Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

War of the Worlds


First, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense … but when did it ever? I mean, going back to the original story? Alien creatures invade, whip the pants off us, and then die from our teeny little germs. This element remained in the radio play, in the first movie, and in this remake. This one attempts to inject a little “logic” into it, showing the alien machines sucking our blood, using our bodies as fertilizer to grow some icky stuff … I wasn’t very clear, but it was nasty, as you’d expect from bad aliens. It wasn’t really needed, except to inject a bit more gore. Also, instead of coming from Mars (done recently, and badly, in Mars Attacks!), these invaders come from some undefined place, which is okay, but seem to have buried their death machines millions of years ago. So … why now? Better to just show up, that way all we need to know about them is they like to kill and destroy.

But having said that … I liked this a lot. Watching it, I became aware of how goddam sick and tired I am getting of action pictures that defy the laws of physics, and of action heroes whose bodies defy the dictates of physiology. The Kung-Fu epic where people fly. The guy who outruns an explosion that’s following him at 1000 miles per hour. The action hero who absorbs blows that would decapitate an elephant. The falling man who reaches out and grabs a rope, never mind that he’s moving at 80 miles per hour and it would pull his fingers right off. The car that flies, the plane that performs stunts that would tear off the wings.

Neither Tom Cruise nor anyone else in this movie performs gravity-defying stunts. (He has an amazing amount of sheer luck, but that’s different. Somebody survives a holocaust like this, and naturally it is the man whose story we choose to follow.) He spends all of the movie running and hiding and scared shitless, just like you and I would. At first he is stunned almost catatonic, and is close to sheer panic. He never leaps from a five-story building and survives, he never jumps a car 500 feet into the air. Every special effect we see is logical, given the powerful nature of the aliens, and as real as if it was actually filmed. There are awesome moments and tense moments.

I want to say a word to Roger Ebert, who seems to like almost everything lately … and then inexplicably gets into a hissy fit about something he really ought to like. He said he didn’t believe the tripods, because a tripod is unstable. Hel-looo! Roger! Anybody home? A tripod is the only stable platform. Look at an easel. Just ask a photographer, or a Pierson’s Puppeteer (a Larry Niven creation which these aliens resemble). A four-legged device will always have one short leg, and will instantly form … a tripod! It’s a bipod that is unstable. If you don’t prop it up on one side or the other (thus forming … a tripod!) it will immediately fall over. These aliens were tripodal, and would naturally build machines in their own image.