War of the Worlds is a one-note movie. And that note is a 30 Hz rumble tone. I have never had a film drive my big, bad subwoofer so hard for so long. For the first time since I have owned the thing, I heard it bottom out on a long cone excursion. That's a major push.
In my listening room with the DTS digital sound cranked up to "enjoyable" levels, the movie vibrated my internal organs quite noticeably and at times literally shook the house (Debbie, sewing in another room, confirmed this). This movie is the modern version of 1974's Earthquake, where the gimmick was that they mounted big bass speakers on the floor in select theaters and announced the new effect: "Sensurround!"
So much for the fun part. The rest of the movie is sadly one-note as well. Alien machines kill humanity for an hour and a half while Tom Cruise runs from them with his two annoying children. The internal logic gaps are enough to make you cry, while the palpable sense of impersonality sucks any sense of concern out of you.
The story line is a remake of the 1953 classic "alien invasion" movie that served as a touchstone for science fiction action pics for many years. And of course, they both derive from H.G. Wells' 1898 novel. The movie opens and closes with voice over narration largely taken from the 1953 movie (and a weird musical interpretation that was released on record featuring Richard Burton's silky tones as the narrator). It's an updating of the (now rather florid) language that Wells used in his story. Naturally, voice over duties now go to Morgan Freeman, who seems to have a rock-solid arrangement in Hollywood giving him first right of refusal on any voice over narration work (and he seldom refuses).
We are introduced to stock stereotyped characters in the first 15 minutes of over-familiar setup. Tom Cruise plays Ray, a self-absorbed lousy father with partial custody of his kids from an earlier marriage. Mom is pregnant and happily involved with a new great-guy boyfriend/husband (?), but still finds time to meddle disapprovingly around Ray's house and act like a martyr. Dakota Fanning is the precocious little girl who has taken on the role of serious practical one (she orders takeout hummus from the neighborhood natural foods store, because that's what most American 9-year-olds would naturally gravitate to by choice, right?). Justin Chatwin plays the surly and rebellious teenage son, who resents his dad's inattention.