War of the Worlds
Ah, that Spielberg feeling. You know, the hollow, gypped one you get when America’s Greatest Director tackles something horrifically monumental—slavery, the Holocaust, whatever—only to use his gold-standard skills to achieve maximum audience manipulation while ultimately serving up a thematically dishonest, seriousness-negating finale. Here, Steve does Sept. 11, as towering alien tripods attack earth. With exuberant fanboy nicks from two 1953 flicks—George Pal’s version of War of the Worlds and William Cameron Menzies’ Invaders From Mars—Spielberg relentlessly rips at his audience’s anxiety responses with his fave 9/11 images: pulverized building-powdered faces, litter wafting down from on high, Tom Cruise, as a Jersey longshoreman, and daughter Dakota Fanning wandering the wreckage of a 747, and more. While screenwriters David Koepp and Josh Friedman keep H.G. Wells’ notion of empire impotence in the face of native insurgency, Spielberg is mainly interested in his FX and a horseshit homily about self-sacrifice entailing no actual personal loss. See instead Land of the Dead for an apocalypse with a brain, heart, and some fucking moral propriety.