June 28, 2005, - 12:05 pm

“War of the Worlds” Spielberg-esque Message: Don’t Fight Terror

By Debbie Schlussel
I’m violating Steven Spielberg’s review policy for “War of the Worlds” and telling you what I think ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled release date. I saw the movie at a press screening, last night, and was disturbed by the message: Don’t fight terror, and everything will work out. (In contrast, Spielberg definitely fights for his own interests. Security was literally tighter than that for going to the White House to meet the President. No purses allowed. Three wandings by security.)
It’s bad enough that Steven Spielberg is adding “balance” and factual inaccuracy to the story of the Israeli Mossad’s efforts to assassinate terrorists who killed Israeli Olympic athletes–in his upcoming film, “Vengeance” (I’ve detailed that ). It’s bad enough that his message in “Vengeance” is that fighting terrorists and killing them is bad and doesn’t work. But his similar message in “War of the Worlds” is arguably worse–because the movie, with fantastic special effects, is likely to be one of his bigger hits.
Spielberg said “War of the Worlds” is a parallel for 9/11 and serves as a “prism” through which to view 9/11, the War on Terror, and our presence in Iraq. The movie makes that very clear. People running from exploding and falling buildings, walls and kiosks covered with “missing” signs and pictures for those looking for lost relatives, people giving blood — these are all 9/11 references.
But the message is: Don’t fight terrorism. It will miraculously go away if you leave it alone and it breaths our air and culture. Puh-leeze.
SPOILER ALERT: Not a big spoiler, but stop reading here, if you don’t want to know about a part of the movie.
Soldiers, with their tanks, hummers, and assorted weapons are wasting their time fighting the alien terrorists. Their hummers come back empty and on fire.

For a significant part of the movie, Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) and his daughter are holed up in an old basement with Ogilvy (Tim Robbins). Robbins’ character wants to fight the outer-space invaders or at least die trying. Ray doesn’t want to. He just wants to be silent and wait it out. Because he and Ogilvy are at odds over the strategy to fight the alien terrorists, Ray murders Ogilvy. And magically, the invaders eventually die and go away at the end of the film because, as narrator Morgan Freeman says, they could not handle the bad things in our air, our environment, our culture. Our “spirit” won out over them.
But “spirit” alone does not beat terrorists. Fighting them does. And that involves going on the offense. Terrorists don’t just give up and disappear. They are not aliens who can’t handle our air. Hello? They live among us–they’re of the same species.
Screenwriter David Koepp says, “Certainly, there are a lot of political undertones and overtones. The political tones of this movie will emerge for themselves. In the ’50s, ‘War of the Worlds’ was, ‘My God, the commies are coming to get us.’ Now it’s about fear of terrorism. In other parts of the world, the new movie will be fear of American invasion. It will be clearly about the Iraq war for them,” Koepp told the Chicago Sun-Times.
This outrageous statement is the Hollywood thinking. Yes, we evil Americans are like the murderous aliens in “War of the Worlds” to the people of Iraq. Forget about guys like Capt. Jon Powers, 27, who spent 420 days in Iraq, but instead of going home after he left the Army, is still there–on a mission to help the street children and orphans of Baghdad. In contrast, there are no kind aliens in Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds.”
Then, there is Tim Robbins. His character, Ogilvy, says occupations “never succeed … . local insurgencies always bring you down.” Gee there’s no agenda there, right? Isn’t this the same Tim Robbins, universal sensitive man and girlfriend to Susan Sarandon, who has tiraded against Bush and the War on Terror everywhere that will have him (excluding Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame, thankfully)? Why, yes, it is.
Robbins says the movie’s message is “how any kind of terror can change a peace-loving person in an instant.” So now we are “war-mongers” because we’ve chosen to fight terrorism, instead of giving in to it, like the lucky idiots, a la Tom Cruise, in this movie?
That’s exactly what Spielberg, Robbins, and their “War of the Worlds” want you to think. Ignore terrorism. Don’t fight it. Stop being so “militant,” and it will go away.

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16 Responses

Well Debbie,..
It pays to do a little research, and with the story, “The War of the Worlds” having been written over 100 years ago, you don’t have an excuse here. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Heck, even the first adaptation of the book is more than 50 years old (George Pal’s War of the Worlds), not to mention the notorious radio play by the same name, orchestrated by the great Orson Welles in 1938.
Spielberg has no such message here — “Don’t fight terrorism”, as you assert. You are as uninformed here as any knee-jerk liberal out there. Writer David Koepp adapted the novel by H. G. Wells, who wrote the book as an allegory for British imperialism.
Orson Wells and his Mercury Theatre hurriedly put the radio play together, never anticipating the response — “The night that panicked America” — in the foreshadows of World War II. Producer George Pal based his movie very loosely on the book and tied it into cold war paranoia.
I’m no fan of Spielberg beyond his movie making, story-telling abilities. But he has said repeatedly in interviews all over the web that this novel is something he has wanted to do since college and he tried to do it about 10 to 12 years ago — long before 9/11. He and the writers stayed very true to the book, written long before Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War I.
In Spielberg’s, Pal’s and Wells’ productions, the terror comes in and dies out in much the same way. Author Welles’ point was that man is not always the solution to his problems, hinting more at divine intervention than international resolve in his story.
If anything, Spielberg will leave a lot of movie-goers walking away, relating very much to the character Tom Cruise plays and asking themselves, “Am I that much of a jerk?” “What would I do for my family in a crisis?” “Am I going to stay like that?”
Maybe someone will come away seeing a renewed importance of family and personal responsibility, something Spielberg has talked about here in interviews. Yes, he admits he “borrowed the world” and has deliberately set these events in the shadows and fears from 9/11 (as Pal did with the cold war and Wells with World War I/II). Good for him — he made it that much more real and sister, it works.
And as for it being a ‘prism’ in which we view 9/11 and Iraq, etc., it is. So is Batman Begins — someone wanting to do something about injustice. And then there’s the prism of Bewitched — we can try to remake/rebuild something, and in the process, we find something there we didn’t expect.
(I could go on, but I won’t, lest we fall into “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”)
Sure, Spielberg and his ilk are big libs. I know that, and it’s easy, even tempting to plunge his motives into the barrel of “liberal bias” when it comes to this film. Me, I’m just going for the production values.
So please. Enjoy the movies for what they are. As Dan Quayle once quipped to Al Gore: “Al, you can’t believe everything you watch on TV…” likewise, you should be careful in interpretting what you see in the movies.
In this case, you just plain blew it, and I trust you’ll correct yourself to fend off further embarrassment.
Nashville, TN
Movie Info:
1953: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046534/
2005: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407304/
Radio play info:

Jodeo on June 28, 2005 at 2:55 pm

Can’t you just watch a movie to be entertained? Jesus, you analyze every piece of pop-culture to see how the artist would fight Islamofascists. Just watch it for the explosions. Save the analysis for a George W. Bush speech.
You’re hot, though.

mxmat2 on June 28, 2005 at 3:39 pm

Instead of “Seven Degrees to Kevin Bacon”, lets call it “Six Degrees of Separation to Al-Qaida”. 🙂
Debbie, I think articles like this show that you could use a good vacation; relax and chill this weekend, girl; stop seeing the War on Terrorism in everything (something it appears you do more of lately); it’s mostly just a modernized remake of a classic H.G. Wells novel that has been turned into a movie, as Jodeo said, one can make any movie seem like a 9/11 analogy, Bewitched, Batman Begins, etc.
But that much said, I don’t think you’re completely off-base in your analysis either. Again as Jodeo said, the director of the 1953 film admittedly he saw the movie as a parable of the Cold War, so in this sense why couldn’t this be a parable of 9/11 even if it is a classic?
And to simply say it can’t at least partially be a parable of the director’s liberal bias, etc. because it was written 100+ years ago just isn’t true either. A lot of things are different in this movie. First off, as you would expect, it is set in our time, so there will be things like cars, computers, etc. that wouldn’t have been in the HG Wells novel. But it’s setting is different too; instead of a town in central New Jersey, the aliens now land in Connecticut and eventually take over a good chunk of the Northeast. So it could be re-written with a hidden agenda.
Personally, I can’t wait this weekend to see all the shoot-em-up action and won’t worry about any political agenda. Have a Happy 4th!!!!

hairymon on June 28, 2005 at 6:59 pm

I guess what everyone else said so far is, “Debbie, will you quit making us think and let us enjoy our brainwashing?”
I would like to just “relax and be entertained”, but whose fault is that? Didn’t any of you check out the links Debbie provided in her article? Speilberg and his fellow Hollyweird lefties obviously have an agenda and I’m glad there are people like Ms. Schlussel providing awareness.
FWIW, I’ll pass on this movie as I think Spielberg is overrated and Cruise plays Mr. Earnest, Sincere “I want the truth!” Tom Cruise every movie.
One thing I agree 100% I’ve read here, yes, Deb is hot!

The_Man on June 28, 2005 at 8:33 pm

Debbie, Debbie, Debbie………….having read War of the Worlds many times through my life, a great read and watching at every chance George Pals classic portrayal in film I think you should take a step back. Read or re-read HG Wells book and then look at all the commentaries about the books meaning for the last 100 years, then as a side bar read his work a World set free. I agree with 99.99% of what you stand for but as an avid science fiction fan I do think you missed it here.

Dominate on June 29, 2005 at 10:56 am

As a screenwriter who was once a socialist/democrat I understand the mindset of the left. Everyone wonders why there are those who wish America be defeated or destroyed. I have one answer–these individuals just want to see that they can do it. They don’t have a grand plan for when America goes under, they just want to see it go under. It’s a sad state that sometimes lingers in one’s writing. Sure, War of the Worlds is an old story, but it offers the same disdainment–the same convenience to blame ourselves for injustices served against us (9/11 & aliens come to kill us–our fault) and hope that bad things just go away if we pulled ourselves out of the fight. I guess we should consider why we refused to stay away and wait out Hitler in the same way we’re waitng out Castro in Cuba. Oops I forgot, there was one difference–we had the Greatest Generation.

Citizen Kane on June 29, 2005 at 1:53 pm

Your movie critiques are always entertaining (to me). You’re honest, straight-forward, and you pull no punches. I like that. If you find irony in a movie’s script or you see a correlation in topic, you just lay it out there in your brutally honest opinion. Don’t change.
BTW – What are you doing this weekend? Wanna go to the movies? Call me!

Yiddish Steel on June 29, 2005 at 3:02 pm

I might not be in the Book of the Month Club, but I can understand the very basic idea that Speilberg is preaching here. I know, hard to believe that Speilberg and Mr. Robbins-Sarandon would interject a lefty blame America viewpoint, er “prism” for you enlightened minds. Many other reviews have mentioned the same arguments as Debbie, but I guess they are “jest not book lernt”, either.
Keep up the great work, Debbie…..can’t believe nobody has mentioned how hot you are!

Jeff_W on June 29, 2005 at 4:40 pm

Hi Debbie
You are dead-on in this analysis of Speilberg’s latest movie. He’s no Oliver Stone, but does manage to insert liberal/left agenda just the same. I know the story well and may even enjoy it as well. However since I reside in the 3rd country to legalize gay marriage, I’m ever-sensitive to media manipulation.
Though you may have over-analyzed for some readers’ tastes, your observations are spot-on in my books.
Keep up the GR8 work Debbie . . . YOU HOTTIE!!!

Conservative Canuck on June 30, 2005 at 5:59 am

I wanted to see the movie before reading any reviews of it; so since I just got back I thought I’d read Debbie’s commentary.
Debbie, I feel that you got a bit of your column right – Ogilvy’s comment about occupation and insurgencies, which stuck out like a sore liberal’s thumb. I heard him say that line and thought, “Okaaaaaay; not TOO obvious there, Steve.”
The analysis of, “Because he and Ogilvy are at odds over the strategy to fight the alien terrorists, Ray murders Ogilvy,” I find a little offbase.
Ogilvy wanted to start hacking away at the probe, and start shooting at the aliens. Ray thought it best to lay low, keep quiet, and wait. There’s nothing sinister about either tactic (and eventually Ray DID hack away when push came to shove).
Ogilvy started digging his tunnel, but wouldn’t shut his trap while doing it – babbling on and on (including the dialogue from above). Ray wanted him to keep quiet, not because he disagreed with his tactics, but because he didn’t want to draw attention. He was trying to keep his daughter safe. To me, Ray’s overriding agenda throughout the movie was trying to protect his family. Protect them from the aliens, protect his daughter from even seeing the carnage that had occurred. Having her keep looking at him when they left the house destroyed by the plane, and blindfolding her and having her sing to herself while he took care of Ogilvy, the potential alien-attracting noisemaker.
Other than that, I think you’re tilting at windmills here. Spielberg may have slightly interjected a few anti-WoT lines of dialogue, but, barring some modernization of the story I think Spielberg stayed pretty true to Wells’ original vision.
“…the invaders eventually die and go away at the end of the film because, as narrator Morgan Freeman says, they could not handle the bad things in our air, our environment, our culture. Our ‘spirit’ won out over them.” Of course they died because they couldn’t handle things in our air and environment. That’s how we won in the original story! There’s nothing implied about the aliens not handling our culture, or our “spirit” winning over them. If one looks hard enough, signs pointing to political opinion could be found almost anywhere. How about that the alien probe that was searching the basement was blue and white, right? Then, the next morning, Ray and Ogilvy find that everything is all covered in red. Red, white and blue? Wait! Spielberg’s making a statement comparing the aliens to the USA!!!
What about the way Ray took down one of the machines? He had some grenades (representing the military industrial complex), and while in one of the holding pens underneath the machine (representing Gitmo), he was sucked inside the alien machine (showing how innocent men are being taken by the US), and was able to blow it up (meaning that the only action that can work to fight against our imperialistic ways is if one gets close to the US and destroys it from the inside!)
Searching too deeply for these type of messages in a movie like this reminds me of those who look for hints of sex in cookie designs and sewing patterns. This was good popcorn-fare. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yngvai on July 1, 2005 at 6:10 pm

Oh please don’t make me use my brain
Oh please don’t make me think
I’m so happy as I am
Blissfully headed out over the brink
I just like my view with blinders
I just like it with these earmuffs on
So my minds goes where they take it
Does that necessarily make me a pawn
Maybe could be bravery is a movie
With Sean Penn head as a lead
He was great as Saddam’s sock puppet
He showed why tyrants make people bleed
Oh yeah no he didn’t he just walked around
Wherever his minders took him to pose
Mass graves rape rooms murdered Kurds
I forgot what was it he wanted us to know
You know but I’m beginning to see why
Tom doesn’t like psychiatrists much
Looks like the camera isn’t the only projector
Somebody somewhere is definitely out of touch
Our spirit and culture will win
And we don’t even have to fight back
Such a beautifully stupid sentimental statement
When you’ve been viciously mercilessly attacked
8:15 am

neilsthepoet on July 12, 2005 at 9:17 am

“War of the Worlds” was an empty 112 minutes. I reread H.G. Wells novel to get the sour taste from my mouth. I didn’t expect Spielberg to follow the book exactly, but he missed the salient points in an effort to interject his personal agenda. The helplessness of the characters annoyed me. Most especially, I found Tom Cruise difficult to watch in part because of his recent forays into the diagnoses and treatment of psychiatric illnesses with only vitamins and exercise. What a tool!

eulogia on July 20, 2005 at 2:32 pm

I leave in Zürich Switzerland, today I have seen a very bad film, boring, not very credible in any respect,the first time I really dislike a Film with Tom Cruise.
By the way, I am French, Algeria was a colony, not an invaded country,but I don’t want to discuss anything that’l sound like anti-americanism, like I hate anti-frenchism, just the same stupidity, but with an opposite geographical background.
England and France begun to loose their Empire in 1948, so today the word colony means something else than during the period between 1830 and 1960 something.
Our air wont’t kill terrorism, the killing of Pauperism could kill terrorism on a long range.
Anyway the worst of this film, is not the ideas that it vehicles, some are OK, the wjorst is taht it is a very bad Film, and normally Hollywood, at least, makes good products.
We have a lot of bad films in Europe,and when they are bad, they are worst than Holywood’s,on the top of it, it is badly made.

Traube on August 3, 2005 at 4:37 pm

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online casino on January 9, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Where in the heck did you get THAT review? …I’d better look up your bio…aha, I see the problem…

To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

To a conservative who makes her living stirring up xenophobia, every movie looks like appeasing Islamic terrorism, apparently. No surprise here.

Randall on April 8, 2013 at 12:27 am

I agree with some of the previous comments. Regardless of your political views, this movie should only be judged as an interpretation HG Wells story. Me myself had so many things crossing my mind watching this movie, but 9/11 was the last thing I had in my mind. In fact, politics was the last things that i ever got out of the movie. As a science fiction fan, and reading one book, an interpretation of HG Wells story, I was thrilled to see this one, and having watched it, all my Geek DNA was tickled the right way.

wan ardie on October 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm

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