War of the Worlds

Not recommended. Another humanistic epic that destroys transcendence and in so doing, destroys the goodness that makes a movie a fulfilling story. First of all, the FX are fantastic, but ultimately empty because they are so devoid of “human” quality making this on the level of those old old flying saucer movies of just big robots killing and destroying everything. Well, that gets boring real quick without the personal element of the aliens explored. The most interesting part of the movie was the sole scene where aliens come down and the heros are hiding out underneath their noses. But then this scene accomplishes nothing for the story and tells us really nothing about the aliens. Compare this to the brilliant “personal” intimacy of Alien, and it falls like a sack of potatoes. I must say though that Spielberg is a brilliant mythologist. He knows how to create mythos like nobody else. One one level, this story reminds me of his rendition of Kubrick’s A.I. It is very boring and impersonal, but it is very mythologically deep. Like A.I. this is a quest of someone who discovers his humanity through the existential experience of seeking a goal (bringing the children back to their mom and “home” – in A.I. it was finding his maker) and staying alive. Existentialism. On the other hand, also like A.I. it’s a quest in a meaningless universe. Do you see the pattern here in Spielberg? Let me explain. First of all, it is based on a novel by the humanist socialist, H.G. Wells, who was also a materialist. And it stays true to the overarching essential premise that the aliens are unstoppable and the only way they lose is because of their biological unfitness. They are killed by the common bacteria that as the movie says, “humans have earned the right to survive from because of billions of death,” or our rights based on our immunity. Biology is destiny. Simple minded evolutionism, naïve reductionism, diabolical humanism. Cruise is the humanist hero who is rather anti-heroic in that he has no courage other than to survive by running, and he never changes, never wavers from that goal, and in fact turns out to be an insipid, boring, and coward, not a hero. His son was more heroic, willing to fight the evil, and yet he ends up accomplishing nothing. This of course illustrates that it was foolish to try to fight, the major theme of the film. But the only reason he doesn’t die is Spielberg’s commitment to Hollywood endings. You can’t have the kid die, the family has to get together in the end. I’ll talk more about this in a minute, that I think it contradicts the humanism he is trying to preach, which evidences that in his heart of hearts, he is driven by the knowledge of truth, but is struggling against it in his ideology, or as Christians like to point out, his sin nature that suppresses the knowledge of God. Anyway, this happy Hollywood ending is not insipid or unrealistic as naïve realists (who are actually undercover nihilists) claim. It is actually the inherent understanding of Eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it. The pointing toward an ultimate righting of the all the wrongs in the universe, the eschaton of Final Judgement that is inherently embedded into creation. Happy endings in storytelling or art do not point to happy endings in this life, but to the ultimate eucatastrophic happy ending promised by God. It is God’s image in man that makes him long for such happy endings and in fact makes story telling unsatisfying that does not in some reflect at least a hinting towards it. So back to humanist. It is no coincidence that Spielberg has a church be the big dramatic building that crashes to the ground first when the giant alien robot explodes out of the ground. In this humanistic view, religion is the first to go with the triumphalism of scientific materialism. And then the reduction of people to masses of foolish herds trying to survive and turning on each other shows that humanity cannot rescue itself, we don’t have the goodness to do so. Actually, I concur with this, though not for the same reasons as the humanist suggests, that we are the products of billions of years of such arbitrary death and destruction and through such dying those who survive are the strongest, not the righteous. Then, the big “message” sequence is when Cruise and his daughter are holed up in a basement with a survival nut who believes in resistance, played by Tim Robbins. This is the man who says that we must not run and flee, but fight and resist. And of course he is a crazy. And his hopes are ultimately shown to be foolishly naïve, thinking that he can hide and then get the jump on the aliens, and then he is digging a tunnel with a shovel saying they will have underground tunnels to live in and resist the aliens, when of course he won’t get but 10 feet with his little shovel. It’s all to show that resistance is futile. Now, here are some interesting contradictions that I don’t think Spielberg is even aware of. Here is a man who made Schindler’s List, who supports a just war in Saving Private Ryan (although it’s a bit deconstructed, but that’s another story). Here is a Jewish man who is haunted by his people being the victims of one of the worst atrocities of genocide and now he makes a movie that suggest the opposite of his other movies. Fighting great impossible evil is foolish. So, what if the French Resistance didn’t fight back against the Nazis? What if the US didn’t fight against the juggernaut of imperialist Axis of Evil in WWII? And he makes obvious holocaust references with the revelation that the aliens are “exterminating” humans, and then he has a mist of blood in the air that is based on the using of humans as energy and spitting out the excess blood, an obvious reference to the snowflakes of ashes created by Nazi crematoriums. YET, I think War of the Worlds suggests that fighting great evil is futile. Thank God our ancestors did not believe such tripe. Thank God for the Bravehearts of this world. This mixed message is further complicated when we see Cruise ending up in Boston at a statue of Paul Revere or some other Founding Father coated with the alien vines, another obvious reference to freedom from tyranny. It made me think of the superiority of Independence Day, which played like a political tract out of the American Revolution itself, but so what, it used the mythology of that Revolution in a creative entertaining way and validated that humanity is at its greatest when it won’t stand for evil, no matter how impossible the odds. This is greatness, this is courage, this is humanness as it should be, which is why Independence Day blows War of the Worlds away. Because Independence Day was transcendent and touched that seed of truth, that image of God in all of us. Yes, history is littered with failed attempts to stop evil, but it has FAR MORE successes against impossible odds that prove not that you will always win, but that it is worth it to die trying, something the self destruction of the Tim Robbins crazy character tries to disprove. But verrrrrrry interesting that Tom Cruise KILLS that character to try to protect himself and his child. Now this is surely one of the most abominable choices in the movie. Think of the political implications of such reasoning in the modern war on terror (And that’s what this movie is about, let’s face it. Spielberg hinted at this in a Reuters article: “There are politics underneath some of the scares, and some of the adventure and some of the fear,”, the machines being planted underneath us and then “awakened” is an obvious analogy of sleeper terrorist cells). So this idea of Cruise killing the Robbins kook is an act of violence and hatred against those who believe in fighting tyranny. The hypocrisy is so staggering that it makes you hate the hero, it turns him into an unsympathetic hero. Not because he killed the guy to protect himself but because he was a pacifist seeking to stay alive and run and not fight back who kills his own people while avoiding fighting the true evil. Pacifists who will kill Patriots, like animal rights people who hate humans and would kill them before they would an animal, or environmentalists who would destroy humanity to save the environment. So the Cruise character just illustrates what’s wrong with the humanistic liberal hero, he is unsympathetic and cowardly, and uninteresting. I also find it interesting that America is always criticized as being imperialist in its origins, that Europeans marched into the New World and brought their diseases that wiped out the poor innocent indigents. But in this movie, by giving victory to those who are biologically more equipped to survive, Spielberg unwittingly justifies Europe’s taking over the New World. The Indians just weren’t evolutionarily prepared, tough luck, baby, only the most adaptable survive. Ah, the monstrosity of evolutionary humanism. Unsatisfying. My personal motto: Ideas have consequences, folks. Ideas have consequences.