WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) - 1 DISC WIDESCREEN (DreamWorks/Paramount) [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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11-28-2005, 01:51 PM

While this is lavished and adorns the top of each DVD release of this title, I know there are many who will argue that statement. Sir Steven has done many works which specific, individual fans can label as his "best;" was 2005's remake of the HG Wells classic that good that it deserves the moniker of Spielberg's "best"? I don't really have the answer to that. The end result is a film that fares better than the average remake of today and this is undoubtedly because it was handled by such a director with such experience; this could have easily been a disaster in the hands of a lesser helmsman.

But what we're left with is a product that entertains those of us (yours truly included here) who never really "fell" for the hoopla of the original take on aliens approaching our planet, hatching a scheme for domination and ultimately being destroyed by our own planetary defense systems of sorts -- bacteria to name one. While I was never smitten with the idea that this is how we inevitably "brought down" the invaders -- especially in this remake -- there is no denying that this was one of the most entertaining and attention-grabbing sci fi thrillers to come along...well...in a long time; sure, we had Roland Emmerich's Independence Day -- but there's something just different about Spielberg's War of the Worlds that allows us to think of these two modern-day alien takeover tales in different lights and tones. Where Independence Day becomes Star Wars with mini alien craft and their green lasers shooting it out with our military marine pilots, there is something more sinister about the creatures who have come to our planet in Spielberg's remake -- something more threatening about their presence, their relentless elimination of humans through their laser rays (although this was handled pretty effectively by Emmerich in Indpendence Day) and more. There is, I believe, a "maturity" about the way in which this alien material is handled by Spielberg as compared to Emmerich's hit-em-over-the-head fashion of ID4.

Let's, for a moment, explore and discuss the issue of yet another remake to come out of Hollywood, which seems to be the excessive trend of late. Spielberg sure picked an ideal time to helm this project, or however the deal went down at DreamWorks (in conjunction with Spielberg's Amblin and Paramount Pictures); the debate over whether these remakes are warranted, are effective, are justified, are entertaining, are in keeping with the original source material etc. etc. etc. is still a matter of incredible opinion fluxuations from both sides of the fence. To me, most were absolutely horrible and completely unnecessary -- this camp is composed of the likes of The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre amongst others I simply cannot recall at this time. Others were watchable to say the least, or very effective as remakes in my humble opinion, such as Dawn of the Dead, House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting and now 2005's War of the Worlds.

Then there's the issue of Tom Cruise in this lead role, which was a controversy to sci fi fans from the start. I say he works. I say he works better than in most other roles of his career, in fact. Why? Well, put simply, he didn’t have a lot to do except for look utterly terrified and blurt out some sarcastic lines every now and then as a disgruntled single father of two -- which seemed to be performed much better than when he is "hamming it up" and just going overboard in his roles. There is a "subtlety" to his performance that is utterly refreshing to me and I think he simply works here and was a good choice by Spielberg for the position.

Now let's get to Spielberg's take on this HG Wells original creepy little tale of hostile aliens and their "plans" for human beings on Earth. Now, not being a massive fan of the original, some fans may need to help me here in some aspects of the plot and where it was changed by Spielberg for this remake -- in this 2005 version, we have an opening sequence narrated by Morgan Freeman, explaining that aliens have been studying our planet and hatching a plan to exterminate us for some time as we go about our daily routines without thought of what's beyond the stars. According to this remake (and please correct me if I am wrong), it seems before humans were even life forms on Earth, these alien creatures had "planted" tripod-like machines under the ground of our planet and awaited the day that they could arrive to "operate" these machines and destroy humans with deadly beams of light. Enter the present day, where Tom Cruise (Ray Ferrier) is working as a container ship transport operator in New Jersey. His life pretty much sucks, and we can immediately relate to his peril: he comes home to an empty house because he has recently separated from the mother of his children who come to drop them off with her new snobby ******* boyfriend (or husband) whenever they need some time away -- to make matters worse, she's working on another kid with this new guy, and flaunts this around Cruise by coming to his place in Jersey as a pregnant emotionless ex-wife simply there to drop the kids off and be whisked away in her new man's Lexus SUV. I can tell you -- I would have a VERY difficult time dealing with what Cruise's character was dealing with in this situation, but he handles it with sarcastic emotion as it seems to be his only defense against such a hostile ex wife and two kids who don’t seem to care for him either.

With the kids his for the weekend (one of which is Dakota Fanning), Cruise’s life (and just about everyone else's) is changed forever that afternoon as a strange lightning storm hits Jersey (and the world, simultaneously as we hear on the news programs in the background), causing everything to pretty much go dead -- cars are dead in the middle of the street. Electricity is gone. Watches stop. Cruise makes his way, after Fanning alerts him that her older brother has taken his car for a "spin" without permission, to the middle of town, where multiple consecutive lightning strikes have smashed a hole in the street, drawing a crowd to marvel at the site. Cruise picks up a piece of the broken concrete, which is smoking and smoldering, expecting to find it hot to the touch -- but instead finds it freezing. Suddenly, the ground begins to tremor and crack, and this small New Jersey town is exposed to the first of the alien ships from under the ground as it breaks through the concrete and buildings, shaking houses and breaking windows -- cars and trucks are thrown about as though they were sacks of potatoes, and Spielberg builds the dread and fear here quite effectively, as we can imagine being on that street and watching this as part of that community. Giant three-legged tripod "machines" seem to be popping out of the ground all over Earth, and once this one shows itself in New Jersey, it begins stomping around and firing laser beams, cutting screaming people in half that are running from it. The beams eat and destroy everything in its path, and much like Emmerich's Indpendence Day, we quickly learn that these aliens are not E.T. -- they're not friendly or here for good relations with us.

This exciting opening sequence quiets down a bit as Cruise escapes the attacking alien machine in the streets which has killed countless people around him and makes his way back to his house where his daughter and son wonder what is going on. Cruise is in absolute shock as he is covered in the dusty remains of human beings that were destroyed by the alien craft's ray beams. For some odd reason, only one vehicle in Cruise's town is working -- a Chrysler minivan that Cruise suggested to the mechanic he should look at specific problems under the hood, and that ended up being the solution to the failed engine. Cruise takes the kids, piles them into the minivan, and just in the nick of time too, as the alien machine has returned to his neighborhood and his continuing to wipe out the screaming people who run from its laser beams.

The family races across highways strewn with dead cars and vehicles and swarms of people who are trying to escape from the attacking alien machine, as they seem to have the only working vehicle around. Cruise's plan is to get to his ex wife's mother's house in Boston, where she said they were headed for the weekend, but along the way, they run into many obstacles, beginning with a horde of people that attack the minivan they are in because they want a working car themselves to escape. Cruise, with a loaded gun in his belt, waves the attacking people away after he hits a telephone pole, but soon finds himself in a bad position as a random person who was attacking the van puts a gun to HIS head and demands the van from him.

Cruise, Fanning and his son are now stranded somewhere between Boston and New Jersey but they do end up (before losing the van to this guy with the gun) making it to his ex wife's new boyfriend (or husband)'s house where they find the place empty and attempt to make it a safe haven for awhile. They pile into the basement where during the night, a jet airplane is hit by one of the alien craft's beams and is brought down out of the sky, smashing into the ex wife's house. Cruise, astonished, walks out of the demolished home to find parts of the plane -- a burning engine, the middle of the fuselage -- thrown on the front lawn. He ends up running into a Channel 2 (New York, CBS) news team that was covering the crash, and learns from the onsite reporter that these tripod machines are all over Earth -- not just in the Northeast region of the U.S. -- and are destroying everyone and everything in these places, as well. He also learns that the aliens have come down through the wild lightning storm in the beginning of the film, into the ground, where they get into these giant tripod machines and pilot them for Earth's destruction. Sure, this sounds a bit far fetched and it is, but we go with it because Spielberg's pacing seems spot-on and simply exciting at this point. The news team member explains to Cruise, as he watches a clip of video they shot of the lightning storm, that these aliens seem to travel through pods of some kind, riding the lightning down into the ground, where the tripod machines were waiting to be turned on and operated long before man was even on Earth. I didn’t find this part of the plot particularly feasible or even believable, but I don’t know how much this kept in line with the original telling of the beam-shooting aliens from outer space.

Cruise and his kids end up plodding their way to Boston by foot for the rest of the picture's running time -- I know this sounds nearly impossible, considering what is going on around them, but again, you have to go with it as annoying as it may sound. Along the way, they run into the U.S. military who is launching a counter-attack against the alien tripods, but with little success, as they have shields around their hulls -- just like the aliens did in Independence Day. Does all this suggest that Emmerich and Spielberg know something about the aliens that may one day visit our planet....that they all will boast some kind of shielding mechanism whereby our military powers won't be able to penetrate these defense systems? In the middle of a battle between the U.S. military forces and the alien tripod machines somewhere between Boston and New Jersey, Cruise's son demands that he "be witness" to this "War of the Worlds" and separates from Cruise and Fanning; in the meantime, Cruise runs into Tim Robbins, who is hiding out in the basement of a house that happens to be smack in the middle of this man vs. alien battle. Robbins takes Cruise and Fanning in, and tells him they can stay with him but Robbins has plans of his own -- he wants to launch an attack of his own against the aliens by digging under the ground of the house and coming up from underneath the tripods, as they did to Earth people, and bring them down that way -- of course, Cruise finds this ridiculous and doesn't want to participate, thinking this is completely jeopardizing his daughter's life (as well as his own) and only wishes to escape these alien invaders and hide from them, NOT engage them. It seems the three of them will have no choice but to engage the aliens, as one of the snake-like tentacles from one of the invading tripod ships makes it way into the basement where they are hiding out to investigate. Here is where Spielberg has made an obvious tie to the original, as the "heads" of these snake-like machines have lights and a central "eye" much like the creatures that shot the laser beams in the original did. During this sequence, we even get a glimpse of what the actual aliens look like as three or so of them make their way from the ship into this basement where Cruise, Robbins and Fanning are hiding -- and they look an awful lot like Emmerich's creatures from Independence Day -- and I mean an awful lot. While the aliens investigate this Earth dwelling and eventually are called back to their ship, Cruise realizes what he must do with Robbins -- and that's kill him because he has completely become hell-bent on going after the aliens and Cruise simply won't allow that.

With Robbins out of the way, Cruise now faces another unfortunate happening: it seems Fanning has been abducted by the aliens, and when he exists the house looking for her, he himself is caught by one of the alien tentacles and thrown into a basket-like holding pen up in the alien tripods where other human beings have been taken. Cruise finds Fanning in this basket with him, but is almost "eaten" by a strange sucking "pipe" that the aliens utilize to "suck" the humans up and then spit their blood out all over the ground below, spewing capillaries and string-like formations of human blood all over the ground, houses and hillside of this New England area. Cruise manages to pull a grenade off a soldier's belt before he his dragged inside this "sucking tube" and as other people struggle to release him, the pin of the grenade is pulled, blowing up the alien tripod and bringing it crashing down, releasing the people in the "basket."

It is at this point the film enters into its final scenes, whereby the U.S. military seems to have "found" a way to "bring down" the tripod machines, but that is not necessarily so -- as Cruise and Fanning make their way with a horde of people through the downtown Boston area (they somehow have made it here over one night or so's time, don't ask) they discover that the machines themselves have begun acting erratically, walking in circles and then becoming inoperable. Cruise notices that birds have landed atop one of the machines, indicating that there are no longer shields activated around the tripods, and the military begin launching shoulder firing rockets at the machines, ultimately blasting them and destroying them -- but what really brought the machines down were the bacteria of our own planet, as hinted at through Morgan Freeman's final narration of the film. It seems once the aliens drank our water and breathed our air, they were immediately doomed. This notion never made sense to me, maybe because it was handled in what I consider a slap hazard way by Spielberg, but I am continuously told that this was the premise for the ending of the original, as well.

The film concludes, of course, with Cruise and Fanning making their way to the ex wife's mother's house in Boston, where they are reunited with the son, as well, who has survived. The ending seemed a bit "empty" to me and seemed to have concluded too "abruptly" but many argue this is not their opinion; I know I'm in the minority here. To me, there was not enough explored here -- not enough military vs. tripod activity (as there was in the original to a certain extent), not enough explanation to the bacteria and how it brought down the aliens, etc. To be brutally honest, this was on my definite want list, but I was given this as an early holiday gift from my girlfriend because she knew I wanted it -- and for receiving it as a gift, this is a definite entertainer in my collection, especially considering the audio treats it delivers, but I'll get to that in a minute.

DreamWorks has packaged War of the Worlds beautifully with a keepcase (complete with side "box locks" along the lines of their The Last Castle and Saving Private Ryan) and a eye-catching slipcase over it; I wish more studios would present their DVDs this way because they really do stand out in a collector's library amongst the horrid snapper cases like Warner Brothers used to throw out to the public and such; DreamWorks is a studio that continuously gets top ranks and honor remarks from me whenever I review their product because most of the time their stuff is just amazing -- nice packaging with great video transfer efforts and unusually stunning audio tracks to accompany the visuals. They are a studio that continues to support DTS on almost all their titles, and hence are one of the top contenders in DVD product output of late. More studios should follow their lead, I'm not kidding.

There was this one-disc release of War of the Worlds available since last Tuesday and a more elaborate version; because the one disc was given to me as a gift, that's the one that is reviewed here. But there's no ***** with that because what we have here is a new reference disc as least for the time being, audio wise.


Much like Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan there is a VERY apparent but intentional grain and grittiness running through this widescreen image. It is apparent from almost beginning to end; some moments clear up to bright, flawless colors -- but for the most part, you can easily see the dirt and grit layering the background of the transfer, and this was no doubt intentional on Spielberg's behalf. It gives the film a cold, gloom-inducing feel, especially being that the plot unravels during the winter months in the Northeast, but don’t go in thinking there was something wrong with the transfer because you may see specks of dirt and a layer of grain running behind the setpieces -- they seem to be there for an intentional reason. Letterboxing was nonexistent on my particular setup with a 1:85:1 ratio, filling the screen from top to bottom with image.


WOW. That's all I can say about this DVD's ass-kicking DTS track. Whoever said this MIGHT very well be the best DTS track to date wasn't kidding. It very well may be. G-d bless DreamWorks, who have released some of the very best audio mixes on DVD titles on the planet -- let's never forget DTS legends like Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan and the bass-exploding The Haunting. The studio may have outdone themselves this time with the English 5.1 DTS track on War of the Worlds. Skip the Dolby and, of course, 2.0 variants, of this mix and head straight to the DTS track. My G-d. The dynamics here are absolutely AMAZING. LFE is in WALLOPS, and sent my subwoofer into hiding more than a few times, requiring me to cut back on the master volume levels throughout the running time because the bass got so heavy and overwhelmed the sub itself, much like The Haunting's DTS ES mix does on my system. When the lightning storm begins hitting the New Jersey town in the beginning -- watch out, and watch those volume levels of your system -- wow, does this track kick ass. The lightning attacks from the surrounds and all around you, while thudding LFE accompanies the strikes. When the tremors of the tripods begin, and the streets start to break apart and windows shatter from the machines rising up out of the ground, wow -- this is jaw dropping in DTS. Honest, folks. You whole room will be shaking with LFE -- when the machines begin blasting their laser beams and splitting running human beings in two, this is accompanied also by deep bass you can feel, with the effect ripping into the surround channels, and coming from the surround channels as the beams are blasted into cars, people and buildings. The effect here is not so mind-numbing as the remainder of the attack sequences -- when the laser beams are blasted, it almost has that Attack of the Clones-like effect where the asteroid seismic charges go off and they're accompanied by that split second of eerie silence before ripping into a somewhat subdued LFE/surround effect -- but the effect is there.

From almost beginning to end, this DTS track is reference quality and simply doesn’t let up -- from the alien machines stomping around and shaking your home theater room to the laser beams smashing everything in slight and creating massive doses of SPL through your mains and surrounds, to the final battle between the tripods and the military, this track is the new reference standard currently available. This easily made up for the disappointment that I still feel towards Revenge of the Sith; pop this one in folks, and hold on. A great, active, engaging mix that I can’t seem to stop demoing just for the track itself -- not the film! This very well MAY be the best-sounding DTS track to date; I know this is debatable -- but it may in fact be true. It's that good.

Because this was the single-disc, no-frills version of the release, it only came with the mammoth selection of audio tracks and an inside look at the creature effects used for the film. But either way, you cant go wrong with War of the Worlds for your personal collection (unless you're one of those who absolutely HATED the film) as it has become my new personal reference go-to disc due to its over-the-top DTS track.

Onkyo TX-SR600
Dolby Digital EX/DTS-ES/Dolby Pro Logic II
192kHz/24-bit DACs
50 MHz Component Video Switching
Six Internal Power Ampliiers @ 110 Watts Per Channel Continuous Into 6 Ohm Load w/High-Current Low-Impedance Discrete Output Devices
WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology)
10 Hz to 100 kHz Linear Frequency Response
13 Distinct DSP Modes
Panasonic DVD-RP56 Progressive Scan
Mitsubishi HS-U448 VCR
Mitsubishi 55" Medallion HD 1080 Series
Mains: Polk RTi38
Center: Polk CSi Series
Sub: Polk PSW350
Surrounds: In-Ceiling*
*PM me for details

steamboy 2
12-11-2005, 04:25 PM
This Movie Is Awesome ! I Saw It In July & Could Not Wait For It On Dvd.but I Must Say That I Have Not Open Mine Up Because It's A Christmas Gift From My Wife & I'm Sure I Will Enjoy.

First Rate Review Lex !

12-12-2005, 06:10 AM
This Movie Is Awesome ! I Saw It In July & Could Not Wait For It On Dvd.but I Must Say That I Have Not Open Mine Up Because It's A Christmas Gift From My Wife & I'm Sure I Will Enjoy.

First Rate Review Lex !

Oh no! I'm in the same boat. Come on X-mas.

Good job Lex.

12-12-2005, 11:43 AM
Thanks a million for the kind words guys, and for taking the time to read!

You WILL enjoy this DVD......hope the holidays get here soon for you!!