Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

04 February 2006

Spielberg. Cruise. War. Worlds. Of The.

I liked War of the Worlds. I mean, I didn't love it or anything, but I liked it fairly well. It's certainly a Hell of a lot better than Munich or The Terminal.

There's a lot of really fun stuff in the movie. The effects are really cool. Um, what else did I like about it... I really liked everything about the aliens. The scene with the weird cobra thing that had a giant eye on the end of it: I loved that. I loved the aliens themselves – like the aliens from Ridley Scott's Alien crossed with giant frogs. That was fun. And I love all the stuff about the blood growing into giant roots. The idea of that is so unbelievably disgusting... and cool. My favorite part of the movie is when they go down into the basement to hide with Tim Robbins. At that point, the movie stops being a movie about physically running away and turns into some kind of futuristic Diary of Anne Frank with all of the expected tension and suspense. This stuff was extremely successful to my mind, and this part I enjoyed thoroughly.

**I am about to talk about the end of the film right now. Don't yell at me about spoiling things, because this story is over fifty years old – or if you think I'm going to spoil something for you, you could just stop reading right about here.**

Typically for a Steven Spielberg movie, there are three endings in War of the Worlds. I hate that he does that and I'm not sure why he does it. Instead of tricking us into thinking the scene is an ending scene and then continuing on, why doesn't he somehow stop these penultimate scenes from looking like endings. I mean, why keep ending the movie? He only makes us want the movie to end.

Instead of giving us a wide shot where Ray gets taken up by the alien and then pausing and only then following Ray into the little human-basket, why not just follow Ray into the basket? Instead of telling us the truth here and following our protagonist, Spielberg pulls away and lets us think this is the end for Ray. I don't get it. So we all, collectively go, "this is the end" and then he jumps to inside the basket. And then after Ray delivers little Rachel to her mother and hugs Robbie, we pan out, away from the central family, to a wide shot of Boston. This is the end. It's over. Everyone's safe.

...And then Morgan Freeman starts talking. The movie isn't over, guys, hang on. Let me get back into the movie and start listening again. What is Morgan Freeman talking about? Oh, the aliens were defeated by germs. That makes sense. He's talking about evolution now. Okay. I get it. I'm with him on this. That makes sense. Humans have paid their dues. Cool. I dig it. So why does Spielberg tell me it's okay to tune out if he has more to say? Why not stick with the main family and start the voice-over earlier? What if Morgan Freeman started his summation before we panned away from Ray and his kids? Then I would still be involved in the story and wouldn't have to bring myself back into the movie.

Steven Spielberg is really good at endings. I understand that: he has at least two in each of his films. We ought to do what we're good at, and if you're good at endings, I suppose you should do as many as possible, but I think it acts counter to the idea of storytelling.

I did like the movie, though. I did. Spielberg just frustrates me.