War of the Worlds – A Movie Review

In my book, Steven Spielberg rarely goes wrong.  I’m happy to announce that his latest film, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds, is no different.

This film had me on the edge of my seat from about twenty minutes in until it ended.  Non-stop action, total suspense, very frightening moments (both with the invaders and with how humans can devolve so savagely when challenged), along with spectacular special effects make this movie worth the price of admission.

I’ll be honest, I was sort of expecting an Independence Day type of film.  Thankfully, we didn’t’ get one (don’t get me wrong, I liked Independence Day, I just didn’t want to see a rehash, and yes, I realize the irony in such a statement considering most alien invasion films are byproducts of Wells’ novel).  Instead, the film held truer to the actual novel.  I won’t offer any more spoilers than that, but please keep in mind the novel was published in 1898, so obvious modernizing is essential to capture the contemporary audience’s attention. 

I suppose that the greatest surprise of the film for me was the fact that no matter how much Tom Cruise has fallen, in my opinion, of late, he really did give a pretty good performance in this film.  Most movies I see with Cruise, I feel as though I’m watching Tom Cruise in a movie, not a character that Tom Cruise is playing.  In War of the Worlds, this was not totally the case.  He had some Tom Cruise moments, but overall, I felt as though he was Ray, the character he was playing (not the singer).  Cruise plays a man who is not an especially heroic person, not an especially honest or moral person, and a father who pretty much stinks at the job.  It was nice to see him playing an everyman, a reluctant hero.  In fact, I wouldn’t even call his character a hero.  Protagonist would be more appropriate, I believe. 

All in all, see this film.  I’ll say it again, Spielberg always produces gold when he directs, Cruise plays a convincing character, the little girl did not irritate me like I thought she would (I even kind of enjoyed her performance, but don’t tell anyone), and it was a fun thrill ride.  Oh, and those special effects won’t be done justice on the small screen, so don’t wait to rent.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – A Movie Review

I loved this story as a child-adored it, in fact.  My fourth grade teacher read us the complete Chronicles of Narnia series over the school year, and I contribute this, along with comic books and my parents reading to me consistently as a wee lad, to my love of reading and writing as an adult. 

Let’s acknowledge that I had very high hopes for this film.  The previews were enough to make me tear up a bit because of the pure happiness they evoked.  The happiness of seeing something that had only existed in my imagination suddenly thrown onto the silver screen elated the little boy that still very much lives within me.  It was magical.

I have to say that while this film made my heart swell throughout for a variety of reasons, I was not completely enamored with it.  There are several reasons for this, some that have nothing to do with the film, some that do.

First of all, any time something is given tangible form externally from your own imagination, it never lives up to expectations in its entirety.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was an excellent film, but it still did not match what I had dreamt as a child, and very little ever does.

Secondly, the actress that played Lucy (the youngest) was by far the better of the four children.  I’ve never particularly enjoyed films that starred children (with the exception of The Goonies), and this was no different.  I had very explicit images of Peter and the rest, and none of them matched up.  That, plus the fact that, as stated, three of the four children were simply not very good actors, seemed to drag the film down just a bit.

Thirdly, the voice of Aslan was not the voice I had heard within my mind when I was sitting in grade school.  Nothing against the actor that played him, I simply expected a voice that thundered and reverberated; Aslan is a lion, after all.  The polished, soft-spoken voice that emitted from the mouth of Narnia’s savior was just a little too gentlemanly for my taste.

Now, keep in mind, this film was forced to compete with the remembrances of childhood, and that is a competition that will rarely prove victorious for the opponent.  I know I’m judging the film unfairly, I admit that, but I simply can’t help it.

Now, on to the positives: the special effects of the film were wonderful and primarily seamless.  Bear in mind that much of this was computer graphic animated, and I’d say that they did a superb job of blending the live action with the CG.  Costumes and locations were spot on, and the battle scenes were truly magnificent.  The adults did a very nice job with their acting, and I’m guessing the children will grow into their roles if given an opportunity, much as the chap that plays Harry Potter.

I was satisfied with this film, but I was not awestruck.  I would certainly recommend seeing it; it is worth the price of admission, no doubt.  I believe C.S. Lewis would have been satisfied with this adaptation as well, though I have to wonder what would have happened if they’d gotten a Peter Jackson or a Steven Spielberg to direct it.

Here’s looking forward to many more Chronicles of Narnia!