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War of the Worlds is a live action science fiction film adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel of the same name, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp. It stars Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier, a dock worker estranged from his wife and children and living separately from them. As his wife gives their children to him to take care of for a few days, the Earth is invaded by alien in Tripod form. Ray protects his children and tries to go to Bostonmarker to rejoin his wife.

War of the Worlds marks Spielberg and Cruise's second collaboration, after Minority Report. Cruise admired Spielberg and planned to collaborate with Spielberg again. Cruise visited Spielberg during the filming of Catch Me If You Can. After discussions, Cruise and Spielberg chose to develop The War of the Worlds into a film adaptation. Filming locations were at Connecticutmarker, New Yorkmarker, Californiamarker, Virginiamarker and New Jerseymarker. Several scenes were filmed at studios of 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios.

Tie-in promotions were made with several companies, including with Hitachi. The film released in United Statesmarker on 29 June and in United Kingdommarker on 1 July. The film generally received positive reviews and attained a 73% "fresh" rating on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 240 reviews. It was also a box office success, grossing $234 million inside United States and US$357 million overseas ($591 million overall). It was rated PG-13 by the MPAA for Frightening Sequences of Sci-fi Violence and Disturbing Images.

Plot

The film opens with Bayonne, New Jerseymarker resident Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) returning home after finishing his third shift as a dock worker. At his house, Ray encounters his ex-wife, Mary Ann (Miranda Otto), who is dropping off their children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin), while Mary goes to Bostonmarker to meet with her parents. Throughout the day, several new reports about mysterious lighting storms appearing all over the world appear, but none of them are paid attention to. While Ray sleeps, Robbie takes Ray's car out of the house without his permission. Meanwhile, Rachel take cares of the house. When Ray wakes up and discovers the missing car, he goes out to search for Robbie. While searching for Robbie, Ray notices a strange wall cloud, which starts to send out electromagnetic pulses in the form of lighting in the nearby area. It is soon discovered that the storm disabled all working electronic devices in the area, including cars. Ray then leaves to investigate, along the way telling Manny, the local mechanic, to replace the solenoid on a dead car in his shop. Ray and other numerous people are then attracted to a small hole in the ground caused by the lightning strikes. They are surprised when the ground starts to rip open and a massive machine standing on three long legs appears. After emerging, the Tripod begins vaporizing the bystanders and destroying everything else in its path. Ray manages to escape and return to his house. Knowing it is no longer safe there, packs up his kids and leaves. Ray then manages to steal a working vehicle(the one repaired earlier), and along with Robbie (who returned earlier) and Rachel leave as the tripod destroys the town around them.

Ray drives to the house of Mary's new wealthy husband to take refuge that night. Taking refuge in the basement, they hear an earsplitting noise and are shocked by a massive explosion outside the windows. The next morning they discover that a Boeing 747, taken down by the tripods, has crashed into the houses. While searching the wreckage, Ray encounters a small news team. They show Ray an army of tripods marching and destroying an unidentified large city, and a slow-motion footage of a pod that the aliens apparently "rode" down the lightning into the ground where the Tripods were located. After hearing the siren of an approaching Tripod, the news crew and Ray, along with his children, flee to join with Mary in Boston. On their journey to Boston, they stop on the road so Rachel can have a rest break. Rachel attempts to relieve herself on the banks of a nearby river, but is horrified when numerous corpses float by. When they encounter the U.S. Army passing, Robbie takes interest and attempts to join them. Ray stops Robbie from begging and convinces him to continue their journey. While driving along NY 385, they come across a mob, who attack them in order to take their vehicle. Ray gives up the vehicle to a man with a gun as he is desperate to get his children away from the mob. Later they manage to reach a Hudson River ferry, where many people fight to get in the boat. Ray and his children manage to get on the ferry. However, multiple Tripods appear and one capsizes the ferry. While the Tripods take many people captive and vaporize others, Ray and the kids are able to swim to the shore and escape.

The family then encounters the U.S. Military preparing to mount an attack on the Tripods. The family started to move away from the battle, however Robbie declines Ray's decision to do so as Robbie wants to help the U.S. Military. As Robbie runs away from Ray and Rachel, an enormous fireball crashed at the last place Robbie is seen causing Ray and Rachel to assume Robbie is dead. The tripods then climb over the hill, but we see that everything being fired at them detonates to early by force feilds shielding the tripods. Ray and Rachel are then offered shelter and protection by a stranger, named Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins). Harlan claimed his family was killed by Tripods and vows revenge, but Ray's only desire is to keep his daughter safe. While hiding in the remains of Harlan's basement, they witness the Tripods spreading a strange red weed-like substance over the ground. Later a metallic snake-like probe descends into the basement to search the structure. Ray, Rachel and Harlan manage to hide, but after the probe leaves, four aliens appear. Harlan almost attacks them but Ray manages to stop him from exposing their location. However, Harlan suffers a mental breakdown after they witness a Tripod harvest blood and tissue from a human captive to fertilize the weed. Concerned that Harlan's yelling and ranting will attract the Tripods, Ray kills Harlan to silence him. Ray and Rachel's hideout is exposed however when another probe catches them while they sleep. Ray cripples the probe using an axe, but Rachel is so scared she flees the house.

Ray chases after Rachel but she is caught by a Tripod. Ray finds several hand grenades in a destroyed army truck and uses them to attract the Tripod's attention. The Tripod catches Ray and places him in a metal cage with many other captives, and a traumatized Rachel. A metal arm grabs Ray and attempts to pull him inside the Tripod, but the other prisoners fight to save him and successfully pull him out of the Tripod. Ray reveals that he left the remaining grenades primed within the Tripod, and the grenades detonate causing the Tripod to collapse. The cage drops and Ray and Rachel, along with other prisoners escape. Soon afterward, Ray and Rachel arrive in Boston, finding the red weeds are starting to dry up and die. They witness a Tripod acting strangely and Ray notices that the Tripod's shields are no longer functioning, seeing numerous birds landing on them. Alerting nearby soldiers, they attack and destroy the Tripod, which crashes into a factory in front of it. Approaching the downed Tripod, a hatch in the bottom appears releasing a large amount of orange fluid. The alien 'pilot' slowly appears and as Ray and the others watch, dies and shrivels up. Ray and Rachel reach Mary Ann's parent and find her and to their surprise Robbie. The film ends with Ray and Robbie hugging, Ray cries in relief, meanwhile the narrator (Morgan Freeman) reveals that the aliens were dying because they were suffering from terrestrial diseases, for which they had no immunity.

Production

Development

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise collaborated for the first time in 's Minority Report. Minority Report generally received positive reviews and grossed approximately US$358 million at box office. Since then, they have enjoyed working together. Spielberg stated about Cruise, "He's such an intelligent, creative partner, and brings such great ideas to the set that we just spark each other. I love working with Tom Cruise." Cruise met with Spielberg during the filming of Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can and gave three options of films to create together; the third option was The War of the Worlds. Spielberg chose The War of the Worlds and stated, "We looked at each other and the lights went on. As soon as I heard it, I said `Oh my God! War of the Worlds - absolutely.' That was it."

The film largely featured extraterrestrials, and is therefore Spielberg's third film on the subject of alien visitation, along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Producer and longtime collaborator Kathleen Kennedy notes that with War of the Worlds, Spielberg had the opportunity to explore the antithesis of the characters brought to life in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "When we first started developing E.T., it was a much edgier, darker story and it actually evolved into something that was more benign. I think that the edgier, darker story has always been somewhere inside him. Now, he's telling that story." Spielberg stated that he just thought it would be fun to make a really scary film with really scary aliens, something which he had never done before. Spielberg was intent on telling a contemporary story, on bringing the aliens. Kennedy stated the story may be something born out of a fantasy notion but in fact is dealt with in a hyper-realistic way.

"I grew up watching his movies, studying them. I often tease him that I know his movies better than he does! It's a real lesson in storytelling - every time I look at his films, I learn something."
— Tom Cruise admiring Steven Spielberg
Numerous script were written for the film. Josh Friedman and David Koepp wrote the final script for the film, which Spielberg accepted. This script focused on one family only, the Ferriers. Spielberg accepted the script after finding it had several similarities to his personal life, including the divorce of his parents (Ray and Mary Ann's divorce), and because the plight of the fictional survivors reflects his own uncertainty after the devastation of the September 11 terror attacks. For Spielberg, the characters' stories of survival needed to be the main focus, as they featured the American mindset of never giving up. In Close Encounters, a suburban dad (played by Richard Dreyfuss) abandons his life on Earth, including his wife and children, to explore the heavens aboard a spacecraft. In 's E.T., a little boy (played by Henry Thomas) from a broken home and a gentle alien marooned on Earth help each other to deal with abandonment. Spielberg calls War of the Worlds "a polar opposite" to Close Encounters.

Although accepting the script, Spielberg went through several changes in the script. Spielberg had been against the idea of the aliens arriving in spaceship. The original Martian cylinders were discarded, where Spielberg replaced the origins of the Tripod with stating they were buried in the underground of the Earth long time ago. Koepp fitted in a really neat homage to the cylinders, and specifically, the unscrewing of the lid. Koepp stated far more clearly in the script, "as ray climbs to his feet, that entire circle starts to rotate again, like a big turntable, causing tremors that ripple out from its center." Naven Bradford also wrote a script for the film, which features a whole number of difference in the character and the storyline. Party in Fresno was used as a fake working title for the film.

Filming

Filming locations were mainly inside the United Statesmarker. The film was shot for 72 days (estimated; 2 months 12 days), which was a similar amount of time used by Spielberg to film Schindler's List ( ) and Raiders of the Lost Ark ( ). In 2004, the production crews quickly were set up on both coasts to prepare for the start date, scouting locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard and preparing stages and sets which would be used when the company returned to Los Angelesmarker after the winter holiday. Pre-production took place in essentially half the amount of time normally allotted for a film of similar size and scope. Spielberg notes, however, "This wasn't a cram course for War of the Worlds."

"This was my longest schedule in about 12 years. We took our time." Director of photography and longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg noted that they wanted to complete the film as fast they could. Spielberg collaborated with crews at the beginning of pre-production with the use of previsualization. The scene, which depicts Ray and other pupils viewing the Tripod was filmed at Newark, New Jerseymarker. Later, Spielberg filmed several scenes at Virginiamarker. The continuous scene was filmed at Californiamarker.

The ferry scene was filmed at Athensmarker, whereby Mary Ann's parents house was located at Brooklynmarker (but was featured in the film at Bostonmarker). The plane, a Boeing 747, which crash landed was filmed at Howell Township, New Jerseymarker, where the crashed landed plane was kept for Universal Studios back-lot tour. Scene depicts Ray's house was filmed at Bayonnemarker (at a soundstage), New Jersey, meanwhile the valley war sequence was filmed at Lexingtonmarker, Virginiamarker and Mystery Mesa in California. Half the film was scheduled to shoot on five sound stages at Californiamarker: 20th Century Fox, JF Kennedy Blvd., Sonymarker, Universalmarker and Warner Bros.

Design and visual effects

The Tripod used for the film was different than the Tripods in other film adaptations. The Tripods' first scene was where Ray and other neighbors face off the Tripods coming out of the street. While Spielberg had used the computer to help visualize sequences in pre-production before, Spielberg said, "This is the first film I really tackled using the computer to animate all the storyboards." George Lucas, Spielberg's good friend with whom he had collaborated in many films, was visited by Spielberg himself who showed him how the process was working for him. Lucas said, "I got all the expert who had been working with ILM on 'Star Wars: Episodes I, II and III' for George. When they wrapped, I took most of them with me." Spielberg hired Star Wars' previsualization supervisor Dan Gregoire and Star Wars' special effects artist Dennis Muren to create previsualization and special effects for the film. Industrial Light & Magic was the head of the special effects category for the film.

A scene which depicts Ray and his family are driving in their minivan when they come upon an increasing number of wandering people, which Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg wanted a lot of interactive light in that scene. So, they added different kinds of lights, including Coleman lamps, oil lantern, flashlights and Maglights. Crews of Industrial Light & Magic admitted that the bridge scene in the film was the toughest scene to be made with heavy usage mix of CGI effects and live action elements. The scene involved Tripods shooting Heat-Ray towards the minivan and minivan escapes from it involved a lot of CGI layers to work out. The visual effects suited the storyline of the film, concluding a tribute to science fiction film of the 1950s. Over 500 CGI effects were used in the film.

Costume designer Joanna Johnston created 60 different versions of Ray's leather jacket, to illustrate the degrees to which he is weathered from the beginning of the journey to the end. "He begins with the jacket, a hoodie, and two t-shirts," explains Johnston. One piece of Dakota Fanning's costume that takes on a special importance is her lavender horse purse. "I wanted her to have something that made her feel safe, some little thing that she could sleep with and put over her face," Johnston notes. "That was the lavender horse purse. We tied it up on a ribbon and Dakota hung it on her body, so it was with her at all times." Johnston dressed Robbie for an unconscious emulation of his father, "They're more alike than they realize, with great tension on the surface," Johnston says.

Music

John Williams, who collaborated with Spielberg in Indiana Jones series, Schindler's List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and Jaws, also scored music for the film. The soundtrack ran for a duration of sixty-one minutes and eight seconds. The film's narrator, Morgan Freeman, also narrated track one and track fourteen. Spielberg wrote the liner notes for the soundtrack, where Spielberg notices that "this music is so rhymic and primal that one has to wonder how a composer with such a background could have so much abandoned his own style." The soundtrack was mixed by Shawn Murphy at Sony Pictures Studio, Culver Citymarker, Californiamarker. The track list includes 15 tracks, "Prologue", "The Ferry Scene", "Reaching the Country", "The Intersection Scene", "Ray and Rachel", "Escape From the City", "Probing the Basement", "Refugee Status", "The Attack On The Car", "The Separation of the Family", "The Confrontation With Ogilvy", "The Return to Boston", "Escape From the Basket", "The Reunion" and "Epilogue".

Story

Themes

The film was described as an anti-war film, as civilians run and only trying to save themselves and their family instead of fighting back the Tripod alien. Debra J. Saunders of San Francisco Chronicle described the film as "If aliens invade, don't fight back. Run." Saunders compared the film to Independence Day, where the civilians do run, but they support the military efforts. Reader's Digest described the film's theme as "Dark, Ominous, and Very Loud". Reader's Digest stated Spielberg's aliens in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were benign, even cuddly, and they ultimately inspired optimism, not fear, calling it "Time Has Changed". The survival of the survivors and the missing-persons displays was used by Spielberg in the film to create the atmosphere of September 11 attacks.

Cultural references

The film also featured "Hushabye Mountain", sung by Ray Ferrier's daughter, Rachel, which was adapted from 's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Two of Spielberg's other films were referenced through the film, for example the Jaws's film poster in which is visible in Ray's room. The shots of the pickup truck and Dakota before the aliens pick her up, camera shots appear to be modelled after Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A poster from The Saddle Club was shown in Rachel's room, as were toys from Dragonball Z.

Release

War of the Worlds was premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre on June 23, 2005, ahead of its worldwide June 29 release date. The public and media was revealed by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes about their relationship at the premiere after sharing a few kisses. The film was released in approximately 3908 theaters worldwide, and was rated PG-13 (parental guidance 13) during its release.

Secrecy

Spielberg kept most of the parts secret in the filmmaking, as the casts and crews were left confused about how the aliens look. The media reporters' questions about the rumored plot was answered, but the reporters' said we may not get "straight answers". An IGN reporter interviewed David Koepp about the secrecy of the screenplay, Koepp answered, "[Spielberg] wouldn't give [the screenplay] to anybody". Koepp explained he would e-mail it to him, and he would give a section of the script that was relating to whatever somebody was doing. Marry Ann Ferrier's portrayer, Miranda Otto, thought of not even discussing the story with her family and friends. Otto said, "I know some people who always say, 'Oh, everything's so secret.' I think it's good. In the old days people didn't get to know much about movie before they came out and nowadays there's just so much information. I think a bit of mystery is always really good. You don't want to blow all of your cards beforehand."

Spielberg admitted that after keeping things secret for so long, there is in the end the temptation to reveal too much to the detriment of the story at the press conference of War of the Worlds. So, Spielberg only revealed the hill scene (Ray tried to stop his son) and not the other scenes, as he stated, "To say more would reveal too much." British Board of Film Classification refused to reveal the identities of War of the Worlds censors, a controversial 12A rating, keeping habit of secrecy. The actual budget of the film was US$132 million, currently fortieth most expensive film ever made. The budget was not confirmed until the release of the film, several British publications claimed the film's budget surpassed budget of Titanic, as the budget of Titanic was US$200 million.

Marketing and home media releases

Paramount Pictures Interactive Marketing debuted a human survival online game on its official website, waroftheworlds.com, on April 14 to promote the film. Hitachi collaborated with Paramount Pictures for a worldwide promotional campaign, under the title of “The Ultimate Visual Experience”. The agreement was announced by Kazuhiro Tachibana, general manager of Hitachi’s Consumer Business Group. Kazuhiro stated, "Our ‘The Ultimate Visual Experience’ campaign is a perfect match between Spielberg and Cruise’s pursuit of the world’s best in film entertainment and Hitachi’s commitment to the highest picture quality through its digital consumer electronic products."

The film simultaneous released in DVD version in three versions; Widescreen Edition, Fullscreen Edition and Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition. The DVD version released on November 22 (excluding DVD version that released in Region 2 on November 14). The DVD Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition version featured production featurettes, documentaries and trailers. Meanwhile, the Widescreen Edition released in different languages; French (Dolby Digital 5.1) and English (Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and DTS ES), so as the other two versions. Whilst, the Fullscreen Edition version does not featured any extra features in it. The film grossed $113,000,000 in DVD sales, bringing its total film gross to $704,745,540, ranking tenth place in the 2005 DVD sales chart.

Performance

Box office

On , the film grossed approximately US$21 million worldwide, and earned the thirty-eight biggest opening week gross with grossing $98,826,764 in 3908 theatres, averaging $25,288 in each theatres. Meanwhile on the biggest opening weekend, War of the Worlds grossed $64,878,725 in 3908 theatres also, giving an average of $16,601, ranking third-biggest film opening on Independence Day weekend. The film earned $200 million in 24 days, ranking thirty-seventh place in the list of fastest films to gross $200 million. The film has grossed an estimated $592 million worldwide, making it the forth highest grossing film of 2005 and the forty-eight highest grossing film worldwide.

Reviews

The film received largely positive reviews from critics. Based on 240 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, War of the Worlds currently garners an 73% "fresh" rating. The film's reception was more ambivalent within the 41 reviews in Rotten Tomatoes' "Cream of the Crop" subset, reaching a 68% positive consensus. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 73 from the 40 reviews it collected.

James Berardinelli gave the film positive consensus, praising Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin performances but called the ending of the film very weak. Berardinelli stated the ending as "this isn't war, it's slaughter. It's about fighting to survive, not fighting the enemy", calling the film "misnomer." According to Total Film, Spielberg still exhilarates and the review commented the film was "taking goggle-eyed viewers on an enterprising journey as it morphs from grey", giving it four stars and stated the chances were "a million to one".

Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, who felt the special effects was unusual, stated Spielberg may actually have done his job in War of the Worlds "better than he realizes", showing us/the people how fragile the world is. Turan claimed Spielberg raised a most provocative question: "Is the ultimate fantasy an invasion from outer space, or is it the survival of the human race?" However, Broomfield Enterprise's Dan Marcucci and Nancy Serougi did not share Berardinelli and Turan's opinion. They felt the narration (ending narration by Morgan Freeman) was not needed, instead they suggested to put about the alien died of cold and "The End" on the screen. Marcucci and Serougi felt the first half of the film was better than the second half of the film, stating the second half "ruined" everything.

Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars (out of four), calling War of the Worlds definitely wins its battle, but not the war. Wilmington stated the film brought the viewers on a wild journey through two sides of Spielberg; the dark and the light, also stating the film was a core sentiment, which only can be founded in Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. About.com's Rebecca Murray stated the seventeen minutes of the film's one hundred and seventeen minutes duration was just plain horrible as it screwed the whole film with the ending that doesn't fit, gave the film a "B" rating but gave positive reaction also, stating "Spielberg almost succeeds in creating the perfect alien movie". Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader praised the special effects in the film and the performance of Cruise, calling it "isn't bad". Roger Ebert called the alien invasion not good enough despite the film's mega-budget, but Ebert felt impressed with the airliner crashing, image of a train and others were better, stated, "Such scenes seem to come from a kind of reality different from that of the tripod".

References

  1. Press Conference of War of the Worlds. Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg. 23 June 2005.


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