i’m not a big spielberg or cruise fan, but i have to hand it to them here. it’s a well-paced adventure flick with enough balance to keep it afloat throughout. cruise and fanning anchor a cast that’s mostly solid. the sfx are good, but don’t get in the way, as they do with some other blockbusters. spielberg proves here that he knows how to make a blockbuster as well as anyone. now, whether or not that’s a good thing is a matter of debate. spielberg’s blockbusters are smarter than some of the more typical hollywood fare, and that’s a good thing. unfortunately, the success of his films pave the way for all sorts of crappy imitators.
early in the film cruise and his son are playing baseball and it becomes a microcosm of their relationship – cruise dominates with his power and the son acts out in response. this leads to cruise throwing the ball back to his son with increasing velocity. eventually the son steps aside and the ball flies through cruise’s kitchen window. not only is it a telling scene, but it’s funny. spielberg places the camera in the kitchen looking through the hole out to cruise, who is still in the yard starring at the hole in disbelief. what makes this scene even better is when the shot is echoed later in the film. this time the shot takes on a different meaning in a new context. watch for it and you’ll see what i mean. these are the kind of touches that help separate the run-of-the-mill blockbusters from the genuinely well-made ones.
for me, films like die hard and the matrix are the films by which all blockbusters should be measured. war of the worlds isn’t anywhere near this caliber, but it kept me interested the entire time and spielberg won back my confidence after the abysmal A.I. my only real complaint with the film is the soft ending, but, relative to the ending in A.I., the ending in war of the worlds is just fine.