July 5, 2005

Have you seen "War of the Worlds"?

Chris (my 22 year old son) just saw it and gives it the highest praise. Dialogue:
ME: Does it connect with political stuff -- the war on terror...?

CHRIS: Yes, because it's set in the present day, and at one point the little girl asks, "Are they terrorists?"

ME: So, is it left wing?

CHRIS: No.

ME: Is it right wing?

CHRIS: I don't think it's right wing, because the people who made it are probably liberals, but I think right wing people could really get into it. If you're really into the war on terrorism, you could probably get into it as symbolic of the war on terrorism, because it shows the American military trying to fight against the aliens, and it has a teenage son who wants to join the American military in the fight against the aliens.

ME: And he's a positive character?

CHRIS: Yeah, he's the main son... he's Tom Cruise's son.

ME (noticeably typing): Is there anything else you'd like to say?

CHRIS: It's a real experience to watch the movie.

ME: That's what you want to say "it's a real experience to watch the movie"?

CHRIS: Yeah. I saw it on the Ultra-Screen and I was sitting pretty close to the front, so it was like an IMAX.
Also, we discussed the negative Roger Ebert review, and I speculated that Ebert marked it down because he picked up a right wing vibe.

34 comments:

Brendan said...

Ebert a left-winger?? Er, yes, I've picked up on that myself.

http://delbocavista.blogspot.com/2005/02/roger-ebert-movie-moron.html

Mark said...

So the Left wants to appease, as usual, and the Right wants to kick ass?

Irene Done said...

I didn't get the political overtone at all. There's a definite family message, but is that righty-ish? And yes, the girl asks if the attackers are the terrorists, but isn't it realistic that that's her frame of reference?

I saw Ebert's comments on his show and I think his reaction was the same as mine--underwhelmed The aliens and tripods weren't awesome and the teenage son is the only interesting character.

Maybe the bar was too high.

Timothy K. Morris said...

I think Ebert had a problem because he is a pretty hard core S-F fan and Spielberg has produced a movie that, well, isn't.

On the other hand, if he'd seen the truly unbelievable version produced by Pendragon Pictures (English company) and released direct to DVD to coincide with the premiere of the Spielberg flick, well, he might have been a lot happier with Spielberg's interpretation.

Kathleen B. said...

Honestly, if anyone picks up a right-wing vibe from this movie, then he must also get right-wing vibes from his Cheerios.

I liked Ebert's review, and I don't see how anything he said could possibly be interpreted as unhappiness due to some imaginary right wing vibe.

And if anyone honestly thinks that if aliens arrive on Earth and start blasting everything in sight that liberals are going to be arguing for dialogue while the conservatives would be shouldering some rifles for battle, then I can only laugh at you.

now maybe if you were arguing that the right wing would continue to fire useless missles at the aliens force shield, while the lefties infiltrated the machines with land mines and grenades so that they could actually destroy them, then that would make some sense.

for every crazy "leftie" you could point to who would want "appeasement" I will introduce you to a crazy right wing nut job who thinks the aliens are sent by God to cleanse this sinful world because of porn and vegetarians. Let's try to live in the real world.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: His attitude toward a movie may be influenced by factors that don't appear in the text of the review. I'm sure they are in fact.

And I think a liberal alien movie would be "Close Encounters" or "E.T." -- to name to Spielberg movies that someone like Ebert would compare this to. In those two movies, the good people tried to understand the aliens and the bad people came in with the military. We in the audience always knew that the military solution was wrong in those earlier films.

Kathleen B. said...

Prof Althouse: but in those movies, the aliens didn't show up and immediately start killing everyone. That is the key difference. If you are saying that liberals don't kill first, and conservatives do, then maybe so. But you can't compare reactions in those movies, and say that it says something about liberalism=appeasement.

TigerHawk said...

We saw it on Saturday night, and I thought it was an excellent summertime monster thriller. However, in taking our 10-year old, who is quite the cynical veteran of PG-13 movies, we earning the "bad parents" award. Like my daughter, the stalked and terrified little girl in the movie is about 10, blonde, blue-eyed, loves horses, etc. Tears were had.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: You seem to be conveniently failing to notice that this -- and E.T. and Close Encounters -- are works of fiction. The set-up is chosen. Even if it's true in real life that everyone with any sense at all will respond in self-defense in certain dire situations, a movie maker with a liberal message will shape the setting so that the understanding and dialogue solution is really the best.

Kathleen B. said...

His attitude toward a movie may be influenced by factors that don't appear in the text of the review. I'm sure they are in fact.

this may indeed be true, the problem is - I have no way of knowing, and no way of reading Mr. Ebert's mind (or anyone else's). thus, I prefer to review what someone says and then critique it based upon its own merits, not on whatever speculation I can come up with about what was in his mind or whatever unnamed factors were influencing him, but do not appear in the written text. I mean, maybe he had really scary nightmares about aliens as a child, or he has a secret passion for Tom Cruise, or he hates Boston and was sad that people there survived. All of those things could be influencing his review as well.

Ann Althouse said...

And I prefer to speculate about underlying motives.

Kathleen B. said...

Even if it's true in real life that everyone with any sense at all will respond in self-defense in certain dire situations, a movie maker with a liberal message will shape the setting so that the understanding and dialogue solution is really the best.

and a movie maker with a conservative message will shape the setting so that violence is the correct response?

if that is really the argument, then War of the Worlds is liberal after all, because the aliens are *not* defeated by violence, but by nature, which seems an obvious "left wing" message to me.

price said...

The movie, at least for the first hour, is one of the most thorough on-screen nightmares put to film. It's a holocaust movie, basically. Visuals are lifted directly out of "Night and Fog" and 911 news footage. I found the film fairly admirable in how non-partisan it is, and it always appeals to me when someone can demonstrate how unimportant politics ultimately are.

price said...

Incidentally, I don't think Ebert has ever given a bad review to a Jennifer Lopez film, including The Cell. He comes across kinda horny in a lot of his reviews. Biased he's not.

Drethelin said...

I thought it was neither right-wing nor left wing. Ideology just seemed to melt away in the face of horrid disaster. People trying to go about things the stereotypical right wing way (with violence and combat) failed horribly, but it was very obvious that any sort of diplomacy would've failed just as badly.

Slac said...

I just finished a summer course in Philosophy of Art and Beauty. Peculiarly, instead of looking at art in a different way, now I look at art reviews in a different way.

Just a heads up for anyone thinking about learning Aesthetics. You get really picky about other people's reviews, so much that you might not even notice it.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: excellent point.

chronicler said...

I have already seen it twice! It is the first movie in twenty years that has really scared the heck out of me! That was the first hour. I could realy have done without the lengthy crazy man in the basement parts, but it had to show the aliens searching for food... I enjoyed it immensely. Political or not.

DB said...

I thought the film felt empty. It wasn't the right or left elements but the biological determinism of the whole thing that left me cold.

Scipio said...

Haven't had the pleasure of seeing it yet, but last night on TCM there was an interesting show about aliens in the movies, featuring Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg, and Spielberg was quite frank about how WotW was a departure from his generally hopeful, left-wing alien movies of the past, viz. E.T. and Close Encounters. They also talked about the many great alien movies of the 1950s.

I got broed, though, and went back to watching the Babylon 5 Season 1 DVDs. Much better, IMHO, than any Spielbergian alien movie.

Freeman Hunt said...
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L. Ron Halfelven said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but I hope all the talk about political messages is true-- if only for the irony of someone's using an H.G. Wells story to promote a right-wing message.

HaloJonesFan said...

My thought: I think that a lot of people went in expecting an uplifting science-fiction movie, ending with human creativity and tenacity triumphing over seemingly-impossible odds. Instead, they got a grim disaster movie, with a few survivors emerging from the shattered ruins after the danger has passed as quickly as it came.

Kathleen B. said...

Freeman Hunt: "leftists" wanted appeasement of the Nazis? leftists like FDR and Harry Truman? nice try.

and the fact that you think that right wing nuttery is not prominent in current conservative ideology leads me to think that you have not even been paying attention to what has been going on. let's think of Terri Schiavo for a moment.

Freeman Hunt said...
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Kathleen B. said...

you are so right, what Bush and Co. are doing vis a vis North Korea is working so much better.

re: USSR, let's try another leftist, JFK - there is someone who favored appeasement. It was so great the way he tried to appease the Soviets in the Cuban Missle Crisis.

"Disagreements over what constitutes a living will and the legalities of living wills" - that is what the basis of the Schiavo controversy was???? I think not. but I admire your whitewashing attempts.

and let's look at all the right wingers have blamed AIDS on God's wrath against homosexuals. or the Catholic Church's pedophilia crisis on Harvard. nice company you are keeping.

Ernst Blofeld said...

I don't think it was right or left wing, but Spielberg did have a patriotic element. Towards the end a statue of a Minuteman is lovingly panned. And the military is portrayed in a positive light. One hopes that that doesn't exclude the Left.

The visuals and the especially the sound design were striking. He's a fine technician, but not much of a thinker.

Mark said...

Kathleen - it took about one minute on Google to find left-wingers who blame AIDS on a Jewish conspiracy to eliminate the black race. Do you consider that a more or less reasonable theory than the "all the right wingers" one.

Kathleen B. said...

well, you must have a better google search ability than I do, but taking your statement as true, the answer is: of course not. that is obviously equally insane and wrong.

The point I am making is that singling out extremists to make a political statement about the other side is not useful, will backfire, and does not further any reasonable discourse that we all *should* want.

for example, responding to an interesting post about War of the Worlds with "so the Left wants to appease as usual" is moronic and embarassing.

Mark said...

Kathleen - good answer. My appeasers comment was just a smartass remark. Take a chill pill. Unless you're the appointed defender of left wing honor...

R. Rapp said...

Funny, I saw the film and assumed it had a mild left-wing tilt, with Tim Robbins' line about "Occupations never work. History has taught us that a thousand times." I took it as a follow-up to the "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line from Star Wars that everyone was worked up about.

I completely disagree with Ebert. I really enjoyed the movie. And I especially enjoyed John William's music.

Kathleen B. said...

in the current climate of "liberal=traitor" I admit that I come down hard on those I see making that kind of comment. Sorry for over-reacting in your case, Mark.

Robert R. said...

I saw the movie recently as well. Honestly, it's not really political either way, although there are definitely political touchstones.

For the right, the initial attack echoes 9/11 especially with people getting turned to ash by the heat rays and the ash settling over the survivors. The military is also portrayed in a positive light. And there's a definite pro-family edge.

OTOH, Wells' allegory is about a superpower getting defeated by their arrogance. There are lines about failed occupations, the son is doing a paper on the French in Algeria at the start of the movie in addition to the basement sequence. And, one of the war machines is brought down by a "suicide bomber" type attack. And some of the mob scenes turn quite ugly, people don't always pull together in a time of crisis.

There are some political points to discuss, but at the end of the day it's a story about aliens invading and causing massive damage. And, for the first 2/3rds, it's gripping and thrilling.

DrZorba said...

Simple: Martians on earth = Bush2 and his band of crazies invading Iraq.

Like Tim Robbins says, "No occupying force ever succeeded in maintaining power." And neither do the Martians - or whateverthehell they are.