Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movie Review: War of the Worlds (2005)

I had watched the 1953 version of War of the Worlds a few months ago, and I wanted to see how a modern adaptation fared.

In the 2005 version, the narrator is a divorced blue-collar dock worker who shepherds his
two children to his ex-wife's family in Boston, which presumably represents safety. He is rather cocky, and presents an I-know-what-I'm-doing front to the world, which does not fool his ex-wife or his kids for a second. On top of that, the way he relates to his kids is one of I'm-the-father-I-know-what's-best, which also does not impress them.

This comes to a head during the invasion, which takes on the form of one pod not far from his house. And he sweeps his kids out of there in a stolen car, all the while trying to shelter them from knowledge of what is happening. Which leads to growing tension among the family as the little girl starts freaking out because she can tell her father and everyone else is scared and she does not know why, and the older son is getting pissed because he can tell that the father is not telling them something very important, like 'there is this big thing that is killing everyone and is unstoppable behind us'. ("Tell me what you know!!!")

It seems to have as an underlying premise that the ultimate goal is to shelter our kids from knowledge of danger and they will come out all right (witness numerous scenes where they blindfold the little daughter and comfort is not achieved by helping her deal with what she is facing, but by removal and having her forget) The son, realizes this and actively goes to help others (on a ferry) and looks for ways to help in the resistance to the invasion, because he wants to get away from his overprotective father (whom the son realizes is well beyond his level of competence.) The narrator here is constantly conflict avoidance, refusing to explain actions, include others in what he is thinking, and helping others. And while the movie shows the harm it causes, it treats this as the way to be, as he never learns.

The movie misses a lot in not dealing with the relationship between father and son. This could have been explored with the son pushing for more information on what is happening, and having this coming to a head, instead of dealing it by the son just leaving his father and sister. Also, the old deacon on several occasions identifies that he and the narrator have a conflict, but they never even try to work it out, the narrator only brings it up at the worse possible times (i.e. instead of talking it out in the quiet moments, he only brings it up at times of mortal peril.)

So, obviously, I did not like the movie. But it does potentially have the virtue of depicting one model of raising children. In this case the parent knows everything and the child only needs to blindly follow, blind to the realities of the world. My wife and I, should we have children, have determined that during the period said children are with us, they will not be hidden from the realities of life, that they will experience the world in all its splendor and horrors while we and our friends around us are there to serve as guides and guardians. So that their futures are faced in the knowledge of what is and what can be as they make their own choices for their futures.
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