Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto, Justin Chatwin and David Alan Basche

Steven Spielberg

Running Time:
116 mins

Out to buy on DVD 14/11/05

  • Has a very Hollywood ending
  • Didn't use the same sound effect for the alien's weapons

"It's an extermination"

Having to look after daughter Rachel (Fanning) and son Robbie (Chatwin) for the weekend, Ray Ferrier (Cruise) sees it as another visit he simply had to get through. But as storm clouds gather overhead and reports of lightening strikes causing electrical blackouts around the world, Ray witnesses something that he simply cannot comprehend. Tripod ships have emerged from underneath the city streets and set about destroying everything in their path.

The world's biggest star and director combine again to bring you the ultimate popcorn movie and this time it is war.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are currently the most successful filmmakers on the planet, so when it comes to re-imagining a classic science fiction story, you can't think of a better combination.The H.G. Wells story of alien invasion has hit the silver screen before in 1953 but this is a brand new and original approach to the classic tale. What Spielberg, Cruise and their creative team have done is kept the core of the story, the alien invasion, but shown it from a completely new perspective.

Instead of showing the story through the eyes of a military hero, journalist, scientist or President, we know witness the invasion from the point of view of an ordinary family. In the place of the usual take the fight to them hero approach that you might be expecting, we have a story of survival of a man and his children as all hell breaks loose around him. Instead of him picking up a weapon and taking on the aliens, we see them fleeing for their lives as the tripod ships destroy everything in their path, with sympathy or remorse.

Again Spielberg takes you into the heart of the action, using the camera more as a witness or fellow observer than something that simply captures the moment. There are not many distance or wide-angle shots here instead we see everything from the same level as our survivors. This brings a real sense of desperation and dread to the picture, as the world goes to hell all around Ray and this family you become engulfed in a crescendo of sound and visual devastation that totally overwhelms you at times.

The visuals are stunning. The magicians at ILM have brought their A-Game to the movie to produce some simply awe-inspiring shots that will have your jaw touching the floor. The alien tripods are extremely realistic, with their metallic structure, flailing arms and sheer size drawing directly from the classic descriptions from H.G. Wells' novel. The devastation they cause is unbelievable and while it isn't on the same scale as 'Independence Day', the film shows that this is a world war were every human is a target as the tripods march through the countryside and villages of New Jersey. The only real failing, and this is more of a nostalgic one, is that the laser beams that the ships fire don't make that classic sound that made the 1953 version so memorable.

The decision to show the conflict through the eyes of three people changes the prospective of the film completely. It would have been so easy to do another military hero saves the day scenario and all of the grandeur and posturing that that affords but Spielberg and his creative team have gone in a new, refreshing direction. To make this work however, you have to have a strong trio of actors to bring these characters to life. Dakota Fanning is the finest child actress working in film today and her character Rachel proves this point again. As soon as the situation becomes apparent she portrays sheer terror and panic better than anyone else on the screen. She really pulls you into the situation, never failing in her believability or compromising her character's sense of genuine fear making you experience what she is going through all the more real, even for a science fiction story. Tom Cruise is Hollywood's most powerful actor for a reason, he never provides a bad performance and his role of Ray Ferrier is no different. This is an ordinary man with his own problems and a less than close relationship with his kids but the situation changes him completely. This isn't your typical change 'an ordinary man into a hero' but someone who will do anything to keep his children save. He acts on instinct throughout doing whatever it takes to keep Rachel and Robbie alive. This is a good role for Cruise, making a change from his usual larger than life leading character because he has flaws and experiences genuine fear for the safety of his children. While he does have the tendency to overact in some scenes, this is another standout performance from an actor who really does know how to pick his roles. The only real let down on the acting front is Justin Chatwin as Robbie. This is no real fault of the actor but that of the script. You can understand that the character has issues with his father but you would think that he would forget about his petty grievances as soon as he saw that alien's were invading. The crabby, sulky teenager doesn't really work when people are been disintegrated all around you, making you disinterested in the character and his fate. The rest of the roles in the most are very small with only Tim Robbins gets much of a look in as a crazed survivalist who wants to take the fight to the aliens.

'War of the Worlds' brings Spielberg's alien trilogy full circle. After the curiosity of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and the love of 'E.T. The Extra Terrestrial', this movie shows us the thing that we all fear, invasion. Successfully updating a classic, timeless story, this version of the H.G. Wells novel is a Spielberg thrill ride with a much darker tone but it is much the better for it. Reverting throughout and only let down by a slightly too Hollywood ending, 'War of the Worlds' is a fine example of how science fiction can be intelligent and extremely well made.


Presented in Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic with Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts soundtracks, the transfer is extremely good. The destruction and sheer spectacle of the Steven Spielberg alien invasion movie is vividly brought to life on DVD.


(2-Disc Special Edition Only)

Revisiting the Invasion (7.40 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, executive producer Paula Wagner, screenwriter David Koepp and Tom Cruise talk about revisiting the H.G. Wells classic novel and bringing it into the new millennium. They talk about the premise for the movie is still relevant today and how it reflects the current fears and conflicts in the way today. The group also talk about trying to make the film 'hyper-realistic' with no typical Sci-Fi clichés.

The H.G. Wells Legacy (6.36 mins)
Grandson Martin Wells and great grandson Simon Wells are joined by Steven Spielberg to talk about what H.G. Wells did for literature and how he invented science fiction back in the latter years of the 19th century. They also talk about the 1938 Orson Wells radio adaptation and George Pal's 1953 movie version.

Steven Spielberg and the original War of the Worlds (7.59 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, costume designer Joanna Johnston and senior visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren are joined by the stars of 1953 version of the novel, Gene Barry and Ann Robinson to talk about their cameos in the 2005 adaptation. They also talk about what the film meant to them and how it affected them and their careers.

Characters: The Family Unit (13.22 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter David Koepp, costume designer Joanna Johnston and stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Miranda Otto talk about the characters Ray, Rachel, Robbie and Mary Ann. The talk about the look of the characters and how their costumes reflect their background and state of minds, with each of the actors talking about what it was like to be in a Steven Spielberg film.

Previsualization (7.43 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, previsualization supervisor Dan Gregoure and producer Colin Wilson talk about adapting the computer graphic version of storyboards for 'War of the Worlds'. The director talks about using the medium that George Lucas suggested to him and how replacing the storyboards for the special effects sequences helps with the film's production.

Production Diaries (1hr 44.01 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, producer Colin Wilson, senior visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, visual effects producer Pablo Helman, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, costume designer Joanna Johnston, director of photography Janusaz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter, special effects supervisor Steve Gauley, military technical advisor Maj. Joseph Todd Breasseale and stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins take you through the entire 72 day shoot for 'War of the Worlds'. Split into four parts entitled 'East Coast - Beginnings', 'East Coast - Exile', 'West Coast - Destruction' and 'West Coast: War', looks at all aspects of the movie from preproduction, through production and into post. The cast and crew reveal how the movie came into production and how it was it was incredibly quick for a film of this size and scale. They also reveal how the visual effects were been developed while the movie was still been filmed, a first for a production of this importance. The documentary covers the filming in New Jersey and on soundstages in Los Angeles, as the cast and crew develop and film key sequences such as intersection collapse, the dock attack, the bridge explosion and the military attack. With behind the scenes footage throughout and technical explanation of most aspects of the film's production this is an excellent look at how a big budget movie took such a short time to reach the silver screen.

Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens (14.05 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, ILM creature designer Ryan Church, concept designer Doug Chang, senior visual effects Dennis Muren, animation supervisor Randal M. Dutra and H.G. Wells' great grandson Simon Wells talk about creating the aliens and their vehicles for the new version of 'War of the Worlds'. They talk about the design of the alien and the tripods, stressing the importance of returning to the original Wells vision of the invaders and how the three legs of the ships reflected the anatomy of the aliens themselves.

Scoring the War of the Worlds (11.58 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, producer Colin Wilson and composer John Williams talk about creating the sound and score for the new version of the H.G. Wells Classic. The legendary film composer reveals how he used a different approach to create a new score for another collaboration with Steven Spielberg.

We Are Not Alone (3.15 mins)
Director Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy and Tom Cruise talk briefly about the about the conclusion of the Alien trilogy for Spielberg and what they think about aliens.


Paramount and DreamWorks have done an excellent job with the DVD transfer of 'War of the Worlds'. The featurettes and documentaries cover every aspects of the film's production and offer a fascinating insight into how a film of this magnitude was made in so little time. The only downside is the lack of a commentary track but Steven Spielberg still doesn't believe that his films need them, which is a shame. Fans of the film will be very pleased with this two-disc DVD presentation.


The War of the Worlds (1953)

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