Written by Hombre Divertido
To remake classic Science Fiction is always a daunting task, but one would certainly think that Steven Spielberg would be up to the challenge. One would think that.
The casting in the film is extremely distracting. Tom Cruise may be in his forties, but he does not look it. His ex-wife and son looked too old to be his family.
Continuity gaffes in films are even more distracting than poor casting. In one of the first scenes, divorced father Ray Ferrier (Cruise) pulls up at his house, parks his car in the driveway, and gets out to greet his kids who are arriving for the weekend. The next morning, when he finds out that his son has left with his car, he goes outside to verify that the car is gone, and appears to look at the wrong driveway.
Casting and gaffes aside, Spielberg does a great job of creating excitement and tension ala Jurassic Park very early in the film with state of the art special effects. That is until the ships appear. In the 1953 film we are dealing with flying ships. Spielberg uses skyscraper-sized three-legged machines, which looked hokey.
The tension created by the mass destruction of civilization and the fear generated amongst the people who managed to escape the body-melting death ray generated by the alien machines was definitely edge of the seat entertainment, but the constant use of the children in dangerous situations was gratuitous. The original 1953 version did not have children in the script, and kids in harm's way are not entertaining or necessary, however realistic it may be.
There is a nice homage to the 1953 version, at the end of the film when we get an all-too-brief shot of Ray’s father-in-law, played by actor Gene Barry, who starred in the original.
Recommendation: See it for the special effects. For a superior film, from a more simple time when they entertained us with good storytelling rather than special effects, rent the original.