Mon, 04 Jul 2005

Warren and I went to see War of the Worlds on Saturday. I was curious to see how they would handle the ending. I assume everyone is familiar with the resolution of the novel, but just in case, I won’t reveal it. Suffice it to say, it’s a bit of an anticlimax.

The anticlimax fits with the original story, which is a parable of humility. Wells was writing at a time when Darwin’s theories were new and still controversial, and I’m sure he thought it would be a valuable lesson to show humankind deposed from its centrality in God’s creation. He’s careful not to make the Martians evil, exactly; it’s only that they’re as indifferent to causing us pain as we are to the lower animals. In the end, nothing humans do can stop the invaders, and we’re only preserved through an accident of the same natural selection that has brought us low.

So the question re Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is: Does he keep the original, anticlimactic ending? And if so, how does he dramatise it? Or, does he come up with a brand new, more crowd-pleasing ending – and turn the movie into “Independence Day II”?

I think either solution would be unsatisfying, and I won’t ruin it for anybody by revealing his decision. I’ll only say that, yup, it’s unsatisfying. The rest of the movie is pretty good. The alien war machines are scary as hell, and though it would have been more fun to see them rampaging through Wells’ original Victorian England, rather than modern day New Jersey, I suppose that would have tripled the cost of the film. Imagine the challenge of fitting every screaming extra with a top hat. And bustles for the ladies. And those bicycles with the big front wheels. It all adds up.

Peter Jackson is remaking King Kong, with Naomi Watts and Jack Black, and he’s chosen to set it in the 1930s. I’m jazzed about it. But I have a fearful premonition that, like Sky Captain, it will be a huge flop. Young moviegoers don’t care for period movies. I think they find the costumes and accents weird and confusing. And it’s difficult to cast rappers and pro wrestlers in starring roles.

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