|Rating: The Bad – 53.8
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 116 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Steven Spielberg and writers Josh Friedman and David Koepp make the mistake of trying to tell a “meaningful” story of fatherhood and family against a backdrop of H.G. Welles’ classic alien invasion story and the result is a complete mess. Tom Cruise stars as a part-time father of two children who happens to be looking after them when strange lightning bolts begin shooting down from the sky. It’s not long before everyone is running for their lives and the Cruiser decides to shepherd the kids from his home in New York to Boston where their mother lives.
This early part of the movie is handled quite well and as you’d expect from the master of excitement on screen, the build up and initial disaster sequences are brilliantly set up. Alas, there are such critical character and casting problems present from the beginning that beyond that excellent opening, we never really buy into the film. For a starters, even though he plays the part of the grown up kid very well, Cruise looks about as fatherly as Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. In addition, the two children are overwhelmingly annoying with each rivaling the other for most annoying child character since Edward Furlong’s John Connor in T2. Dakota Fanning spends the two hours either disobeying her father, forcing him into repeated rescues, or screaming hysterically with her arms in front of her chest in some Dr Philian nonsensical self help exercise. Justin Chatwin (as Cruise’s son) on the other hand keeps trying to convince the three of them to turn back and fight the aliens! No, that wasn’t a typo, he wanted the three of them ….to…. fight…. the…. aliens.
All too often, Spielberg attempts to make his fantasy or sci-fi movies ‘something more’ by adding a rather crass emotional component and so, somewhat inevitably, the faulty family dynamics present in the story come off as being nothing more than a saccharine and cynical attempt at audience manipulation. Take for example the moment where Cruise is ‘forced’ to let his son walk over a hillside into certain doom because the son “needs to see it”(!?!). Spielberg cuts to a wide shot of Cruise slowly retreating from his son as John Williams’ heart rendering music kicks up a gear (or four) and the special effects (Spielberg’s favourite cloak) go into overdrive. There are few cinematic moments as artificial, false, and lazily manipulative as this one and it represents with crystal clarity the worst of Spielberg as a director. Come on Steve, you made Jaws!© Copyright 2013 Derek D, All rights Reserved. Written For: movieshrink.com