It was perhaps not completely his fault, but Steven Spielberg has admitted to something movie fans have been thinking for years.
The end of War of the Worlds is rubbish.
In the book James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, Spielberg discusses the ending with Cameron and admits the shortcomings (via the tweet below).
“That film doesn’t have a good ending. I never could figure out how to end that darn thing,” he says.
Cameron replies: “I don’t think H.G. Wells could figure it out. The common cold takes out the bad guys.”
Says Spielberg: “I did the same thing. I had Morgan Freeman help me with it with his narration.”
The pair go on to agree that Morgan Freeman ‘makes everything sound plausible’.
Sure it’s plausible. But as a dramatic conclusion to a movie? Not so much.
Spielberg’s movie emerged in 2005, updating the source material to the present day, and starring Tom Cruise as crane operator Ray Ferrier who, with his daughter Rachel (in a stunning performance from a nine-year-old Dakota Fanning) flee the terror of alien war machines.
The movie is taught, tense and action-packed, until the end, when suddenly the previously invulnerable aliens become inexplicably vulnerable, and mankind is suddenly able to destroy them.
And as Spielberg attests, it’s all explained away by a dazzlingly lazy voiceover, in which Morgan Freeman explains that the aliens all caught a cold.
Wells’ book also ends this way, of course, when the aliens find themselves the victims of Earth’s pathogens, and are ‘slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth’.
So perhaps Spielberg gets a bit of a pass.
A new BBC adaptation is on the way too, which began filming in Liverpool in April this year, featuring a star-studded cast including Rafe Spall, Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson, Robert Carlyle, and Rupert Graves.
It’s expected to hit screens later this year. Let’s hope it fares a bit better.