View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

War of the Worlds (I'll sneak religion in - really)

Okay, the beloved and I saw War of the Worlds last night. (We made a point of watching the 1950s version on video the night before, and this week I reread the book.)


It was okay, but not a great movie by any means.

The special effects were nice, but perhaps a bit busy. Wouldn't 100-foot tall tripods (as described in the book) have been enough? That might have given the movie a more graspable scale. And maybe it was a function of where we sat (or age?), but the volume was ear-piercing.

The characters were stick figures. Tom Cruise played the same kind of jerk he's played in other movies (to better effect, though, in Rain Man) .

In the first movie, there was sense of community and family, of people who cared about each other. Before the Martians emerge, there's a square dance, a budding romance, a father and daughter who clearly love each other. When the attacks begin, we see the romantic interest serving in the Red Cross. We see people gather in churches, praying together and supporting each other. We care about these people and what happens to them. There is little sense of that in this new version. Cruise takes care of his children, but we get the impression it's more out of a sense of obligation (and fear of what his ex-wife might make say!) than out of love for them. The only caring major character was the estranged son, and he spends most of the movie full of resentment and anger. Basically, you didn't care about them.

Some of the plot twists in this version were predictable, and in some cases, stretched credulity. (Wells in the original did a far better job of creating a sense of reality - as far as reality can go in sci fi, anyway.)

The plot takes some major liberties with the original story. The 1950s version did, too, but that was due in part to not having the technical ability or the budget to recreate all the elements of the story. But the 1950s changes made sense and fit in with the story as it was being reworked. It created an organic whole with a vision of a human community facing an enemy together. In this version, there were too many holes left in the plot, and logical development sometimes played second fiddle to special effects. The same can be said of any attempt to create a sense of humanity.

As for the the sense of the divine ...

Wells made a point of bringing God into his book as the ultimate cause of our salvation (though he doesn't dwell on it). The narrator comes to this realization and clearly voices it.

The 1950s movies made religion an even more important part of the story. There is a minister who nobly sacrifices himself in the name of faith and peace. The main characters end up in church, and it is while they are there surrounded by people praying and singing hymns that they are saved.

The hero in this movie ends the film clueless as to what saved mankind. (A voice-over explains the details for us.) There was no sense of gratitude to God in the hero or any of the other characters. You can argue that as a working-class type Cruise's character wasn't overly bright, but there's lots of working-class types who have a sense of faith. No one in this movie prayed - for help, or to give thanks. And the only church that was on screen for any length of time was destroyed when the first tripod emerged from beneath the street.

So, if you have nothing better to do, sure, go see it.

But I'd recommend getting the 1950s version on video or DVD and watching that with some home-made popcorn.

With your family. You might want to give them a hug, too.


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