Wow. Was this bad. I don’t know what has happened to Spielberg, but it does appear he’s fallen into the trap of thinking cool special effects make the movie. They’ll make it commercially successful, to a degree, but eye candy can’t make up for an otherwise weak outing.
So lets start with what the movie did well. The plot line for how the Martians got here, and their method for attack, was an interesting twist. Though why they waited so many millenia to actually hatch their plan is never explained or addressed. Just one day they decided to go for it. The alien technology looks pretty cool in an almost retro way. The effects of the technology on the earthly landscape and inhabitants is also done well.
Now, about this “war.” What war? The original movie had some sense of forces being martialed and time passing by. All you really see of the military is some Armored Cavalry troop racing around the New England suburbs someplace until they get torched by a death ray or something. That’s it. There’s no view into the big picture at all. Maybe that was intentional, but the way it was done takes away a lot from the overall sense of drama. And a couple days later the “war is over.
Then there’s all these dangling plot points. Why are the Martians sucking people’s blood? And if that’s what they’re here for, why do they vaporize so many in the initial attack? What’s with the red vines that they leave in their wake? With all that advanced technology, all it takes is two hand grenades in the “food intake” to completely destroy a Tripod? Say what?
And the worst part. The “story.” Tom Cruise’s acting is bad in this, but the story he has to try to get through is worse. All this “family” stuff with his kids. It adds nothing to the movie at all. All it does is saddle the whole affair with trumped up emotional baggage which slows the whole movie down. Earth is being invaded, thousands of people are being wiped out by the hour … that’s plenty dramatic right there. Who cares if Cruise’s daughter is a whiney little brat or his son is a rebellious dickhead?
The finale is likewise tepid. The sudden collapse of the Martian attack due to infection from Earth’s natural bacteria is in keeping with the original. But its handled in such a matter-of-fact way that it has no impact. There’s no sense that mankind is on the verge of being wiped out, there’s no real sense of urgency. So when the Martians just start dropping dead from the flu it’s just one more boring plot point. And then there’s the whole idiotic “family reunited with lessons learned” scene.
What a waste of two hours. The review sound-bite claims this movie is the “Greatest Action Epic Ever.” That review is your brain on drugs.