When you go to a Steven Spielberg movie, you can expect to be entertained. So last night, when we went to see War of the Worlds, I expected that my $8 would be well spent. And, it was, just not for the actual movie itself. Because outside of some decent f.x, the movie was pretty terrible.
I arrived a little early and waited inside. Everyone else decided to meet outside, because it was nice outside, obviously. So as I came outside to get them, I noticed our friend Nicole was wearing a bright orange shirt — and so was I. So in one of those couldn’t-be-funnier-if-it-was-scripted moments, I snuck up and the first words out of my mouth were not “hey” or “what’s up” but “I like your style” with a wink and a point at her. This caused Nate to laugh hysterically and award me the gold star, and perhaps embarrassed Nicole a bit. I mean, its difficult to handicap the projected winner between “couple dressed alike at the movies” and “friends of opposite sexes dressed alike at the movies”. There are no winners here.
Commenting on her lime green belt, I noted it was a good thing I didn’t wear my lime green t-shirt under my orange polo today, as I’ve been known to do. Other jokes followed, with Voss wondering if Nicole and I had children, if they would also wear orange. Ignoring the obvious leap of faith this hypothetical scenario required — you bet — I said our kids would be ironic and wear a lime green shirt with orange underneath. Nicole laughed. Voss turned to pay for his Milk Duds. Everybody wins.
Since I’ve already established that the movie itself was a disappointing mess, lets continue with the sub-stories, shall we?
They’re releasing a Bad News Bears remake this summer. This is terrible news. I’m not even going to start a rant on Billy Bob Thornton as the coach, because it will really get me worked up. And don’t even mention that the Bears aren’t sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds in the new version. Don’t go there.
Standing in the lobby, I noticed that over half of the full-size lobby displays were for movies that are remakes of old concepts, if not of old movies. Dukes of Hazzard, Fantastic Four, Herbie The Love Bug, Bad News Bears. Hell, even War of the Worlds. I made some comment that apparently wasn’t funny enough for me to remember, or I’d recount it here. But I know that everyone laughed. So maybe it was, and my memory just sucks.
So why didn’t I like War of the Worlds? You had to ask. OK, here goes.
The aliens invade Earth because they envy our planet and desire to inhabit it. We know this because Morgan Freeman tells us in the opening narrative. They’ve been planning the invasion for millions of years — coming here before humans even existed to plant giant tripod-destructo-machines in the ground. Now, in 2005, they activate these machines with lighting bolts, the aliens riding the lightning into the ground to take the controls of the tripods.
First of all, if you were here once to plant the machines, why didn’t you just take over then? That’s like the villians in old Bond movies always telling 007 the master plan before setting out to kill him in some outragiously lavish method, instead of just shooting him in the head. Come on.
Secondly, the tripods are relics. Now, I understand that when HG Wells wrote the book, it took place in 1896, and these tripod things were state-of-the-art. Fine. But there’s a reason all moving creatures throughout all of history, living or mechanical, have legs in multiples of 2. Three legs are a poor design, very unstable by its very design. Take out one leg, and the creature tumbles to the ground. Two or four legs, you chop off one, the creature hops around but ultimately survives. You call them “Hoppy”, they change some day-to-day habits, and everybody moves on. Three legs
Now, I know that the tripods are faithful to the original versions in the book and the radio program. That’s cool — both of those versions left it up to our imaginations to believe these massive hulking tripods. When I look at the actual visual machine, I don’t so much see a menacing destructive creature as a retro-1950′s robotic thing with three spindly legs. And when I say spindly, I mean spindly. Imagine Shawn Bradley if he were an alien machine with an extra leg and laser beams on his head, and that’s pretty much the picture.
Set the movie in 1896, and I’d buy it. Set it in modern-day times? Sorry.
Thirdly, the aliens themselves are ridiculous. Aliens by their very nature are ridiculous. Trust your audience to imagine it for themselves, and its so much more terrifying, like in 2001 where Kubrick intentionall avoids showing you what the alien looks like. Hell, even Spielberg employed this premise in Jaws. Seeing the aliens made me laugh. Seriously, if you put rainbow hair on these things, you’d confuse them for those little troll dolls that old ladies take to the Bingo parlor as good luck charms.
Bottom line is, I never believe for a second that any of the alien invasion is practical. If the alien civilization is so much more advanced than us — and clearly they are if they were able to come here a MILLION YEARS AGO and bury their machines — how could they really think no one would ever discover these things? And to design them so poorly, with tripod legs? Come on.