Why is War Of The Worlds (the book) any good. Tom points out the catastrophist nature of it here, and it is this which has been regularly cited. The Orson Welles radio drama is never lauded for its exciting plot developments or ending, but more for the suckers who panicked and took it to be an actual invasion. This piece of radio history is important: it marked the first nail in the coffin of media trust. But not because anyone listened to the end.

War Of The Worlds is based on a trick. A pretty good trick, both radio and book, but both tricks you cannot do again. The radio version fooled people that it was reality. The book points out man’s hubris: that mankind can do nothing to stop these creatures, but bacteria can. Problem is, when you know the trick, you won’t be fooled again. Maybe it does not hurt to know the ending of a film before you go in (maybe – hmm) but if you know that the characters you are watching will have zero effect on the ending then the watching becomes curiously dislocated.

So I go into the cinema of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds with a heavy heart. Not because they did not show it to reviewers. If anything this might be because they may have a trick of their own. A completely different plot to Wells? It would certainly be consistent with the history of WOTW. A few more tricks? But there is only one trick that would have really worked, and a trick that the casting of Tom Cruise ruled out. The only way to have made War Of The Worlds anything more than diverting would have been to have killed off Cruises character in the first half hour.

This is not just a dislike of TC coming to the fore. Consider it. This film is predicated on the unstoppable alien force ultimately being stopped by something not made by man. All we know about it is Tom Cruise is in it. Hence, unstoppabg machine kills “hero”, who turns out not to be hero cos the little guys (bacteria) did the job for him*.

Instead we got a tedious film where Cruise is a rubbish Dad who comes through, and no-one he knows dies. Some catastrophe. The film tries to show what invasion is like to the ordinary man, but Cruise is not an ordinary man EVEN WHEN HE IS PLAYING ONE. This is clearly the case even in WOTW because despite acting like a knob all the way throught he film, his family still survives. And he gets to kill an alien: Yah-boo sucks! As did War Of The Worlds.

*This kind of plot twist was attempted by the film Executive Decision, which bumps off Steven Seagal** in the first twenty minutes. Executive Decision fails because who is left also includes another action movie hero: Kurt Russell, who despite wearing glasses, is clearly the macho goto guy).

**One of Stevenb Seagal’s next roles is the wonderfully titled Cock Puncher in the Untitled Onion Movie Project. I assume an Area Man Is Eagerly Awaiting it, if no-one else is.