Sunday, June 11, 2006

War of the...Oh, Who Gives a Shit?

I viewed “War of the Worlds” tonight. I felt compelled to see the film because my mind was spinning in many different directions. I felt swarmed by a chorus of indistinguishable voices, all buzzing and chattering. This might be due to antidepressants I have started taking recently. What ever the reason, I needed relief.

I went for a walk. I spoke on the phone but had trouble making words come up. I finally said to hell with it and went with an old stand-by: I went to the cinema. Since I was young, films have been a sure fire drug for me. A week or two back, I saw “Batman Begins” and had an awful experience. I went there for a similar reason and was dismayed by the shitty movie and the fact that IT DID NOT WORK. Like a druggie whose drug of choice no longer “works,” I came to see that I couldn’t go hide in the movies any more.

Tonight I decided to test that conclusion. It seems that I may be correct in the assessment. Damn. Movies actually suck. What the hell is the point of sitting in a darkened room with a bunch of other people you aren’t even allowed, by convention, to speak with?

So what about the movie? As I settled in my seat, I considered that I was about to watch a film in which millions would be killed--millions. The film starts in Jersey and there was a comfortable feeling there. The license plates looked familiar and the people all talked funny. Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning plays a kid who is very grown up for someone so itsy bitsy, and there are some other people in the movie but they don’t matter. Most of them get killed by alien war machines or descend upon each other in a fine display of true human behavior. I started feeling happy that so many miserable fucks were going to be slaughtered. People suck. Kill everyone.

The movie was helmed by Mister Spielberg. He created some amazing sequences, but I kept wondering, what the hell is the point of all this? It wasn’t to show us humankind’s decency in the face of adversity. It surely wasn’t to demonstrate the special place humanity or the United States has in the Cosmos. In the source for the film (H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”--note that Spielberg dropped the “the” from the title, sort of makes it snappy--that’s Hollywood for ya), the main thrust is Anticolonialism. I think the filmmakers do well when they stick closely to the source, but the explosions and soot and incinerated or floating bloated corpses overwhelm whatever Ideas there may be buried beneath the mountain of rubble Spielberg whips up for the audience.

It is difficult to ignore imagery borrowed from the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. White ashen faces, impromptu murals of photos of the missing, and the swarms of people running and screaming. But these images are hardly new. People have done this sort of thing throughout the ages because we hate each other and wage endless war. We will never stop the fighting. But as more familiar images pile up, I could not help but feel the familiar manipulation Spielberg’s critics lambast him for.

Terror is the main thread throughout the film, and this is a telling commentary on the current zeitgeist. Terror sells. Let’s make a buck on it while we can. You think 11 September was bad, try surviving an all-out attack by an alien invasion force. Now that’s terrorism. Hey, I wonder if the Iraqi people might find the events in the movie familiar, considering their present situation? You know, overwhelming invading force, death and mayhem, and Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise everywhere, everywhere you turn you see the annoying fuck.

I left the theater feeling even more empty than when I left the Bat movie. The ending of “War of the Worlds” was one of the worst, empty, automatic, and bullshit endings I have ever witnessed in all my years as a filmgoer. I was able to suspend disbelief for attacking spacemen and death rays and all that gee whiz crap, but Come The Fuck On! I’m not complaining about the denouement concocted by Wells. The novel’s conclusion is brilliant and subtle in its anticlimactic way. Instead, I was greatly dismayed by the utterly ridiculous Everyone’s Safe in the Family ending that Spielberg decided to end the film with.

But these are quibbles.

In conclusion:

Movies, like people, suck.
Spielberg is a genius of film craft and a jackass as an artist.
Tom Cruise has an interesting voice.
The movie gave me a headache.
Tim Robbins plays a pedophile whack job.
The swirling in my skull has abated.
I need to go to bed now.


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