War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg was the summer blockbuster wannabe of 2005. As an aside, it is also the reason that Tom Cruise was doing so many interviews (Matt Lauer and Oprah) that helped turn him into the loon of the year this side of Michael Jackson. But that isn't what I am going to talk about.
War of the Worlds was a visually stunning movie. The special effects were as impressive or more impressive than some of the scenes from Star Wars Episode III. But, at the end of the day, what makes a summer blockbuster wannabe into a true Summer Blockbuster is the storyline and this movie just didn't cut it.
The movie starts very quickly and generally this is not a good sign for character development. We are introduced to Ray (Tom Cruise) who is apparently some sort of awesome machine operator who is begged by his boss to do one more shift. Ray declines because he has to go be a bad father to his two children, a boy and a girl. How do we know he is a bad father? The tour through his house and pretty much everything else in the next five minutes, including an ill-fated game of catch with his son, blatantly tells us so with its Cliff's Notes approach to getting through a story. And that wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except that Cruise is basically playing himself instead of a construction worker from the New York/New Jersey region of the country. I guess the cliched surroundings are supposed to provide what the star actor could not.
And then all of a sudden, (cue the creepy music, dun dunnn DUUUNNNNNNNN) the lightning storms begin and we are launched headlong into a crazy storyline about crazed aliens who, for some reason, want to take over the world. I know that was rather abrupt of me, but that is the way it happened in the movie. All of a sudden and out of nowhere. Which, I am cool with. But by this point, if I am going to go on a journey, I want to care about those who I am following. The fact that I have no idea who played the son, and I haven't even mentioned Dakota Fanning to this point should be an indication of the character development.