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Steven Spielbergs War Of The Worlds Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1679 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) is a film that falls under the genre of science fiction. What is genre? Genre can be defined as different categories marked by a distinctive style, form or content. According to Sarah Berry (2000), film genres are ways to group movies with similar style and story together such as western films, horror films, thriller films, science fiction (sci-fi) films and many more. A genre film is a film that can be easily categorized with reference to a culturally familiar rubric therefore making it easy for potential consumers to choose between films and suggest what target audience a particular movie was made for.

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Genres change over time as filmmakers invent new twists on old formulas and defining the precise boundaries between genres can be tricky. Bordwell & Kristin Thompson (2001) said that film genres are convenient terms that develop in an informal way where filmmakers, industry decision makers, critics, and viewers all contribute to the formation of a shared sense that certain films seem to resemble one another in significant ways. Therefore Steven Spielberg’s (2005) War of the Worlds can be loosely categorized as science fiction genre.

As one of the most influential film personalities in the Hollywood film industry, Spielberg has not only has he produced countless films across different genres but he also has his own signature style that can be seen in all of his movies. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is a remake of Byron Haskin’s 1953 War of the Worlds. Of which both are adaptations from the same titled novel by H. G. Wells. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds does reinforce the status quo by mirroring the issues and what is happening in reality at that time and portraying a few dominant American ideologies and belief.

Status quo can be defined as the existing state of affairs at a given time. The relationship between genres as status quo, as explained by Judith Hess Wright (1986), is that genre films came into being and are financially successful because they temporarily relieved the fears aroused by recognition of social and political conflicts. Genre films subconsciously discourage the audiences that are living under the pressure of the same conflicts to take any actions and serve the ruling class by the maintenance of the status quo. The functions of genre are not as simple as classifying films into different categories instead genre films introduces a problem and a solution. The audiences are expected to accept the solutions thereby quelling any action that have might be taken by those experiencing the problems.

One of the events that the film aimed to recreate is the September 11(9/11) terrorist attack on America. As one of the superpowers of the world, America is a proud and strong country. 9/11 was the day that Americans learned how to fear and to fight to survive. In the movie, the fear and the struggles to survive were depicted using the bystanders that started to run after the alien tripod starts shooting death rays at them.

Everything was as normal as it can be in a normal day in America when the protagonist, Ray Terrier’s ex-wife drop off the kids, Robbie and Rachel, at his place. When Ray was trying to spend some time to get along with his kids, things started to go wrong when strong winds suddenly started blowing in the opposite direction which is towards the storm with lightning continuously striking the same places up to 26 times. And when alien tripods started coming out from the ground and began to incinerate everything in its path which changes everything normal in a day. These scenes mirrors how the Americans were going about with their lives when suddenly terrorists hijacked and crashed two aeroplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) and all hell break loose. The scene where the bystanders were running for their lives reflects what happened when the World Trade Centre was collapsing. Those that were killed by the aliens’s death rays were those that didn’t manage to escape that were either killed by falling debris or buried alive. The film also portrays the fear of a terrorist attack where the first thing that Ray’s kids asked after noticing that everything is going wrong was whether they were attacked by the terrorists.

The American belief of patriotism is portrayed in the scene where Robbie wanted to join the army and fight the aliens till his last breath who unlike his dad who is running away is a coward. The belief of survival of the fittest is shown in the scenario where Ray was the only person with a working car and all the other survivors was pushing each other to get near to the car to get a ride. When Ray refused to stop to let them hitch a ride they got voilent and started to hit Ray’s car with objects so that he will stop. Later on, a scuffle ensued and Ray was dragged out of his car and Robbie was beaten. Even after Ray pulled out a gun, another man with a gun ordered Ray to drop his gun and get out of his car. That man was eventually killed by another man that picked up Ray’s gun on the floor. This shows that in order to survive, humans can prey on each other.

The American ideology of a patriarchal society is presented in the film where man is portrayed to be a stronger sex over the women. In the scenes where the United States Army were fighting the aliens and holding the line so that the civillians can escape, there were no female military personnel present hints that women were too weak to protect themselves let alone defend the country. In the shot at the Hudson River where Ray met his female friend and daughter and together they tried to get on board a ferry that is condoned off by military personnel. When the lady held on to Ray, she was able to get through the first batch of guards. As soon as she lost her grip on Ray’s shirt, she was stopped by the second batch of guards thus failed to board the ferry and condemning her to her death when the alien tripods suddenly appeared and attacked the stranded civilians. These confirm the ideology that the women are the weaker sex in the American society and are dependent on the men to survive.

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Another ideology portrayed in this film is religion. In Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, the church was the first building to be destroyed by the alien tripod where when compared to Haskin’s War of the Worlds, the church is the safe haven from the alien massacare. This shows the change of how much faith Americans have put in the belief of the existence of a God.

Signature style is the recurring themes and styles used by a person when he/she is directing or producing a movie. The style is unique to each person and can be found in all most of the person’s movies. Steven Spielberg is such a person. He has his own signature style which can be found recurring in most of the movies he directed. Growing up in a broken family where his parents were divorced, most of the main characters in his movies have broken families. In the movie E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Elliot’s parents are divorced and his father is absent from his life and in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), David the robot that is designed to resemble a human child and to display love for its human owners, is abandoned after a few accidents where his owner’s child was almost killed by him and in War of the Worlds (2005), the protagonist Ray Terrier is portrayed as a divorced and carefree man. He is seen as an irresponsible and distanced father who was absent most of their lives by his two children, Robbie and Rachel. All these reflect on Spielberg’s own life experience as his parents are divorced when he was young and although he lived with his father, his father was never really there for him.

Another recurring theme in Spielberg’s film is survival. Jurassic Park (1993) is a fight for survival on an island park where dinosaurs run loose whereas in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), David is captured by humans for anti-robots Flesh Fair, where obsolete robots are destroyed in front of cheering crowds. Although David is nearly killed but in the end he managed to escape because the crowd is charmed by his realistic nature and War of the Worlds (2005) depicted how mankind when seem almost for certain to be wiped out by the aliens ultimately survives when the aliens succumbed to the bacteria that exists on Earth.

Auteurship can be explained as a director that is able to impose his/her personality through the director’s work. According to John Caughie (1981), an auteur is a director who is genuinely an artist that dominates the filming proceedings and using the film to express the director’s individual personality. This personality can be traced in a thematic and/or stylistic consistency in almost all of the director’s film. Movies directed by Spielberg such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) and War of the Worlds (2005) all carry thematic and stylistic consistency which is Spielberg’s signature style. These movies are also able to portray Spielberg’s personality therefore, earning Spielberg the acknowledgment as an auteur. Spielberg’s credibility as an auteur can be seen in his remaking of Byron Haskin’s 1953 War of the Worlds. Both movies, although adapted from H. G. Wells’s book, War of the Worlds both are depicted differently.

After defining genre, status quo, signature style and auteurship, it can be acknowledged that Steven Spielberg does use genre to reinforce the status quo in his remake of War of the Worlds. However in doing so he does not follow the styles of his predecessors but rather established himself as an auteur and instead created films that is embedded with his personality, themes and styles and bringing the audience to look at the world through his perspective.


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