This week’s Gabbing Geek podcast had, among other discussions, a ranking of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movies, without counting anything with Indiana Jones. Now, if this were the days before I wrote for their cite, I would be sending them an e-mail with my thoughts on the subject.
But now I write for them and can just post it directly here. And man, do I have room to disagree with them this week!
OK, first off, how can anyone complain that A.I. has too many endings and then compliment Hook is beyond me. Hook had far too many endings, and I felt it was trying way too hard to be whatever it was trying to be. A.I. does have a moment of foreshadowing when Jude Law’s excellently-portrayed Gigolo Joe informs Haley Joel Osment’s David that at some point, all that will be left will be the robots, hence the ending. Yes, it does try to tie a nice, little bow on the movie in a way Stanley Kubrick never would have, but it still works better than Hook.
Now, on the subject of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, that movie needs to be appreciated for what it is: the only Spielberg movie that outright rejects the family. Richard Dreyfuss has pointed out a sequel would have to be his character returning to Earth and having his angry kids demand to know why they abandoned him. Spielberg has said he regrets the ending, and that it was a product of a young man with no children, hence the reason Dreyfuss’ children in the movie are so awful and his wife, Teri Garr, is so misunderstanding of what he’s going through. But Close Encounters is a movie, meditating on what it would be like if friendly aliens came to Earth. They’re advanced, and given an obvious language barrier, the only way to communicate is through the music, based on mathematical properties.
On a final note, there’s The War of the Worlds. Now, this story has been done multiple times and its always about what’s the scariest thing then. H.G. Welles was thinking of either British colonialism or Prussian expansion when he wrote the novel. Orson Welles, no relation, had Nazism playing in the background leading up to World War II. The 1950s had the red scare, since Communist nations were unmentioned as being attacked by the Martians (and the stars of that movie appear at the end of the Spielberg movie as Cruise’s former in-laws). Finally, we have Spielberg’s take, and his take is focused on terrorism. The alien war machines come from out of the ground instead of the sky, since they were already there. Dakota Fanning even shouts, “Is it the terrorists?!” when Cruise comes to claim her before they run. The message of the story seems to be about how people react when there’s something massive and awful happening. Rumors fly. People panic. There’s no information to be had. And every time the character seem to find a safe place, something flashes through, like a plane crash or a train on fire. The movie does not relent for a minute. The characters never get a chance to catch a breath. It isn’t about being brave or running. It’s about how little anyone has any power to do anything anywhere at any time. It’s really more of a director’s showcase than an actor’s one. I’m not really a fan of Tom Cruise, but the thing here is it really doesn’t matter who has the lead roll here.
It makes me wonder where some of you might rank some of his non-science fiction movies. There’s always Always, and War Horse did give a small roll to Benedict Cumberbatch.