movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] [Original Orson Welles 1938 radio play mp3] Another remake…

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Nothing mankind does makes any difference in mankind’s fate.

PEOPLE: Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning (Cassie from the movie Push, Coraline from Coraline, Jane from Twilight 2+), and Justin Chatwin (Goku from Dragonball Evolution–he had Dragonball toys in his room in the movie, what a coincidence!) as the son. Also with a disturbing Tim Robbins minor role. Also, in tiny tiny roles, are a couple people who were in the 1953 movie (and the woman was also in the 1980s TV series).

QUIRKS: Based on the 1898 novel. You could consider this a remake of the 1938 Orson Welles radio program that caused mass panic, a remake of the 1953 movie, or a new adaptation of the 1898 book. Take your pick, and start whining about the differences.

The biggest difference from the 1953 movie is that this is a one-person narrative. You see everything from the eyes of Tom Cruise, and nothing else. This is supposedly more faithful to the book. Several people have said this one is more faithful to the book than the 1953 one. Personally, I wouldn’t know.

VISUALS: Very few wide-angle shots. The method of filming was influenced by amateur video of the 911 attacks. Or Cloverfield :) I didn’t notice this when I watched it, but perhaps this is part of what made it so immersive at times.

SOUNDTRACK: Not going to talk about the music — but the SOUND EFFECTS were really good. Crank your subwoofer up and turn off the lights. If your system can generate real bass that vibrates your body, you will feel the fear.

WILHELM SCREAM: I heard at least two.

MORALS: In a real emergency, don’t expect anybody to act with any moral compass whatsoever. People will kill you for the smallest thing in an emergency. Stay away from crowds!

GOOD STUFF: The utter FUTILITY of it all — the depressing feeling that no matter what you did, you’d be fucked. The feeling that no matter what mankind does, he will not be able to save himself. The DREAD. This movie is full of such horrible DREAD. Much more than the 1953 version, wihch seemed to me to be a bit more along the “crush kill destroy” campy style of 1950’s sci-fi fear. That is to say, old movies simply aren’t scary or realistic. This movie is actually more realistic and brutal than the original. Such despair and hopelessness.

Dakota Fanning added a precocious comedic angle to things. Unnecessary, but it was nice to laugh in between scenes of utter dread. (“Are we still alive?”) Any other little girl would have made the movie worse, but Dakota Fanning is actually kinda talented, apparently. She was good in the movie Push, too. Yeah, her screaming was annoying. Welcome to how real life would happen if you had to carry a 9 year old girl around the remnants of an alien invasion.

Really, the whole family angle was probably the worst thing about the movie. But you have to make it about SOMEone, don’t you?

I’m sure someone would complain that the only way they survived the movie is by scraping through a bunch of situations that it was unrealistic to survive in. Much like John Cusack in the movie 2012. However, my point to those naysayers is always: No. Most people DID die in those situations. You don’t make a movie about the ones who died; you make a movie about the ones who were lucky enough to scrape through the situations alive. As unrealistic as it may be, for every survivor in this movie, there were probably 100,000 people killed. I’m not interested in the 99,999 stories where the person dies in the middle of an alien invasion which is never resolved; I’m interested in the story of the 1 in 100,000 person who survives until the end of the invasion.

BAD STUFF: From an action and story perspective, I’ve never particularly liked the ending of this one. That is to say, H.G. Wells’s ending. I understand and enjoy the point, but it’s not very exciting, is it? It’s more of a profound ending, than exciting. I knew it was coming, but Carolyn didn’t. She started to ask me what the hell happened, but then the Morgan Freeman voiceover explained things, just like in the original. I actually think they did a better job with it in the remake, except for the “God” part. Was that really necessary? FUCK God.

The beginning is a bit slow, showing Tom Cruise being a shitty father. Not completely necessary to the plot.

People are bound to be annoyed by the emo son. But hey, kids are annoying. That’s why I won’t have one. This is a modern adaptation, showing what douchebags modern kids are.

Yes, there are some things that are not explained. Like how the [highlight for spoilers] son survived. But that’s because we only see what Tom Cruise sees. In a real disaster like this, one isn’t always going to know the reason for why everything happened. By NOT telling us certain things, it actually inreased the effectiveness of this movie as a psychological thriller — not just a sci-fi bloodbath.

Yes, they changed things. If you’re going to do a remake, it’s kind of pointless if you do the EXACT same thing.

CONCLUSION: I gotta say, this one really surprised me and exceeded my expectations. I was expecting the distinct possibility of another so-so remake — like The Time Machine or Planet Of The Apes. I certainly figured if there was a family as the main characters, that it would automatically be worse, because families are kind of lame movie subjects. But this actually turned out really fucking awesome, despite the fact that it was not quite the same focus as the 1953 movie. The special effects were great — the *sound* was great. After seeing how people behaved in Hurricane Katrina — or in other emergency situations — the sense of dread you feel when watching humans act like such piece-of-shit assholes became that much realer. The sense of depression, desperation, and utter dread that you get when watching this filled me with adrenaline. I was quite surprised to be so affected by something so trite, but Carolyn agreed. We were both quite unsettled by the end of the movie. Gotta reluctantly admit this was a great remake.

Clint: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8.6/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8.6/10.

Funny, both of us saying 8.6/10 instead of 9/10. It’s like we acknowledge that this is a 9, but don’t want to admit it to ourselves.

The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 6.6/10, Netflix: 3.3/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.6/5 stars).
The native public rating for the original is: IMDB: 7.2/10, Netflix: 3.6/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 2.9/5 stars).

So it seems that Netflix correctly realizes that, despite the fact the original is a bit more liked than the remake, that *WE* would like the remake better. (I haven’t seen it in decades, but my guess for my rating of the original would be: 4/5 stars, 7/10.)

RECOMMENDATION: Don’t skip this one simply because you expect it to be a shitty remake. At the same time, don’t expect to love it as much as we do. We liked this higher than average.

SIMILAR MOVIES: The movie 2012 had some similarly ridiculous surviving-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth-type scenes. But obviously this is most similar to the 1953 version.

MOVIE QUOTE: “It’s not a war any more than it’s a war between men and maggots.”

“This isn’t war; it’s an extermination.”

Mood: hungry
Music: Atari Teenage Riot – Paranoid