The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: DreamWorks - 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 117 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Rick Gonzalez
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Josh Friedman & David Koepp
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 1, 2010
"They're already here"
A contemporary retelling of H.G. Wells' classic, the sci-fi thriller reveals the extraordinary battle for the future of humankind through the eyes of one American family. Fleeing from an extraterrestrial army of killer Tripods that annihilate everything in their path, Ray Ferrier (Cruise) races to keep his family safe.
War of the worlds is a free adaptation of the classic story by H.G. Wells which revolves around a hostile alien invasion of earth and a father struggling to protect his children. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a blue collar worker living in New Jersey, divorced from his first wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and estranged from his two children Rachel and Robbie (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), of whom he has custody on weekends. On one such visitation, looking after the kids becomes a little more difficult when, after a series of strange lighting storms hit his neighborhood, Ray discovers that a fleet of death-ray robotic spaceships have emerged nearby, part of the first wave of an all-out alien invasion of the Earth. Transporting his children from New York to Boston in an attempt to find safety at Mary Ann's parents' house, Ray must learn to become the protector and provider he never was in marriage.
I saw this film during its theatrical run in the summer of 2005. It would be fair to say that I liked it from the start. Having watched it multiple times on DVD I think it has grown on me even more. This isn't classic cinema but taking it as a whole which includes the scope of its production I just find it captivating. The premise speaks to man's insecurities (unspoken or not) about the inherent danger should aliens ever visit our planet. Unlike similar films which feature multi-directional plotlines I like the story's primarily singular focus which centers on the characters of Ray, Robbie, and Rachel as we see the layers of their dysfunctional relationship peeled back. I appreciate how they slowly come together as Ray instinctively goes from dead beat dad to stalwart protector that will stop at nothing in getting the kids safely to their mother. Co-mingled with that is the development of a bond that only a parent and child can share. We see it when Ray looks on with proud eyes as Robbie scales the large ramp aboard the ferry in order to help others that are trying to get to safety. In that same sequence Rachel senses danger close and reaches for Ray's hand. Later trust and understanding begin to emerge in the scene where Robbie tells Ray you need to let me go followed shortly after by Rachel asking Ray to sing me a lullaby when she is frightened. The development of these characters and our belief in their connection is important since they need to trust and rely upon one another if they are to survive.
This film is a special effects extravaganza that teams star Tom Cruise and director Steven Spielberg up for the second time (Minority Report being the first). Spielberg is certainly no stranger to sci-fi films that relate to this subject matter as he directed both Close encounters of the third kind and E.T. (considered classics) before this one. Spielberg's War of the worlds is edgy and features chills, thrills and suspense as it pays homage to but doesn't remake the classic 1953 film. While it isn't a wholly satisfying cinematic work, it is an entertaining and thrilling sci-fi adventure that is bolstered by its large scale production, apt direction, and engaging performances by Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. I am excited that it has finally come to high definition and am glad to now have it in my Blu-ray collection.
The rating is for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
War of the worlds comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.4 Mbps.
Similar to my recent reviews of several films from Director Steven Spielberg, I would like to reiterate my opening comments pertaining to the visual style he used in War of the worlds.
Let me start off by saying that in my opinion this presentation appears to faithfully reflect the film's original elements and director Steven Spielberg's vision. Having said that it is important to understand that the way the film was shot does not necessarily reproduce the highly polished, three dimensional, and clearly resolute imagery that typically evokes the wow factor. That shouldn't be strictly construed to indicate that it doesn't look good in high definition. I have taken this into account while trying to provide an accurate depiction of my opinion in this review. Read on.
The film was shot utilizing a visual style that gives it a distinctively de-saturated, monochromatic and dynamic look that imbues it with brownish gray or beige hues that permeate the presentation. Colors are primarily limited to various stages of gray, brown, green, red, and sepia tones. There are elements of richer color but even then saturation is noticeably held in check. Fleshtones are mildly affected but otherwise appear natural with appreciable tonal variation and warm highlights. Images are firmly resolved but perceivable resolution can be scene dependent due to the nature of the photography. Close ups fare better than wide angle shots and offer respectable detail and appreciable refinement. There is plenty of visible detail in the stone work and aged wood in dankness of Harlan's basement which is a noticeable improvement over the softer DVD. Contrast levels can spike occasionally but otherwise achieve good balance so that detail/gradations are visible in brighter elements while dark sequences have a rich, dynamic quality that makes them pop. Blacks are deep but slightly crushed which impacts shadow detail but not to a deleterious degree. The video has a notably grainy aesthetic that tends to interfere with depth and sometimes takes on more prominence but I never found it to be problematic. I have grown accustomed to the visual style of this film but will readily admit that I initially found it bothersome. However it isn't my place to question the artistic intent of the director. In my opinion this Blu-ray Disc presentation from Paramount seems to accurately reflect the film's original elements which is all that we can ask for.
Since its release on DVD War of the worlds has been considered by many to be the go to disc for its engaging surround sound mix that contains demonstrative low frequency effects that have dismantled lesser quality subwoofers at high sound pressure levels. I have eagerly anticipated its arrival on Blu-ray and the results are indeed spectacular. This soundtrack is demonstration quality and is sure to put a smile on the faces of those that have systems capable of reproducing it at reference levels. This recording has wide dynamic range and boasts superlative clarity and high level detail that is truly impressive. Front channel separation and imaging is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable. The mix makes effective and often aggressive use of the surround channels to elongate the front soundstage and reproduce the spatial and discrete sounds of this demanding soundtrack. The listening position is submerged into a 360 degree web of sound that is sometimes riveting as it bombards the senses with a combination of well placed sound effects and musical ambience.
The low frequency effects are applied authoritatively to underscore the bombastic and aggressive aspects of this soundtrack and it does so with aplomb. This mix delivers bass that is truly prodigious as it extends down into the 20 and 30hz regions as times. Its palpable presence is never in question as it fills the room with tight ultra refined bass that is appreciably superior and on occasion skin tingling. This is an involving and dynamically energized sound design that combines high level sonic detail, excellent directional correlation, and rhythmically charged bass. I would have preferred that the dialogue been mixed to a higher level within the front soundstage as it is overpowered during some of the active sequences. Other than that I had no problem with intelligibility. I also felt that there were times when the rear channels were too prominent which affected balance during panning sequences. These are relatively minor nits to pick in an otherwise fantastic audio presentation.
I am sure that the question on the minds of fans is does this offer an improvement over the lossy soundtrack on the DVD? The answer is most definitely. While the differences aren't night and day I detected discernibly smoother highs, punchier dynamics, and better refinement in the reproduction of low frequencies. This is a reference quality audio presentation that truly enhances the enjoyment of this film. If you have a system that you think is it up to the task, crank this one up to reference, and prepare to be enthralled. I won't be held responsible for any damage to your systemEnjoy!
- Revisiting the invasion - 7 minute featurette
- The H.G Wells legacy - 6 minute featurette
- Steven Spielberg and the original War of the worlds - 8 minute featurette
- Characters: The family unit - 13 minute featurette
- Previsualization - 7 minutes
- Production diaries - 4 segments
- Designing the enemy: Tripods and aliens - 14 minute featurette
- Scoring War of the worlds - 12 minute featurette
- We are not alone - 3 minute feature
- Galleries - Costume sketches, behind the scenes, productions stills and more
- (HD) Theatrical teaser trailer
War of the worlds may not be considered a timeless classic but there is no denying its staying power among fans. It is a free adaptation of the story by H.G. Wells and in the hands of Steven Spielberg makes for a thrilling albeit slightly over the top sci-fi film that is a personal favorite. Since its release on DVD audio enthusiasts (myself included) have reveled in the deep ultra low frequency bass associated with this soundtrack. I have looked forward to experiencing it on Blu-ray via the higher inherent potential in lossless audio and am happy to report that it sounds spectacular. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack simply rocks and will test the limits of your system. I found its video presentation to be faithful and clear cut above any previous home video release. It includes the bonus features offered on the two disc limited edition DVD release which makes this an easy upgrade recommendation and a must have for those that appreciate reference quality surround sound.
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