War of the Worlds Two-Disc Limited Edition—DreamWorks
Steven Spielberg's frightening remake of George Pal's seminal 1953 classic was the popcorn-munching movie of last summer. This time out, the aliens' decimation of Earth is told from the highly personal viewpoint of a single, divorced man (Tom Cruise), trying merely to keep his family safe amid the chaos. This one-view approach proves highly effective, as it thoroughly puts the viewers in our hero's working-class sneakers.
Amid the plentiful documentaries on disc two of this set, writer David Koepp notes how the producers began by deciding what not to include in the film, namely just about every genre clich. As a result, there's no exploding Statue of Liberty, just a lot of unsettling, random destruction by the ultra-creepy, foghorn-on-steroids bellowing alien "tripods." From the time they appear, the film ratchets up the suspense and keeps it on a high pitch throughout.
The deluxe edition fields over two hours of documentaries, and they're all up to Laurent Bouzereau's usual, entertaining standards. Notable is a meaty, three-part production diary that follows the shoot from New Jersey to the West Coast. Others focus on "previsualization" (animated storyboards), John Williams' score, tripod design, and the original movie. I take points off for no audio commentaries.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation renders the visual feast exceptionally well, although the cinematography is heavy on drab blues and grays for the first half of the film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks stand out, particularly the latter format, and the LFE channel adds a visceral element to the mayhem.