Jump to content



Sign up for a free account to remove the pop-up ads

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests and remove the pop-up ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: War of the Worlds



This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
17 replies to this topic

#1 of 18 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

    Screenwriter



  • 2,770 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2001
  • Real Name:Neil Middlemiss

Posted June 02 2010 - 02:53 PM

Posted Image

War of the Worlds


Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year:  2005
US Rating: PG-13 For Frightening Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Disturbing Images
Film Length: 117 Minutes
Video: Color / 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
Audio:  English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digitall
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, and Spanish


“No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, *they* observed and studied, the way a man with a microscope might scrutinize the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of our empire over this world. Yet across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes and slowly, and surely, drew their plans against us.”


The Film: 4 out of 5


Author H.G. Wells imagined an unprepared England in the closing years of the nineteenth century overwhelmed by malevolent Martian invaders laying waste to London, and surrounding areas, with enormous mechanized tripods. Wells’ War of the Worlds became an instant success, but gained a certain notoriety following the 1938 version adapted by the great Orson Welles, which transferred the events from England to the American state of New Jersey, and was presented with a fervor of realism. The radio play’s realism – born of a ‘breaking news’ format - led to millions of panicked listeners. Orson Welles soon apologized for stirring such panic with his production, which he produced and directed. He seemed contrite and perhaps a little surprised by the effects of his dramatic radio production, but War of the Worlds had found a new medium in which to startle and impress.


The first-person narrative of Author Wells’ tale – almost journalistic – was expertly expanded upon for the 1938 radio production (broadcast on the eve of Halloween). Then, in 1953, Paramount Pictures released the first cinematic adaptation, and the results were remarkable. Again, setting the events in America, and based on variations of the 1938 radio version, War of the Worlds was a marvel of superb production, superb special effects, and superb sound effects (which even today conjure notions of doom and destruction). Despite a short-lived television series, which served as a sequel more than a retelling, and two horrendous SyFy Channel television movies (and a 50th anniversary radio production), the only other notable adaptation prior to the Spielberg’s ambitious 2005 work is the 1978 musical by Jeff Wayne, which featured Richard Burton’s narration, and a pop-disco fueled soundtrack that is as fantastic a listen today as it has ever been. And so, the notion of Steven Spielberg tackling the seminal H.G. Wells story was riddled with both possibility and trepidation. However, despite some loose creative freedoms, the Tom Cruise-led remake is a distinct success.


In the industrial suburban section of New Jersey, divorced father of two, Ray Ferrier nonchalantly takes steward of his children from his ex-wife for the weekend. His teenage son clearly would rather be anywhere but there, and his precocious daughter, seemingly at ease with needing to self-parent given her father’s inescapable selfish immaturity, is entirely too grown up for her age. Ray lives a modest, somewhat unkempt life, and his visiting children seem more a nuisance than a welcome visit. When an afternoon storm rouses the neighborhood with its foreboding dark clouds, and fierce lightning concentrated in one spot, the dysfunctional familial life of the Ferrier’s is on the cusp of incredible upheaval.


Investigating the location where the lighting struck, an intersection several blocks from his house, Ray and the small working-class New Jersey neighborhood is soon witness to the cataclysmic unearthing of a mechanized craft; a tripod threat which begins spraying a death-ray – evaporating to ash and dust all who are caught in its path.  And thus begins the carnage and devastation of an extra-terrestrial malicious force bent on the annihilation of humanity.


Ray takes his young daughter and estranged son, barely escaping the destruction of his entire neighborhood, on a journey to reunite them with their mother; a seemingly unselfish act, but in many ways, he doesn’t know what to do with his children when the world isn’t coming to an end, and the bizarre and terrible events have thrust him into a place where he can only think to turn to their mother. They will witness utter devastation from crashed planes, destroyed neighborhoods, rivers strewn with the dead, the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Militaries counter-offensive, and the panic, stupidity, and futility of human desperation.


War of the Worlds, aside from modernization and a migration from Victorian England, is quite faithful to the source novel. Adapting to a post 9/11 sensibility, the action is dark and serious, and a somber tone permeates even the more incredible sequences. For the source material, this is perfect. End of the world movies come in several flavors, and excluding those that concern themselves with the walking dead, they generally fall in to two categories; ‘blow ‘em up’ popcorn-fests and disquieting dramas (think Wind in the Willows). Spielberg, with his ever-deft directorial hand and innate sense of action splendor, has almost forged a third category; a serious toned, dark and gritty look at the emotional and human chaos of such terrible act, but with the pacing, production value, and unrelenting action set-pieces of more standard summer-fare. The result is a refreshingly somber take on an action spectacle, with the familial dynamic – which is in no way original – serving here as a wonderful companion.


The family dynamic succeeds in this tale in large part from the brisk script and the fine talent assembled to work it. Tom Cruise, who is sorely underrated as an actor (and unfairly ridiculed far too often), serves to elevate the role to something beyond the nature of the film he is in. His character’s selfish ways and flippant tendencies, which crash head-long into the necessities of survival and the inadequacies of his preparation, give Cruise a role of more dimension. Not unlike Spielberg and Cruises first collaboration in Minority Report, the result is a triumph for the actor. Dakota Fanning manages to turn a character which could have grated the nerves (she has several freak-out moments), into a genuinely likeably and empathy stirring little girl. As her brother, Robbie, is Justin Chatwin. The role is essentially written as a typical withdrawn teen, but Chatwin succeeds in having his character make sense, and, as with Fanning, manages to create a likeable, relatable young person.


Spielberg, directing from a screenplay by David Koepp (with Josh Friedman), keeps an energy and pace quite unlike his other works. While we are fortunate to be given genuine character time before the destruction begins, Spielberg retains the familial focus during every sequence, whether it is the extraordinary action set-pieces as the aliens rise from the earth, or as they attack the exodus of survivors crossing the Hudson River by ferry, or the intense cat-and-mouse sequence in the basement of the crazy Ogilvy character (portrayed by Tim Robbins), the core emotional resonance of the scene is the family.


In almost every way, War of the Worlds is great entertainment. The visual effects are nothing short of splendid, created and rendered by the experienced hands of Industrial Light & Magic, and John Williams score, a dissonant and sorrowful blend of strings, brass, electronics and human voice, is an audacious creation.



The Video:  4 out of 5


Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, War of the Worlds continues Paramount Pictures recent spate of fine transfers. Sporting no obvious evidence of DNR, the image is faithful to how I experienced the film theatrically, with film grain present, and Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski’s tendency to crash light and dark into scenes, with blooming bright spots, and a decidedly gritty sense to most scenes (which isn’t betrayed by the look of the visual effects) unhindered. I have commented on Kiminski’s influence on the look (and by extension, the tone) of Spielberg’s films for a while now, and with the exception of the last Indiana Jones entry, Kaminski’s footprint is clear; a dark, foreboding style which favors fierce, if singular, lighting sources to create a pronounced effect on the subjects within the scene. Consider the Ferry sequence, with prominent lighting sources in scene, and then from the attacking tripods as well, creates a wonderful mix of bright lights and under lighting which delivers a vivid look. Colors are mostly subdued; though the red fertilizer spread by the aliens (another faithful element to the book) is vibrant.


War of the Worlds on Blu Ray improves upon the solid DVD release from several years ago, and is worth the upgrade.




The Sound: 4.5 out of 5


With an excellent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track (as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital track options), War of the Worlds has never sounded better at home. Naturally, the action sequences are abounding with deep excursions in to the bass and LFE (which a good sub-woofer relishes). The cacophony of sound effects employed are produced with clarity throughout the speakers, with the alien sound effects (especially the ‘death ray’) punching in the front channels, and when the scene calls for it, delivering in the surrounds. Morgan Freeman’s fine narration is eerily lifelike in the center channel (bookending the film). As with the image, the audio is the finest this film has been presented with for your home theater.



The Extras: 4 out of 5


All special features are standard definition, 1.33:1 unless otherwise noted.


Revisting the Invasion (7:39):Director Steven Spielberg discusses the ideas of alien invasions, and the original War of the Worlds. He discusses influences such as This Island Earth and Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (and their metaphors for the Communist threat) and how the War of the Worlds tale now speaks allegorically of post 9/11 America. Tom Cruise shares how his second collaboration with this director came about, and how writer David Koepp’s talents influenced what should ‘not’ be in this ‘end of the world’ film.


The H.G. Wells Legacy (6:34):Family members of author Wells discuss their famous relative.


Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds (7:59):Spielberg discusses the original film and bringing Gene Berry and Ann Robinson from the 1953 film version for cameo’s, and we hear from Dennis Muren (a special and visual effects God) which is always a treat. There are some great discussions of the original 1953 film from the stars and behind the scenes shots from that film.


Characters: The Family Unit (13:21):A look at creating the family at the heart of the film, from their costumes to demeanors and to the casting.


Previsualizations (7:42):Previsualizing sequences helps directors, DoP’s, and visual effects crews plan sequences when the day of filming arrives, and Spielberg, a long-time a fan of creating on the day, relied upon pre-vis for the complex visual effects sequences, animating the storyboards to facilitate smoother day-of filming.


Production Diaries (1:32:00):Broken in to four chapters (East Cost: Beginning (22:30), East Coast: Exile (19:39), West Coast: Destruction (27:29), and West Coast: War (22:20), this extra feature follows the creation of the film, with interviews with principle production players (including Janusz Kiminski, Colin Wilson and Kathleen Kennedy (producers), Visual effects crew, and more). The look behind creating some of the impressive sets, such as the plane crash (which admittedly produces some of the bigger logic strains), is good to see.


Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens (14:07):Creating the Tripods to be scary themselves (and not just vehicles carrying something that is scary), was a wise decision, and a look at some concept designs is welcome. The previsualizations and artist concepts of the Tripods and Aliens show the evolution of the design to its final point, which achieves its aims (to frighten and step just a little outside what we have long seen before).


Scoring War of the Worlds (11:56):Legendary composer John Williams discusses his scoring of War of the Worlds in intriguing detail. Score lovers will relish this brief 12 minutes.


We are Not Alone (3:14):An odd three minutes which in essence merely shares Spielberg’s father’s inspiration to conjure imagination when looking up at the stars.


Galleries :Images of Costume Designer Joanna Johnston, Production Stills, Behind the Scenes, and production sketches can be perused using your remote..


Theatrical Teaser Trailer (HD) (1:59)




Final Thoughts


Though there are some quibbles about the logic found in some sequences (one could argue that the electromagnetic pulse which shut off all electricity did not have the same effects on batteries, allowing for the silly video-camera shot), Spielberg’s take on War of the Worlds is dark, bold, and superbly entertaining. The splendor and destruction of the visual effects sequences are dramatic, thrilling, and, at times, terrifying in ways that most ‘end-of-the-world’ films cannot approach. H.G. Wells wrote of Martians, creatures from Mars which looked upon our planet with envy; no such origin determination is made here (thankfully), though in the opening sequence, the Red Planet is employed cleverly, perhaps alluding to the origins, or simply as a tip of the hat to the source material.


In a way similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, the national and global destruction of cities and nations is not exploited – though it is only heard of in Signs, in Worlds we experience only the destruction which the family we follow witnesess, and thus, despite being a stone’s throw from New York City, we are not shown scenes of its destruction (again, thankfully). It is a template that serves the more intimate effects of this cataclysm far better than grand scenes of landmarks succumbing to alien assault.


Spielberg’s third film concerning aliens coming to earth is a departure from the friendly extra-terrestrials of his first two outings (E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). While not the legacy creation of those first two adventures, War of the Worlds is still fine entertainment, and certainly ranks high in adaptations of H.G Wells’ work.



Overall 4 out of 5

Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC

Posted Image


"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

Steve Tannehill

    Producer



  • 5,535 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 06 1997
  • Real Name:Steve Tannehill
  • LocationDFW

Posted June 02 2010 - 03:18 PM

Thanks for the review.  I just ordered this.


Now, bring on Jurassic Park!


- Steve



#3 of 18 OFFLINE   RichelleM

RichelleM

    Auditioning



  • 1 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 02 2010

Posted June 02 2010 - 03:42 PM

Your review has helped me a lot. Thank you and looking forward for more reviews again. I have also ordered mine using my cash back card.



#4 of 18 OFFLINE   benbess

benbess

    Screenwriter



  • 1,853 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 07 2009

Posted June 02 2010 - 11:04 PM

I really like the 1953 version more than the remake. Any chance that'll make it to blu?



#5 of 18 OFFLINE   TravisR

TravisR

    Studio Mogul



  • 22,318 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2004
  • LocationThe basement of the FBI building

Posted June 03 2010 - 05:03 AM

Nearly all the special features are ported over from the two disc set. The only thing that was left off was the Production Notes (which were surprisingly detailed and had around 75 frames of text).



#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

    Studio Mogul



  • 21,769 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 12 1998

Posted June 03 2010 - 05:27 AM

Fantastic review, Neil. It's the only Spielberg film I've never been able to watch a second time, for purely personal reasons, but you've done a superb job of breaking down what makes it tick.


COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

Nelson Au

    Executive Producer



  • 11,546 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 16 1999

Posted June 03 2010 - 04:00 PM

Yes, I'd like to see the 1953 version on blu too.


This version isn't bad, and I'll pick it up too. I just didn't like the deviation for how the Martians come to Earth. Though the sequence in the farm house is a nice update to the scene when Gene Barry and Ann Robinson hack away at the Martian probe.



#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Parker Clack

Parker Clack

    Executive Producer



  • 12,120 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 30 1997
  • Real Name:Parker
  • LocationKansas City, MO

Posted June 03 2010 - 07:04 PM

Neil:


Great review. I will probably be picking this up.


Thanks for the reminder of the great musical version narrated by Richard Burton. I had all but forgot about it. Now I am going to have to find my copy. It was one of the last vinyl records I purchased.

Parker


"I tried to get my medical records from the company but they say they

are confidential and can only be released to other insurance companies,

pharmaceutical​ reps, suppliers of medical equipment and for some

reason the RNC."
 


#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Southpaw

Southpaw

    Supporting Actor



  • 881 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 02 2006

Posted June 04 2010 - 01:06 AM

I don't know what you would rate "5 stars" but the DTS-HD MA track on this film is perfection and incredible ear candy.



#10 of 18 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

    Screenwriter



  • 2,770 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2001
  • Real Name:Neil Middlemiss

Posted June 04 2010 - 01:17 AM

Saving Private Ryan was rated 5 stars for audio. but 4.5 stars is nothing to sneeze at, though!


And perfection is what I would rate an audio at 5 (which to me, SPR was) - WotW was almost perfection...almost.


You are right though, this is incredible ear candy!



"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Southpaw

Southpaw

    Supporting Actor



  • 881 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 02 2006

Posted June 04 2010 - 02:24 AM



Originally Posted by Neil Middlemiss 

Saving Private Ryan was rated 5 stars for audio. but 4.5 stars is nothing to sneeze at, though!


And perfection is what I would rate an audio at 5 (which to me, SPR was) - WotW was almost perfection...almost.


You are right though, this is incredible ear candy!


Agree about SPR. While both films are completely different types of films, their respective audio is so good at immersing the viewer in their worlds, that to me, I just don't see how they could get any better.


Splitting hairs, I know....



#12 of 18 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

    Screenwriter



  • 2,770 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2001
  • Real Name:Neil Middlemiss

Posted June 04 2010 - 03:15 AM



Originally Posted by Southpaw 



Agree about SPR. While both films are completely different types of films, their respective audio is so good at immersing the viewer in their worlds, that to me, I just don't see how they could get any better.


Splitting hairs, I know....


When you are in the area - swing round and we'll watch, and split hairs, together! :)



"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

Steve Christou

    Executive Producer



  • 14,442 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 25 2000
  • Real Name:Steve Christou
  • LocationLondon, England

Posted June 06 2010 - 01:59 AM

While I much prefer the 1953 George Pal classic, Spielberg's film has it's moments. I like the fact he went back to the original novels tripod machines, but there was far too much of shouty Tom Cruise, his annoying kids and eyerolling Tim Robbins for my taste, I was soon rooting for the Martians to win. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


Lord of the Hubs


#14 of 18 OFFLINE   benbess

benbess

    Screenwriter



  • 1,853 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 07 2009

Posted June 06 2010 - 11:20 AM



Originally Posted by Steve Christou 

While I much prefer the 1953 George Pal classic, Spielberg's film has it's moments. I like the fact he went back to the original novels tripod machines, but there was far too much of shouty Tom Cruise, his annoying kids and eyerolling Tim Robbins for my taste, I was soon rooting for the Martians to win. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


+1lol!



#15 of 18 ONLINE   Johnny Angell

Johnny Angell

    Producer



  • 5,396 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 13 1998
  • Real Name:Johnny Angell
  • LocationCentral Arkansas

Posted June 07 2010 - 12:28 PM

I just watched my  blu of this and I really liked it better than I remember liking the movie when I first saw it.  I thought the casting was very good, no mistakes made in the choices.  Cruise was excellent and I continue to be amazed that a little girl can act like Dakota Fanning.


This version is more faithful to the book.  For almost all of the book the viewpoint was from the narrator trying to reunite with his wife and that's the point of view we get here.  The Martian (I know they're never called Martians) tripods were frightening and graceful.  The sound they would make prior to firing their weapons were quite effective.  I thought it was partly psychological warfare.


The train in flames just creeps me out.


The movie made me want to stand up and cheer at the end when the shoulder fired missiles took down the tripod.


The sound gave my system a real working over.  Loved it.


Johnny
www.teamfurr.org
But a family cat is not replaceable like a wornout coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another.--Irving Townsend


#16 of 18 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

    Screenwriter



  • 2,770 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2001
  • Real Name:Neil Middlemiss

Posted June 14 2011 - 04:19 AM

This is just $11.99 at Amazon right now - such a great price for a solid Speilberg movie on blu!


Click here to order.




"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#17 of 18 ONLINE   RobertR

RobertR

    Lead Actor



  • 9,537 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 19 1998

Posted October 10 2011 - 07:41 AM

Finally watched this on BR this weekend. I think the audio should get 5/5. It probably has more infrasonic content than anything else I've watched. It's much closer to the original Wells story than the 50s version, too.

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

Nelson Au

    Executive Producer



  • 11,546 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 16 1999

Posted October 10 2011 - 08:42 AM

deleted