Despite "War of the Worlds" being, as A. O. Scott put it, "so last week," it’s still generating some interesting rumblings over at Slate. Timothy Noah finds himself, surprisingly, taking umbrage at Spielberg’s undeniable 9/11 references scattered through the film:
"War of the Worlds" is not a movie about 9/11. It isn’t even, really, an allegory about 9/11…Tapping the audience’s memories of the 9/11 attacks injects a frisson of real-world suffering that’s completely unearned. The movie lacks any construct elucidating further parallels between
9/11 and the imaginary invasion of Bayonne, N.J., by space aliens. The
9/11 trope has no meaning. It’s merely an elbow in the side, reminding
the audience of that day’s awful events.
This was the impression we were getting from the reviews (we haven’t seen it yet â€” oh, turn your judging eyes away!) but very few out there seemed to find Spielberg’s apparent lazy attempt to add heft to a summer blockbuster as obnoxious as it seemed to us. David Edelstein has a reply:
The film does evoke 9/11: in the gray ash that covers the hero after the first attack, the posters of the missing, the incomprehension of the populace, the presence of the shipsâ€”reminiscent of sleeper cellsâ€”underground. What I don’t get is why this elicits outrage. Forgive me: I thought moviesâ€”even big-budget summer moviesâ€”were supposed to confront national traumas. And I don’t find even a whiff of exploitation in Spielberg’s treatment.
He goes on to cite the long history of science fiction alluding to social issues, concentrating on "Godzilla," which, he points out, "a respectable body of criticsâ€”myself among themâ€”consider…a haunting
depiction, by the Japanese themselves, of the trauma of Hiroshima and
Okay, fair enough. The best sci-fi/horror has always evoked larger social themes. We’re just not seeing the connection being drawn between 9/11 and the events of "WotW," other than that they both concern being under attack. Spielberg is too smart to draw parallels between the aliens and terrorists (because, ouch), and, as horrible as the 9/11 attacks were, the fears they generated really don’t merit the operatic mass destruction that takes place during the film, even as a metaphoric equivalent. It strikes us more that the references were thrown in because Spielberg felt that he couldn’t make a movie that laid to waste whole cities without some nod to the fact that, not so long ago, we watched the buildings come down, again and again, in the real world.