War of the Worlds is a science fiction film based on the novel by H.G. Wells. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, and made its debut in the summer of 2005. It was the first big budget film adaptation of the story since 1953.
The movie begins with a narration talking about how Earth is being watched jealously by another planet inhabited by highly advanced beings. In New Jersey, a divorcee named Ray Ferrier takes his weekend custody of his children, Rachel Ferrier and Robbie Ferrier. The weekend starts out on a rough note as his son Robbie steals Ray's car and his daughter does nothing but disrespect him, but things only get worse when an electric storm strikes the area surrounding Lincoln Street.
The lightning is followed by electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) which disabled all electronic devices in the surrounding area. Previous sightings of the lighting was reported in Ukraine, a country of some 52 million people that was in total darkness because of the EMP. The EMP was followed by seismic activity the scale of an earthquake, measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale.
Ray investigates the area where the lightning struck, having been directed there by his son Robbie, who had taken his car without permission immediately before the storm hit. Surrounded by many other curious citizens, the people watch the Tripod come out from the ground. The machine begins to eliminate humans with it's deadly Heat-Rays. Ray narrowly avoids death and upon returning to his home, decides that it is not safe to stay there. Ray decides to steal a car that had been repaired and restored to working order shortly after the EMP blast, once again narrowly avoiding death as the Tripod advances on the area. The Tripod quickly destroys the entire area and Ray and his children barely escape as the entire neighborhood is engulfed in fire. Deciding the best place to take shelter is his ex-wife's house, Ray takes his children there, finding it unaffected by the EMP blast and otherwise empty, as Ray's ex-wife and her new husband have left for her parents home in Boston. Ray and the children sleep there overnight, taking shelter in the basement. In the middle of the night, they are awakened by a horrible noise and blinding lights, and Ray quickly hurries his children into the boiler room, the most secure spot in the house. In the morning, Ray ventures outside to find that a passenger jet had crashed, demolishing most of the house and the surrounding neighborhood. In the aftermath, Ray encounters a group of news reporters scavenging for food, and they reveal that it is not just one Tripod, but an invading army of hundreds, if not thousands of Tripods slaughtering entire cities unopposed. Upon hearing the trumpeting sound of a distant Tripod, the reporters flee the area and Ray and his children quickly do the same.
Some time later, the group happens upon an intact ferry that is surrounded by crowds, and the car is eventually stolen in a tense stand-off between Ray and several other civilians, all possessing firearms. Now on foot, they walk to the Hudson Ferry and suddenly stopped by a railroad track gate. An Amtrak train with all cars including the engine engulfed in flames passes by. When the group is nearing the ferry, a group of Tripods discovers the humans, prompting a mass panic as the enormous crowd rushes the ferry. Ray manages to get himself and his children on, but the ferry is directly attacked by a submerged Tripod and quickly destroyed. The Tripod begins abducting people from the water and Ray and his family barely make it to shore, witnessing the second group of Tripods eradicating survivors on a nearby hillside. Some time later, the group finds themselves caught in the middle of a massive battle between the United States military and the Tripods, as civilian refugees scramble to get away. Robbie demands to be allowed to fight, though Ray forbids this, arguing with his son while Rachel is mistaken as abandoned by two other refugees. Ray is forced to choose between his son and his daughter, and reluctantly lets Robbie go in order to save Rachel. Almost immediately after securing Rachel, an enormous explosion rocks the entire area and nearly all of the military forces are destroyed, leaving Ray to assume that Robbie has been killed.
As the Tripods advance once more and begin eliminating the fleeing survivors, Rachel and Ray find shelter in the nearby home of Harlan Ogilvy. Ogilvy is clearly mentally unstable but offers them shelter in his basement. That night a probe visits the basement and a group of aliens, both of which Ogilvy attempts to attack out of intense fear, though is prevented by Ray. After the probe departs the basement, a small group of aliens enters to investigate, peering at human items with passing interest while Ray and Ogilvy have an intense and silent confrontation over a shotgun mere inches away. Soon after, Ray is forced to murder Ogilvy to keep himself and Rachel safe from discovery, as Ogilvy is being too loud and attracting attention from the martians. Then another probe visits the basement and wakes Ray and Rachel. Ray then hacks the head off it with an axe (like in the 1953 movie) and Rachel runs out of the basement on to the Red Weed covered ground. His daughter is taken by the invaders, and Ray sets out after them, antagonizing the departing Tripod by grabbing a nearby satchel of grenades and using one to provoke the Tripod into abducting him. While waiting within the cage full of other abducted humans, Ray watches as other victims are pulled into the Tripod and used as a catalyst for the Red Weed, and is soon pulled into the Tripod himself, though the other prisoners manage to pull him out. Ray reveals that he had kept the grenades and had activated all of them while partially within the Tripod, causing it to violently explode from the inside and collapse to the ground, freeing everyone.
Ray and Rachel finally arrive on the outskirts of Boston, where the remnants of the United States military are still evacuating civilians. Nearby, a Tripod lays dead in the rubble of a building, and upon asking a nearby soldier if they killed it, the soldier responds that the Tripod began acting strangely before collapsing on its own. Shortly after, a second Tripod appears, also behaving erratically. The military begins rushing civilians out of the area, though during the retreat Ray discovers that the Tripod's shields are down by the presence of birds landing on the Tripod's hull. After revealing this to the nearby officer, the U.S. army manages to destroy the Tripod with a barrage of rockets. The Tripod crashes to the ground and the aliens attempt to evacuate the vehicle, though die almost immediately upon exposure to the air. Afterwards, Ray successfully brings Rachel to his wife and her family in Boston, which somehow appeared unscathed from the war, and while Rachel and her mother tearfully embrace, Robbie is seen. The two men share a hug while Ray's ex-wife silently thanks him for bringing the children home.
During the epilogue, the narrator states that as soon as the Martians arrived on Earth they had lost, as they had exposed their bodies to the foreign bacteria of Earth. It was only through a billion deaths that mankind had been saved by the smallest organisms on the planet, and that mankind would rebuild.
In terms of box office success, the film earned $234.3 million domestically, $357.1 million overseas - a sum total $591.4 million, making it the 4th highest grossing movie of 2005. In terms of critics, the film was met with predominantly positive reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 73% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 235 reviews with an average rating of 7/10. The critical consensus is: War of the Worlds delivers on the thrill and paranoia of H.G. Wells' classic novel. At the website Metacritic which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film earned a rating of 73/100 based on 40 reviews by mainstream critics. It may be noted, however, that a few viewers severely criticized the film, due to intense changes from the plot, and Rachel's "constant" screaming, which some viewers claimed "nearly ruined the film for them".
- The Mother and Father-in-law are actors Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, the main protagonists of the 1953 adaptation of The War of the Worlds.
- Unlike most adaptations the aliens in the film actually didn't come from Mars as in real life, NASA's missions to Mars had already proven there was no intelligent life on Mars. Therefore, Steven Spielberg moved the alien's home planet of the aliens billions of miles from Earth.
- An entire storyline of Scary Movie 4 apes this adaptation.