So I took my grandmother to see “War of the Worlds” this evening, and I have the pleasure to report that Spielberg apparently got those “Terminal” doldrums out of his system. Beautifully shot by (once again) Janusz Kaminski, with unbelievable special effects which, while maybe not pushing the envelope necessarily, are so expertly woven with the actual photography as to be completely seamless. The acting was fantastic, except possibly for Tim Robbins’ slightly over-the-top kook, which was only passable. Dakota Fanning, who plays Tom Cruise’s character’s daughter, shows that she is the next Kirsten Dunst — a truly gifted actress that we’ll get to see perform for many decades to come.
I actually heard a critic on the radio talk about “not giving anything away” about the ending. Look, Spielberg knows you simply don’t mess around with H. G. Wells, so if you’ve read the story or heard the Orson Welles radio play, don’t worry, you’re not going to be that surprised. What comes before the end will have you on the edge of your seat for almost the whole two hours’ running time.
My only gripe about this movie is that there is NO WAY it should have been rated “PG-13.” There are numerous deaths in the movie, and while none of them are gruesome or gory, they are not the impersonal, humorous ant-killings of “Independence Day.” They are terrifying and frighteningly realized, even if bloodless. There’s a riverside scene with Fanning which proves my point better than any amount of blog-based bitching.
This movie deserved an “R” rating, no doubt about it. But since that would cost dear millions in a movie market that is already on a downturn for the year, you can bet that Spielberg’s business burl went a long way toward convincing the MPAA to look the other way. A woman sitting behing us had her 6-year-old on her lap, twenty minutes into the film, and I heard him whimper several times during some of the more intense sequences. If you know anyone with small kids, please convince them to get a babysitter — this is not fit for young people. But everyone else should enjoy it as we did!