War Of The Worlds (2005)

(In theaters, July 2005) The least one can say about Steven Spielberg, it’s that he can still scare the socks off his audience when he wants to. And so War Of The Worlds is best seen as a showcase of scare sequences loosely strung together with bits of plot stolen from H.G. Wells’ classical SF novel. The scares work; the rest, well, not so much. Don’t think that I say that because the film is unfaithful to the novel: screenwriters Koepp and Friedman manage to retain both the flavour and some plotting of the original while updating the entire story to contemporary situations. No, what doesn’t work so well are the stupid coincidences and conveniences that advance the plot. Half the movie will be spent bitching about how this or that particular aspect is plainly impossible. Visually, the film goes for a drab and unappealing look, trying just a bit too hard for showy realism when a more conventional palette would have been less obtrusive. Fortunately, the scares work, and some of them work because they embrace 9/11 imagery like few other films so far: The initial sequence of alien nastiness is breathtaking, and some of the latter scenes are quite impressive as well. It’s sad, then that the film bogs down in such a fashion during most of its third quarter, stuck in a cellar with some boring crazy guy and featuring a home-invasion sequence that goes on for about three times longer than it should. (Plus; will someone just stop screaming? Goodness.) All in all, a mixed bag, perhaps more good than bad and still worth a look one day or another.

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