We’d hate to think that this summer’s 800-pound gorilla, "War of the Worlds," will now take over as the stuff of much cultural analysis â€” it just looks too bland (c’mon, you’ve thought the same). And we’re hardly done with the oddity that is "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" yet! (After much thought, we’ve figured out what the film reminds us of â€” that episode of "Daria" where, forced to do a reading at a cafe, she picks an over-the-top story about a femme fatale-ish secret agent that manages to whip the crowd into an anti-Communist fervor â€” Liman seems to be straddling that same manipulating the audience/flipping off the audience line.)
Spielberg kicks things off at the Tokyo "WotW" premiere by pointing out that he’s done fantastical and benign aliens, adorable, stuffed figurine-worthy aliens, and enimatic, micromanaging aliens, but that now, the time is finally ripe once again for destructive, apocalyptic aliens.
The British press indulge themselves a bit, looking back at H. G. Wells’ original novel, written in a turn-of-the-century England that was racing towards a new age of industrialization. At the Observer, Peter Conrad also finds now an ideal time to revisit Wells’ themes of aliens practicing the same conquest and colonization England has practiced on the rest of the world.
For Spielberg’s screenwriter David Koepp, the story trips up that triumphal civilisation. His Martians, he claims, are merely conducting the belligerent foreign policy of the US, even though this time they happen to be stomping into New York. What stops the armoured, insensitive global power is ‘a local insurgency’; the film, he says, is his commentary on the Iraq war.
Over at the Independent, Jeff Wayne, the composer of 1978’s musical-as-concept-album version of "WotW" (now being rereleased), talks about his love for the novel, why it endures today (and how the idea of alien invasion was far more frightening and foreign to the original audiences back in Victorian England), and the story’s newest incarnation, in which, he points out, "they left the ‘The’ off the title, even though HG conceived it as the definitive war of all." Of course, since 1898 there’s been plenty to change our concept of "the definitive war of all" as well.