Spielberg Declares War

Like the towering extraterrestrial machines that ravish planet Earth in H.G. Wells’ 1898 sci-fi masterpiece, The War of the Worlds, director Steven Spielberg’s big-screen adaptation has arrived to demolish all box office contenders. The visual effects extravaganza opens today and aims to jumpstart the flagging summer movie season and send a certain caped crusader back to the Batcave.

War of the Worlds stars Scientology poster boy Tom Cruise as dockworker Ray Ferrier, whose weekend with his kids turns into a nightmare as New Jersey is besieged by an alien threat. The cast also includes child actor de jour Dakota Fanning and the always interesting Tim Robbins, but the real star is the extensive visual effects work completed by Industrial Light & Magic under vfx supervisor Pablo Helman (Star Wars: Episodes I and II, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines). Helman previously worked with Spielberg as a compositing supervisor on The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Marking Spielberg’s third theatrical blockbuster about visitors from another planet, War of the Worlds takes a complete 180-degree turn from 1977’s optimistic Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 1982’s cuddly E.T. the Extraterrestrial. This latest all-too-close encounter reflects our post-9/11 paranoia and explores the more frightening possibilities of alien visitation, which Spielberg flirted with in Taken, the 2002 SCI FI Channel mini-series he produced. Fanning also stared in that project.

Released by DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, War of the Worlds will go unchallenged in its opening frame, but 20th Century Fox is hoping moviegoers will take another look at Star Wars: Episode III–Revenge of the Sith over the long Fourth of July weekend. The studio is offering one free admission with the purchase of three tickets. Next week, Fox will dare to take on Spielberg’s juggernaut with the latest comic-book superhero adaptation, Fantastic Four.