01 July 2005

Martian Pushovers

When Orson Welles made his infamous radio broadcast on Halloween night in 1938 there was literally panic in the streets. You have to remember, it was a different era. Nobody really had television yet. No DVD's with special features. No Tivo. There wasn't the inlux of media bombarding you from every angle. Only radio.

So when you hear on your one and only connection to the outside world that Martians are attacking, you tend to think it's not a joke.

It's for this reason that the new film hits a wall. It never feels like it's really happening. Yes it's a movie and everyone knows that going in, but I'm the type of guy who likes to suspend belief. I go to movies to put myself in the shoes of the main character. The problem with this film is that the director keeps pulling me out of those shoes.

For a dock worker/deadbeat dad Tom Cruise sure notices a lot. He notices how the wind is moving toward the storm, how wind generally blows away from storms. He notices a lot of random things throughout the film that a dock worker, just trying to survive, probably wouldn't notice.

My other problem is there isn't any sense of overwhelming terror. The fear Welles conveyed so convincingly over the radio is gone, replaced with special effects and people evaporating. Yes the aliens wipe out our communication, but really, this doesn't have the claustrophobic feeling it should.

Spielberg tries desperately to get you involved with the characters. He's trying to humanize the situation he's setting up but he's not doing it right. You can see the seams. You can see how the director is crafting the thing. He's almost telling you what's going to happen next.

For all intents and purposes this is a road movie and even from the very beginning everything feels like it's on rails. It never once deviates from its track.

Maybe it's because the story doesn't hold up in these days of technology and biological weaponry. Because really, if aliens were going to invade and exterminate the human race they'd do it like we do it, with pesticide. Why use laser beams and thousands of giant robots when you can lay down a blanket of neurotoxin and wipe up the mess? I'll tell you why, because then we wouldn't get to see that dreamy Tom Cruise running around.

I mean, the overhead on those 15 story Martian deathbots has got to be through the roof.

It just feels like ever since Jurassic Park Spielberg has been doing the same thing over and over. He tries to go for the same moments of tension. Actually I dare anyone to not see the parallels between the two films. Especially when the Martians send a search probe into a house where Cruise is hiding. I felt like I was watching the kitchen scene with the raptors, right down to a trick involving a mirror.

I'm sorry to say but it all just seems rehashed, cheaply. But I guess if there was ever a real movie about the end of the world it would be very short and everyone would demand their money back.


Yo Mama said...

Dammit! Just like the speeder bike Ben Hur chariott race in Star Wars Episode I "The Supreme Disappointment". I hate when that happens.

Jon said...

"You can see the seams."

Well put.

Btw, I hear the Martians, after watching years of our television programs, have adopted Sentinals for our extermination. They've also nominated Nightcrawler as their leader (who knew?).

I'll see you in the Danger Room.

Paul said...

Jon, I can tell you've been forced to play too much xmen legends lately. It's infected you.

Mom, still see it in the theater, it's decent but nothing like it could have been. Spielburg gets props for keeping the original cicada sound the probes make and that's about it.

Kevin K said...

My biggest gripe about the movie is that they keep going on to Boston. We avoid Boston when there isn't a Martian invasion. Christ.

I am on the other side/more forgiving side of the fence on this movie.

Bioweapons over deathrays...well I'm not so sure thats a good idea. As we learn in the movie the aliens are just a suseptable to viruses and bacteria as we are. Also, though it isn't spelled out, it appeared that the "Tripods" needed people to fuel their terraforming or whatever was going on there (I'm a bit unclear on what was going on). The aliens tramped through cities, in plain sight, and humans were completely incapable of touching them. Period. When they showed up, there was nothing to do except run and hope you weren't one of the unlucky ones targeted. That's pretty fucking insane and almost arbitrary...one of many 9/11 paralels in the movie.

Oh, and Spielburg is going to be Spielburg I guess. Most of that scene in the basement could have been left out I suppose.

You're right about it being a formulaic movie though. I'm forgiving of that too. I'm the kind of guy who loves hearing different versions of the same story. Damn, I should write my own review that isn't as disjointed as this...sorry.

Kevin K said...

Oh, and just in case I wasn't clear, I loved it. Here are my credentials:

Never taken a film class.
I am relatively easy to amuse for two hours.
I love alien invasion/end of the world stories.
Can barely tolerate Tom Cruise.

That is all.

Paul said...

hahah! Thanks Agent K. Duly noted.

Don't get me wrong, I thought it was okay but man, it could have been so much more. Like you said, it was never made clear to us what the invaders actually needed us for. I guess that's what aliens do, they dont divulge their evil plans.

I had more problems with the film but I didn't want this little review to go on for too long. I'll just say that I thought it was okay. I think a differnet director could have done it better and that's coming from someone who loves Spielburg, well, most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Hey are you the Paul from bowie high school? If so I know someone who would freak out to talk to you. Drop me a line at thomas.griffon(AT)gmail(DOT)com if it is you and you dont mind.

thanks, great pics by the way.

prettyminotaur said...

I think film classes sort of ruined casual movie-going for me. DAMN YOU, Richard Dillard! >shakes fist<

Lever said...

OK, I haven't seen the film (yet) but I know this for a fact... Where TF is Horsell Common in it all? Just outside the piddly, virtually unknown little town of Woking in Surrey, about 15 mins drive from here, is where the first cylinder lands and, oh no, all of a sudden the story has been relocated to America. Thanks Mr. Spielberg, you f'ing owe us a lot. I mean, he can create a deeply moving and vivid awareness of the holocaust with Schindler's List but then he steals stories from our little island nation...

phew, sorry Paul, just had to get that off my chest... I'm gonna have to go see that flick now. Thx :)

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