Although you may remember it today more for serving as the inspiration for the cinematic classic, SCARY MOVIE 4, WAR OF THE WORLDS was also pretty successful back when it was released. When I walked into the theater to see this movie, I was expecting a post-apocalyptic story full of action and global destruction. Instead, I got a melodramatic movie about a shitty father trying to manage his two even shittier kids. You know what I didn’t want to see? That. It really left me disappointed. So, over the rest of this article, I’m going to go through all of my problems with this film. Major spoilers are coming, but this movie came out like a decade ago so it’s really your fault if you still care or have a problem with that.
Ok, before I get into the heart of my complaints, let me tell you about the good parts. The first half of WAR OF THE WORLDS was great. Just flat-out great. The destruction that followed the arrival of these huge alien tripods rose out of the ground was visually incredible. Remember, this was back in 2005, so I was used to Michael Bay-style explosions that looked cool but completely unrealistic. This was really the first destruction movie I saw where they strived for dusty realism instead of bright explosions. I thought it was awesome, and I think it still holds up pretty well. This makes everything that happens later so sad, because this movie had so much potential.
Now I actually like Tom Cruise. There, I said it. I know that he’s just become a living punch line at this point, but he’s been in some legitimately awesome movies. My problems with this movie do not lie with him. My problem lies with his on-screen children, Dakota Fanning and the dude who starred in the abysmal live-action Dragonball Z movie. I get that the screenwriter thought that adding a family struggle would add some drama to this end-of-the-world story, but they execute it worse than Theon Greyjoy did Ser Rodrik at Winterfell.
You know how terrible it is to hear a little girl’s blood-curdling scream? It’s like nails on a chalkboard. This is the only purpose Dakota Fanning serves in this movie. That, and standing frozen in the goddamn middle of the cross-hairs of every single tripod they run into. Seriously, I have never disliked a child so much. Props to Tom’s character for trying to save her life countless times, because I would’ve gotten tired of that real fast. As bad as she is, however, she doesn’t hold a candle to her older brother.
Robbie, the teenaged son of Tom Cruise here, is a piece of shit. He takes the angsty teen stereotype to a whole new level. It’s one thing where he resents and disrespects his father in the beginning, because the world isn’t crumbling around them at this point. But when the world does literally start crumbling around them, he keeps up this attitude of disrespect. I’m not sure, but I’d probably say that the most inappropriate time for picking fights with your dad is when you’re in the middle of an active interplanetary war zone. That’s the time where you shut the fuck up, say “Yes sir”, and try to keep yourself and your family from getting your blood squeezed out like the aliens are making human orange juice. Instead, he pushes his dad every chance he gets, and then runs toward a battlefield to fight the tripods while countless people are getting slaughtered in front of him (not only abandoning his dad, but his little sister too). Then, to Tom Cruise’s dismay, the ENTIRE battlefield blows up in one gigantic explosion. That would be tough to survive, right? Well, not only does he live, but he somehow beats Tom and his daughter to Boston (oh yeah, they’re trying to get to Boston. It’s not important). Do you smell that? Me too, it smells an awful lot like bullshit.
Here is really the final nail in the coffin. The ending is such an “And they all lived happily ever after” cliché. Somehow, Tom finally makes it to Boston carrying the 90-lb screaming backpack that is Dakota Fanning while evading giant alien robots trying to kill him, all while believing his son is dead and that it is extremely unlikely that his ex-wife is alive and still in Boston. Of course, the city of Boston is destroyed, just like New York was, but somehow the one street his ex-wife lives on is one hundred percent normal. His ex-wife, “dead” son, and grandma and grandpa are all there, alive and well. Also, all of the aliens are now dead, because after studying Earth for millions of years and traveling light years through space to get there, they were killed by our bacteria. You’re telling me they overlooked that possibility? Someone on the alien’s homeworld is getting fired. My point with all of this is that the ending ruins the movie. Don’t watch it. I recommend watching the first half, see the tripods fuck shit up, and get to dislike the characters enough to be ok with them perishing. Then turn it off. The aliens win. Trust me, it’s a better ending.