War of the Worlds (2005)

Introduction

War of the Worlds is a 2005 American science-fiction action film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp, loosely based on The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and jointly produced and released by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures.

It stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, and Tim Robbins, with narration by Morgan Freeman.

Outline

An opening narration based on the opening of Wells’ novel explains that humans were unaware that a race of extraterrestrials were making plans to occupy Earth.

Divorced crane operator longshoreman Ray Ferrier works at a dock in Brooklyn, New York and is estranged from his children, 10-year-old daughter Rachel and teenage son Robbie. His former wife, Mary Ann, later drops them off at Ray’s house in Bayonne, New Jersey on her way to visit her parents in Boston. Unexplained changes in the weather occur, with lightning that strikes multiple times in the middle of an intersection and disrupts all electricity.

Ray joins the crowd at the scene of the lightning strikes, where a massive “tripod” war machine emerges from the ground and uses powerful weaponry to destroy the area, disintegrating most of the witnesses into a grey dust and leaving only their empty clothes behind. Ray collects his children, steals a car that had just been repaired, and drives to Mary Ann’s empty home in suburban New Jersey to take refuge. That night, they take shelter in the basement, but they soon hear a strange roaring noise followed by an explosion which destroys the house. When Ray goes out to investigate the next morning, he finds that a Boeing 747 had crashed into the house. A news team scavenging for food and surveying the wreckage explains to him that there are multiple tripods that have attacked major cities including New York City, Paris, Washington, D.C., and London, and have force shields to protect them from human weapons, adding that the tripods’ pilots travelled to Earth within the lightning as a way to enter their war machines, which had been buried here millions of years before. Ray decides to take the kids to Boston to be with their mother but a mob swarms their vehicle and forces the trio to abandon it. They later survive a Tripod attack which ends with a small village being levelled, a Hudson River ferry where they were being sunk and some humans being captured by tentacle-like attachments on the Tripods.

Later, while walking through a rural area, they witness the U.S. Marines engaging in battle with some tripods. Robbie desperately wants to see the action from a close distance and Ray ends up letting him go so he can take Rachel to safety. The machines advance with ease, protected by their force shields, and a big explosion is seen just where Robbie went to. While escaping, Ray and Rachel are offered shelter in the basement of a farmhouse by a man named Harlan Ogilvy.

The three remain undetected for two days, even as a probe and a group of aliens themselves explore the basement. They discover the aliens are cultivating a red-coloured vegetation (known as “Red weed”) across the landscape that is quickly spreading, covering trees and making its way into the basement; the group deduces the aliens are modifying Earth to make it more like their home planet. The next morning, Ogilvy suffers a mental breakdown after witnessing a tripod harvesting human blood and tissue to fertilise the alien vegetation. Convinced that Ogilvy’s mad shouting will alert the aliens to their location, Ray reluctantly kills him.

The basement hideout is eventually exposed when a second probe catches the Ferriers sleeping. Rachel is abducted by a nearby tripod and Ray allows himself to be abducted as well, after picking up a belt of grenades from an abandoned military vehicle. Ray and a number of other abductees use the grenades to destroy the tripod from within, freeing them all.

Ray and Rachel arrive in a devastated Boston, where they find the alien vegetation is shrivelling up and the tripods are collapsing. When an active tripod appears, Ray notices birds landing on it, indicating its shields are offline. Ray alerts the soldiers escorting the fleeing crowd, who shoot it down with anti-tank missiles. As the soldiers advance on the downed tripod, a hatch opens and a sickly alien struggles halfway out before dying. Ray and Rachel reach Mary Ann’s parents’ house, where they are reunited with Mary Ann and Robbie, who survived the attacks.

A closing narration explains that the aliens’ immune systems could not handle the countless billions of microbes that inhabit the Earth, and that humanity has “earned” the right to the planet by virtue of naturally coexisting with the rest of its biosphere.

The War of the Worlds Film, TV Series & Documentaries

You can find a full index here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Steven Spielberg.
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson.
  • Screenplay: Josh Friedmand and David Koepp.
  • Narrator: Morgan Freeman.
  • Music: John Williams.
  • Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski.
  • Editor: Michael Kahn.
  • Production: Amblin Entertainment and Cruise/Wagner Productions.
  • Distributor: Paramount Pictures (US) and DreamWorks Pictures (International).
  • Release Date: 23 June 2005 (Ziegfeld Theatre) and 29 June 2005 (US).
  • Running Time: 116 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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