I really wanted to love War of the Worlds. I did. The problem is, it was too well-promoted for me to expect anything less than a classic film. Therein, I was disappointed. Maybe if I'd read the book, I'd have been aware of how it ends and so not left gaping at the screen with an "Uh?" expression on my face. When I say "ends", I mean "cuts off". Finito, done, dusted, over. Like a guillotine through the film's tape. A quick explanation, then rolling credits. You think "hmm...ok." Then you think about the film, and you think about Tom Cruise's character.
“Hey, let’s drive our stolen minivan through that enormous throng of desperate pedestrians -- that sure won’t cause us any hardship!”
“Y’know, since those multiple, unstoppable, fast-approaching death machines are mercilessly attacking us, let’s all climb aboard this extremely vulnerable ferryboat -- they’ll never catch us then!”
“Gee, let’s all scuffle about behind this 48-inch tall antique mirror -- then that persistent, evil, well-lighted camera-sensor-tentacle thingy certainly won’t notice us!”
Come on. Spielberg can do decent sci-fi. Close Encounters (a little over-rated) and Minority Report proved that. So instead of turning a thoughtful science fiction novel (albeit with the same lax ending) into a schmaltzy treatise about parenting, why not give the audience something less sickly to get engrossed in? Independence Day worked because it was a) cheesy, b) fun and c) mixed them both with decent thrills. WOTW takes itself way too seriously, and as such, loses a lot of credibility.
Batman Begins, on the other hand, is superb. Every detail, from Christian Bale's brooding hero to Liam Neeson's morality-choked villain, via Gary Oldman's superb playing-against-type Sergeant Gordon, is fantastic. Like Michael Keaton, Bale has the quirkiness to fit the role - something that Kilmer and Clooney's pretty-but-empty presences lacked. Even the plot was a lot more plausible, albeit very similar to the original film's chemical shenanigans. And despite the fact that Christopher "Memento" Nolan rewrote Wayne's parent/Joker link, the film still works. Something that works in favour of the film is the way all the science is explained. Bruce Wayne isn't an invulnerable superhero, he's a guy that kicks ass purely because he put himself in situations where he got beaten up and had to defend himself. He doesn't have awesome technology just lying around, it's been taken from the scientific research department of his company and manufactured to fit his alter-ego and funded by his vast wealth. Most films expect you to assume this no questions asked...that's why this film is different, and therefore a little bit special.
Here's hoping the Bale/Nolan partnership continues for many films to come.