I rewatched Steven Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds, and I still love it. The smaller aspect ratio, the grainy film, and the washed-out colors evoke an earlier, more primitive era of filmmaking.
Sure, Spielberg had made his “serious” masterpieces by this point — Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan — but this was genuinely Close Encounters-era Spielberg at his best. In fact, WotW is the spiritual antithesis of that 1977 film. Yes, maybe it flirts with going overboard during the “getting sucked into the alien esophagus” sequence, but everything before and after was stellar. I still give it five Martians out of five, not just because I saw the Los Angeles premiere sitting a couple of rows behind Tom Cruise.
Another reason this version of War of the Worlds worked for me was that Spielberg kept the action on the ground, where our protagonists don’t fully know everything that’s going on. There are no cliche shots of generals in war rooms or world landmarks being destroyed. This felt far more grounded and real.
Some have complained that the ending “came out of nowhere.” No, it came straight from H.G. Wells’ novel. In the book, the Martians were felled by bacteria on earth for which they had no immunity.
War of the Worlds is an under-appreciated gem in Spielberg’s oeuvre, the third of his alien trilogy after Close Encounters and ET. Maybe that’s due to some anti-Tom Cruise backlash at the time or simply because Spielberg has made so many masterpieces that the merely great ones seem lesser by comparison. You can add it to the list of other under-appreciated classics like A.I., Munich, and Bridge of Spies.