least scary, most stupidly plotted version of the story ever made.

Yes, the film has some engaging moments, especially early on, as lightning strikes in Cruise's blue-collar neighborhood and the first human-zapping alien tripod emerges from under the earth, awakened by the giant zap from the sky. Problem is, the cornball clichés start up right at the beginning of the movie, too, and that just kills it, as you squirm in your seat with embarrassment at how truly bad it is. How many times have we seen the character of the divorced father (Tom Cruise) who doesn't care about his children, and who’s wondrously changed into a great guy in the course of the movie? Starting with that hackneyed plot line, adding in just abysmally trite dialogue that never gets any better, and finishing up with the cheesiest dénouement in the history of movies, this "War of the Worlds" is so filled with cornball that its truly scary moments can't stand up to the continuous assault of clichés.

If that wasn't bad enough, throw in the huge plot holes and unbelievable scenes, like when the aliens kill all the power to everything, yet some guy is able to shoot with a video camera when the first tripod comes out of the ground. Right, we get it, that camera happens to work, because Spielberg wanted to get an artsy shot through the viewfinder. When Cruise and his two incredibly annoying children (if Dakota Fanning screamed that high-pitched scream one more time, we were going to join in to protest) get into the only working car in all of the Tri-State area, there just happens to be a clear, unobstructed escape route between all the dead cars, and funny, it never needs gasoline, either—a good thing since the pumps would be dead, too. The list goes on and on, so much so that it is impossible to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the special effects.

If aliens attacking from outer space are your idea of fun at the movies, here's a suggestion. Forget "War of the Worlds," and just go to your local video store and rent "Independence Day." Now that's a great movie.

(Updated: 01/23/08 NJ)

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