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War of the Worlds (2005)

“War of the Worlds” (2005) on IMDb
Rating: 4.5/5
“War of the Worlds” (2005) movie poster

I had been looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I first heard that Steven Spielberg was making War of the Worlds. I haven’t been this excited and filled with anticipation for a movie since The Return of the King.

War of the Worlds is scary, grim, and definitely not enjoyable in the sense of being happy. I was a bit surprised that this movie got a “from 11 years old” rating in Sweden, which means that one has to be at least 11 years old to see the movie or at least 7 years old if accompanied by an adult (18 years or older). The movie is fairly realistic in its depiction of how humans are likely to act and behave when faced with unstoppable adversity, provided that one keeps in mind that the alien invasion is not the main point of the story. Morgan Freeman’s voice-over works well and pays homage to Wells’ book.

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Something else worth mentioning is that there are things that are only implied rather than showed explicitly, and Spielberg stays true to the motto that the audience should not know or see anything that Ray and his children don’t know or see. The aliens themselves do not get much screen time, which I’m thankful for. I can’t help but wonder if the aliens shouldn’t have been left entirely to the imagination or the book’s description of them followed. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was quite surprised when the Swedish-designed weapon Carl-Gustaf made an appearance.

One thing I didn’t like in this movie at first was that the tripods are already here (remember the movie’s tagline, They’re already here). This particular fact raises a number of questions that are difficult to answer, such as how they have remained undetected for so long and why the aliens only placed the tripods here the first (?) time they visited Earth instead of just taking over the planet then. After having seen the movie I tried to come up with satisfying answers to those questions and others I had. Later, however, I came to the realization that this most likely has to do with making the aliens even scarier by means of our lack of knowledge of them and their motives. Even though the questions raised by the movie frustrated me as I left the theater, I have now accepted that there are no definite answers to them, and this makes War of the Worlds even better, setting it apart from other movies in the genre in which there are no lingering questions when the credits start to roll.

I have read many reviews where people complain about the demise of the aliens, and I don’t agree with them. I quite liked the ending, faithful to Wells’ book as it is (never mind the question of why the aliens didn’t take the Earth’s microorganisms into account, given their superior intellect); a more standard Hollywood ending would have ruined much of this movie. The ending provides a sharp contrast to all the action and intensity that went before it. The faith of the Ferrier family struck me as somewhat unlikely though not entirely unrealistic, but I wouldn’t call it a happy ending since the Ferriers have undoubtedly lost relatives, friends, and other people that meant something to them. Still, admittedly, there is something about this that makes me think it could have been more powerful had it played out differently.

War of the Worlds is a dark, intense, and emotional movie that delivers what it should. The movie is not without its flaws, minor though they are, but the expectations I had before seeing it were definitely met, and to tell the truth, I never really doubted that this would be a truly great movie.