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Movie review

Action overshadows acting in 'War of the Worlds'

Published July 4, 2005

MOVIE: War of the Worlds

RATING: PG-13 for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images

SUMMARY: Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a divorced father of two whose ex-wife has left him with his two children, teenager Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and 10-year-old Rachel (Dakota Fanning) for an all-too-infrequent weekend visit. There is obvious tension between the kids and their unfamiliar father, but all inhibitions disappear when things quickly spiral downhill. An extremely violent lightning storm strikes their New Jersey town, frying every piece of electrical equipment. It is followed by a vicious earthquake, and finally by the emergence from the ground of giant tripod machines that vaporize all human life in sight. And this is happening all across the world. Ray and the kids secure a car and race toward Boston to meet mom and Tim, her new husband. It's a race for their lives as the world is facing imminent doom and the extermination of the human species by a superior alien race.

MY VIEW: Hold on to your seats - this one is intense. Every summer needs an excessively big budget, rip roaring, completely over-the-top flick. And they usually come from Steven Spielberg. Unfortunately, as I expected, the whole thing reeks of Hollywood. The often overly computer-contrived visual effects sequences are enough to dizzy an astronaut, though the sheer magnitude of different things occurring at once is astonishing. The sound effects are powerful and effective, yet they toe the line of excess. Action is definitely the name of the game here. With a plot and premise remarkably similar to Independence Day and involving not much more than a broken family and the end of the world, the stars aren't given much to work with. Amusingly so, young Fanning out-acts veteran Cruise. Her screen presence and delivery are remarkable considering she is more than 30 years younger than Cruise. All in all, I was entertained, but the film as a whole left me wanting more.

RECOMMENDATION: Nightmare material for the youngsters and brain food for the thrill seekers - this one is a mixed bag. Watch at your own risk.


Billy Norris, 17, will be in the 12th grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

[Last modified July 1, 2005, 11:48:03]

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