War of the Worlds, Blu-ray (2005/2010)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Studio: Amblin Ent./DreamWorks/Paramount 07493 [6/1/10]
Video: Anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD MA, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Music: John Williams
Extras: Revisiting the Invasion, The H.G. Wells Legacy, Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds, Characters: The Family Unit, Previsualization, Production Diaries, Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens, Scoring War of the Worlds, We Are Not Alone, Galleries, Theatrical teaser trailer in HD
Length: 117 minutes
Well-timed shortly after Stephen Hawking’s statement about aliens not necessarily being benign, here’s Spielberg’s spectacular version of the H.G. Wells early sci-fi novel which pays homage to George Pal’s 1950s’ version while actually keeping closer to the original Wells story line. He updates the story from Victorian times to the present and the main characters from a scientist with a wife and brother to a divorced blue-collar American with a daughter and teenage son. He also downplays much of the political and philosophical content of the novel, and there is a confusing statement that the Martians are here to completely exterminate life on earth, when Wells’ point was that their planet was dying and they saw humans as a food source. Spielberg effectively changed, however, an original line where it was asked where the invaders came from and someone said “France?” That was fine for Victorian England; Spielberg changed it to “Europe?”
Both Cruise and little Dakota Fanning do a terrific acting job in their respective roles, and the story of one man struggling to save his children from the awful alien invasion is so much more involving than if Spielberg has shown things on a grand global scale, as in so many other disaster movies – Washington, London, Paris being destroyed, etc. The special effects and sound work together for some truly amazing scenes. The early rising up of the first alien tripod from under the street intersection is original and terrifying. The scene of Cruise emerging from the basement of his ex-wife’s home, walking thru a seemingly only slightly shaken-up room, and then we see the burning jetliner engine and the whole side of the house blown away with aircraft parts everywhere – a truly unique vision of destruction. The hopelessness of the army’s attacks on the tripods is also portrayed in a more subtle and disturbing manner than George Pal ever conceived.
Well’s narration at the beginning and end of the story has become a gem of literature, and it is delivered by the perfect voice of Morgan Freeman. The many extras are all worth seeing: the one on H.G. Wells with his grandson and great grandson was fascinating. Wells couldn’t remember when the birthdays of all his grandchildren were, so he mounted a big celebration annually for his own birthday instead. The Blu-ray transfer looks so much better than the standard DVD, and the surround sound is of course room-shaking.
— John Sunier