Regarding Mssrs. Spielberg and Cruise's latest flop "War of the Worlds," I would like to add my comments to the Bad Astronomy mini-review already posted.
Best stuff: I noted with interest the use of "reflective" CG imagery -- that we are treated to the first looks of the alien vessels only in reflections in glass. I credit that idea to Mr. Spielberg, who for all his adolescent squirreliness of intellect has a keen eye for, as they say, where to put the camera. At this point in the story everyone is dying to see what these invaders look like (doubtless, like me, already more than fed up with our "hero") so the astute director plays one last teasing game --only showing them in reflection-- but really it's also because the camera is then aimed AT the actors pulling their various faces of astonishment, awe, fear and wonder. The establishing shot of the tripod itself doesn't come until much later, and even then it's a jerky traveling "p.o.v.-bystander" shot, and this helps to continually stress the human story rather than a "tale of woe" from some omniscient viewer. An ordinary establishing shot of the villain which also features the hero can only show the hero from behind, useful for making them appear tiny and helpless in the face of the aggressor perhaps, but we're not capable of identifying with them until we cut to their expressions of astonishment, awe, fear and wonder in the next close-up. Reflections are a handy short-cut to getting both in one shot. (Unhappily this leitmotif was never developed, in fact promptly abandoned after the action got going. The mirror gag with the alien periscope doesn't count.)
I was also practically cheering out loud at one little scene, when the fleeing crowds must stop for a railway crossing sign going down, and then watch what goes by: an out-of-control runaway train where every car is on fire in a blazing inferno. Then, ding ding ding ding, the gate politely goes back up; in other words, the only things in civilization that are working now are the totally pointless ones. A very thrilling scene with the perfect little squib for an ending.
The rest? Well, the word "pfui" comes to mind. Here is a "War of the Worlds" which doesn't even mention Mars! Dramatically, the little girl was the only lead actor with anything going on, and the only supporting actor worth spit was Tim Robbins, whose character was still mis-handled and, finally, thrown away altogether with no resolution except the diminution of the "hero." And really, their silent wrestling over the shotgun while the aliens are just standing there a foot away, idly scratching themselves and not noticing should have been done a lot better; as it was it came off like bad Alfred Hitchcock. The whole father/son thing was totally lifeless, too. The ex-wife & husband?--two scenes and two lines, respectively? What's with that?
As you doubtless noted, Mr. Cruise was the only actor to be mentioned within a hundred yards of the title...and yet, how woefully miscast he was. All he can play is a grinning boyishly handsome movie star lead guy, tolerable perhaps in "Minority Report" but his character was not present in this script. I mean, here he has to play a blue collar doofus, a loser who needs to be redeemed, the utter opposite of his one and only thespian capacity. And I was sure, after that long and impressive introductory shot which goes from the entire earth and swoops down to finally duck under the steel beams and locate Ray up in his shiny glass cabin of the hoist lift, delicately performing his gargantuan tasks...I was SURE that he with his unique skills would end up inside an alien invasion craft and use it to attack the others and get the drop on them, thus saving the world. But no, he is relegated to finding a few grenades which the aliens inexplicably allow him to keep while in custody, and then halfway up into the big sphincter he manages to release them from the belt and pull (and retain!) their pins -- with one hand. His whole job and its long flashy intro had not a blessed thing to do with the story, or even with his character, that couldn't have been done just by one shot, say having him arrive home in a hard hat. And really, the character should have been plain looking, not grinning boyishly handsome; Nicholas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, or even a talented unknown -- but NOT a "movie star".
And as to "bad science" questions, the script was fuller of holes than the Albert Hall. I mean, to start with: these brilliant scheming aliens plan this invasion a hundred thousand years in advance, burying thousands of ferocious ships the size of aircraft hangars on a planet populated entirely by...what?, wildebeest and apes? Why bother with the big ships, then? Why not just start remaking the planet in their own image, way back then? But no, they go and bury a thousand fleets of big huge tripod ships which nobody has ever managed to discover, and then the aliens mysteriously just show up --for no reason-- via a technology far exceeding our own...or even common sense, as in what's with the alien transport on a lightning bolt thing? So why not just send the whole tripod gizmo this way? The ships are outside the extragalactic FedEx weight limits?
Brilliant scheming cold-blooded murdering fiends in possession of miraculous time-defying technology, and they have no clue what microbiology is? And as if the first thing any reasonable intergalactic astronaut would want to do is unscrew his helmet and drink out of a dripping storm drain?
I think I speak for us all when I say, "Huh?"
Our "hero" notes that the storm wind blows furiously in the wrong direction. OK, so...why? No answer. And that there's no thunder along with the lightning strikes. Good point! Uh...so...WHY? No answer, though it's imputed that it's because it's, uh, "fake" lightning. Well so WHAT? It defies physics? Why?! What's the point? (note to authors: every point must have a point!) And as if anyone in the tale could do something about it, even if they had it figured out...?
Every car in the world is dead...except this one with the new solenoid? That's all a car needs after an EM pulse, is a new solenoid? Was that ever established? (note to authors: so why wasn't Cruise a mechanic instead of a longshoreman?) And why weren't the new solenoids on the mechanic's shelf also fried by the EM pulse?
I could only laugh with scorn and derision whenever they hopped into that van and could miraculously pick out a clear path --at 75 mph!-- in the immense sea of dead cars, wrecks and refugees on the freeway (note to authors: why not on a motorcycle?) or even through the smoldering rubble of a 707 that hit their house and yet miraculously only sheared off a bit of it and didn't incinerate the entire block, them included, with a cloud of burning jet fuel when it hit the ground twenty feet away. A wreck that burned the basement, but not the house above ground...?
I thought the intro-outro thing with the droplet of water was cute, but nobody seemed to get it. My neighbor saw the film and couldn't understand exactly why the aliens all died suddenly; he thought it was because only Tom Cruise could see that the magical presence of birds somehow made the alien ships vulnerable, and that THEN the army could attack them and destroy them. There was some oddball stuff with birds earlier (when only the little girl sees the gulls flying inland) but it made no sense; the birds fly toward the alien ships? Why why WHY??
And then the goofy ending, almost a requisite for this director. Stupid #1 son miraculously somehow shows up at end; big hug; fade out? Neither character has demonstrably changed, in fact none of the characters changed -- all they did was die, or not. And then the obligatory "hero music" when the Army snaps into action, sniping at the already hopelessly stricken alien ship and apparently damaging it! Yes, there's the American Army for you, swooping in after the battle and fearlessly shooting the wounded!
Really, the stock world-saved-from-the-brink-of-doom ending was better done in "Mars Attacks," where the dim hero makes that silly speech from the charred capitol steps: "Well, uh, maybe we could all, like, live in teepees 'n' stuff, eh?" instead of the solemn portentous tones of Morgan Freeman quoting H.G.W.