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Jewish World Review July 4, 2005 / 27 Sivan,
Culture war of the worlds
So there I am watching Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds"
with a bunch of swells at the movie's premiere in New York City. The film is
a sci-fi extravaganza where Spielberg takes the basic premise of the 1898
H.G. Wells novel, borrows freely from his previous suspense films "Jaws" and
"Jurassic Park," and creates a special effects bonanza that is bound to
please a mass audience hungry for thrills and chills.
But, early on in the movie, something stranger than
gross-looking aliens chasing humans all over the place emerges. A rather
populist political subtext takes shape that is somewhat surprising coming
from a Hollywood insider like Spielberg. "War of the Worlds" parallels the
attack on 9-11.
Narrator Morgan Freeman opens things up by stating that forces
with "envious eyes" have targeted earthlings for destruction. They simply
want the planet for themselves. No one is safe, no target off-limits.
Civilians are routinely destroyed without reason or rational explanation.
Sound like anyone we know? Osama somebody?
The actual first wave alien attack comes from the sky, just as
9-11 did. Then it's a grind-it-out process as the invaders stalk humans.
Some of us fight back, some of us run.
At one point in the movie, one of the characters makes the point
that an occupying army can never win. Iraq reference? Sure it is.
The messages in the film, however, are not overtly political.
There is no left-wing, right-wing thing going on. Tom Cruise cruises along
without much point of view other than to save his kids from the alien
killers. Spielberg is not Michael Moore. His aim is to entertain and make a
few a subtle points that do not intrude on the suspense. By the way,
Spielberg is right: History shows that occupying armies cannot win in the
This is the first post 9-11 movie I've seen that is actually
influenced by the death and destruction visited upon us by the Islamic
killers. It was clear to me that Steven Spielberg is teed off about what the
terrorists are doing. His view is reflected by Cruise's teenage son, who
desperately wants to confront the aliens and kill them. The boy seethes with
anger throughout the film because of the alien barbarity. Good for him.
In the end, the aliens are actually confronted by G-d, if you
can believe it. Another huge departure from the Hollywood playbook. I'm not
going to dent the suspense and tell you more, but trust me, the ACLU will
not like the film's conclusion.
The downside to "War of the Worlds" is that it's kind of loopy
in its execution of the storyline. The special effects overshadow
everything, and the resolution of the basic plot would make Mr. Welles
shudder. But you might like the tone of the film, and if you crunch enough
popcorn, you might even swallow the thesis that Tom Cruise and his
11-year-old daughter are able to walk from New Jersey to Boston without
Strange things happen when aliens invade. Even in Hollywood.
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