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War of the Worlds

I usually have the greatest admiration for Steven Spielberg, a film genius.

War of the Worlds. Its best feature is the voice over by Morgan Freeman. The guy could convince me that my wife is perfect. He has that kind of power. He’s so good that he could probably convince my wife that I’m perfect.

Morgan uses almost exactly the same words as H.G. Wells did — you can read them yourself here. Alas, the best thing in a $128,000,000 visual extravaganza of a classic remake should not be a voice that you can’t see.  Unless you have seen UP.  And it never cost near that much.

[Warning. Spoiler coming up.] In the Wells’ tale, Martian space invaders zoom down to earth and almost thrash us but die off since they can’t cope with germs that we earthlings have a resistance to.

Wells made a few errors. He was wrong about the water on Mars, wrong about its inhabitants and wrong about their skill with mathematics. But that’s okay, Wells did the best he could with his understanding of science in 1898 and crafted a classic novel, a seminal story. His tale had a wonderful loopy logic.

Spielberg and company bypassed basic logic with W. of the W. Rather than have Martians coming to earth and attacking us as Wells did, Spielberg and his advisors hatched a notion that aliens had buried sophisticated WMDs in our soil and had been doing this for a million years or so.

Now — if the aliens had a million years to study us and plan their attack, don’t you think they would have known about germs? Heck, they could watch General Hospital which debuted in 1963. (And why didn’t our own President Bush find any of those alien WMDs in places like Iraq? But that’s another story and I admit a cheap shot. Sorry.)

Still, having mastered the ability to travel faster than light, don’t you think the invaders might have considered inoculating themselves against earth germs?

NASA is in the Stone Age compared to the latest invading space cadets, yet even NASA has enough sense to quarantine space moon rocks. We primitive earthlings made certain that moon rocks didn’t contain virulent virus or bleak bacteria that would eradicate us. Back in our Middle Ages we catapulted plague victims over walls of castles that were under siege.

Can you believe that anyone who could build a spaceship, fortified with a nuke-poof shield, would be so stupid as to overlook germ warfare?

Don’t tell me that we are the only ones in existence concerned about viruses and bacteria. After all, bacteria in friendly pockets of primordial soup in the vast universe of space, is where life begins.

But okay, let’s say we are dealing with super smart alien space folk who don’t have any understanding of botulism, etc. Maybe there is a group of things who never had to worry about the common cold. And let’s say these beings never watched General Hospital.

Have you ever heard of auto pilot or cruise control? Why? Because no matter how fast aliens can zip around the ether, I’m pretty sure that they would have perfected a gadget to pilot their spacecrafts while they slept, ate or procreated.

The 2005 “tripods” with eyes at the end of snake tubes in W. of the W., that cause havoc here, are something like advanced alien Humvies. Every earth Humvie has cruise control. Therefore, I believe that the deadly tripods would be able to go from point A to B without alien intervention. All the aliens would have to do is dial in the GPS locations and let the computer pilot their killer tripods.

In the latest incarnation of W. of the W., as soon as the aliens become sick, their tripods or spacecraft fall over and the space machines go berserk as they crack apart.

Come on. Credit aliens with as much sophistication as Ralph Teetor had when he invented cruise control in 1945. By the way, he was blind. An alien might become sick but that would not cause his craft to fly apart.

And while I do not want to be overly picky, the film had other serious technical flaws. The aliens hit us with a pulse that incapacitated modern car engines. The solution to getting your car to run again? Replace the solenoid that was within a few feet of the car when the pulse hit. Hardly believable and Mr. Cruise was the only one who figured it out. Everyone else was out of control.

Off screen, Mr. Cruise seems to be out of control since he has fallen for Katie Holmes.

Okay by me. Love should spin a person a little out of control, that’s what makes us human. It also makes for great interviews that coincide with film openings. (Aren’t you relieved that I didn’t make the obligatory observation about Cruise Control?)

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many of Mr. Cruise’s films. Call me old fashioned. I thought the Last Samurai had great moments. A warrior takes on a tough adversary and uses his own skill and resourcefulness to win. Ditto for Top Gun. It’s the stuff of heroes.

Not so with W. of the W. Nothing Mr. Cruise does thwarts or even slows down the aliens.

You ask what could he have done?

Well, sneezing on these invaders springs to mind.

Mr. Cruise seemed pretty pissed off with Hollywood’s latest bad guy aliens but never once does he pee on them. That would have also spelt doom for the invaders.

Still the movie is great fun as told from the point of view of a man and his splintered family.

Mr. Spielberg, to his credit, certainly illustrates how closely related we are to dangerous aliens.

Not the ones from a distant galaxy. My, no. Our neighbors, when mob rule is the order, are far more scary than unvaccinated space cadets.

W. of the W. is a summer blockbuster, alas, diminished by SFX:  Silly Formula eXcesses.

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