Friday, July 01, 2005

War of the Worlds=9/11?
John Podhoretz of the New York Post seems to think so:

EVEN though it is nominally a science-fiction film about an alien invasion, Steven Spiel berg's "War of the Worlds" is, in fact, the first Hollywood movie about 9/11. It's all there — an urban landmark (the Outerbridge Crossing) destroyed from the air, New Jerseyites running in terror, Tom Cruise covered in ash after escaping the attack, a wall with "have you seen my missing loved one" posters.

The only real difference — a profound and troubling one — is that Spielberg's movie shows Americans turning on each other as the attack occurs. In real life, the attack on America caused people to band together, to commit extraordinary acts of heroism on a moment-to-moment basis and to join each other in comradeship.
These are some good points, and clearly there is a link between the choices Spielberg made in this movie (the ash, the postered wall)—and, in fact, our current popular culture more broadly—and what happened on 9/11.

I also think Podhoretz takes this too far, however, in saying:
Even so, the first hour of "War of the Worlds" is one of the staggering cinematic accomplishments of our time — in part because it does so meticulously capture the horror and power of that signal day. Think how much more powerful, and meaningful, it might have been had Spielberg actually bit the bullet, ditched the aliens and gone for a movie about 9/11 itself.
I think Spielberg may actually have made a conscious choice to tap into 9/11 images—but I don't think he did it for commentary reasons. I think he wanted images that would instill terror in his audience (hey, maybe that's why they say 9/11 was an act of "terror"ism -ed.), and he used something that would draw those memories out of our minds. Artistically, this is incredibly effective.

That doesn't mean, however, that he intended to deal with the issues raised by that horrific day—and it's unfair to judge his film on that scale.

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