War Of The Worlds is a story of Ray Ferrier, a lower middle class single father who like everyone else has his life turned upside down by an alien invasion and extermination of the human race however the film focuses on Ray's ordeal and his story of keeping his children alive throughout the chaos.
1. The Archetypes in the characters:
- Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is an irresponsible, almost childish man who has no commitments whatsoever yet he has the responsibility of a teenage son (Justin Chatwin) and a young daughter (Dakota Fanning). He doesn't know alot about his children as he doesn't seem very engaged in their lives.
- Rachel Ferrier (Dakota Fanning) is the young daughter of Ray Ferrier and Mary Ann. She is an intelligent girl for her age and often shows wisdom that even her father does not posess at times. At various points when we are first introduced to Rachel she shows her independance to do things on her own (ordering take-away, removing splinter) however as the plot continues this trait breaks down as she becomes emotionally distraught to the situations around her. She is claustrophobic and often needs the comfort of her older brother to calm her down in situations.
- Robbie is the teenage son of Ray Ferrier and Mary Ann. He is quite arrogant and often clashes with his father. This in particular can be seen through the use of the caps they both wear, Robbie supporting Boston and Ray supporting New York. Robbie is also a bit of a rebel yet he means well and throughout the film he puts himself in danger out of patriotism.
- Harlan Ogilvy, a former ambulance driver who lost his entire family, offers refuge to Ray and Rachel in an old farm basement. He is first seen as a saviour but as the narrative unravels in the basement scenes, we learn that he is quite deranged and has on a number of occasions been more of a threat to the lives of Ray and Rachel. His plans for a resistance attack are completely absurd and he has seemed to lost the ability of reasonable logic. In the end Ray must make a moral decision in order to ensure the survival of himself and his daughter.
2. The character’s personality traits, life and motivation:
- At the beginning of the film Ray is seen as irresponsible and childish. He often acts like he is himself a young teenager still and hasn't quite grown up to the responsibilites of his life. His job as a dock worker is quite a dead end job and he is not particularly well off yet he gets by day to day. His actions portray this as his children which he most likely hasn't seen in 7 - 8 weeks are dropped off at his home in a lower middle suburb of New Jersey. As the plot unravels and a threat is now presented, Ray automatically has to step up to the responsibility of not only being a father, but keeping his children and himself alive as the world turns to chaos around them. His relationship with his kids is quite dysfunctional throughout the chaos and his plans of survival clash with Robbie who now believes it is his patriotic duty to fight against the invaders however Ray is now concerned with one thing only which is getting his children to safety.
Ray begins to step up as a father.
3. How does the film keeps the audience engaged? What do you think the key factors are?
War Of the Worlds when looked in depth can fall into many different genres as well as sub-genres with the plot constantly focused on the ordeal seen through the eyes of one man on a mission to ensure the survival of his family rather then seeing the attack as something you would see on the news or seeing it through the eyes of someone direclty tied into the invasion of the aliens e.g an army colonel etc. This means that the normal working class people can relate to this man and his struggle and we can often put ourselves in Ray's shoes and imagine how we would feel if we had to endure the challenges that Ray faces throughout the film. The main genre throughout this film is Science fiction however there are also hints of other genres thrown in at particular scenes e.g The basement scene can be seen as pyschological thriller and even elements of horror play a part through certain scenes (When the aliens search the basement). It can also be seen as a monster movie in the scenes where the tripods use the death ray on the people running through the streets. This movie then can appeal to masses of the audience as there is something in it for everyone.
4. What are the elements or patterns repeated throughout the film? At what points? And what do you think is the purpose or intention?
There are certain themes that run throughout the entirety of the film that continue to pop up in certain scenes. One of these themes is the importance of family. Although Ray starts as quite irresponsible father, he is forced to step up to the task of being a father. As the desperation for survival intensifies, Ray is forced to make decisions that conflict with his morality e.g When he shoots the gun in the air as their car is over-run by the crowd and when he has to kill Harlan because he becomes more of a threat to their survival.
5. Throughout the form of the film, try to establish the plot and sub-plot. How does the revelation compare from the beginning?
Beginning (Establishment) - Ray is a dock worker who has his kids stay over for the weekend while their mother visits Boston. The relationships and archetypes of the characters are established and tensions between the three main characters are set up.
Middle (Conflict) - The conflict is abruptly introduced soon after as a freak lightning storm awakens alien war machines from the ground which go on a rampage exterminating all in their way. They make their way to Mary Ann's home to discover they have already left for Boston and the area is still intact. During the night the familiar lightning attack begins again as the aliens destroy the neighbourhood. Ray, Robbie and Rachel encounter many conflicts and problems on their journey to Boston. This includes Robbie running off to help the army and the encounter of Harlan Ogilvy in the basement.
End (Resolution) - Shortly after leaving Harlan Ogivly's basement Rachel and Ray are captured by a tripod which Ray manages to destroy using his wits and a couple of grenades. Exhausted, they finally reach Boston and Ray notices that the tripods are weakening. With the threat of invasion almost over, Rachel is re-united with her mother and Robbie is revealed to be alive and well. In the end it is revealed by the narrative that what killed the alien war machines was not human technology but the simple cold virus of which humans have evolved their immunity to.
THE SUB PLOT
The sub plot really focuses on the relationship between Ray, Robbie and Rachel and is almost an archetype in itself.
Beginning (Establishment) - Ray and Robbie do not see eye to eye and often Robbie discerns his father. Rachel's relationship with her father is fairly simple and quite innocent as she still see's him as her father and still has that level of respect for him regardless that the fact that he is fairly irresponsible and childish.
Middle (Conflict) - Ray and Robbie have very conflicting ideas as to the next step for the trio. Ray who is completely overprotective at this point cares only about their survival while Robbie who is furious about the attacks see's this as an opportunity to unite against the aliens and fight back the invasion. Rachel who is now distressed by everything happening around her becomes completely vulnerable and as Robbie's drive to fight back increases, Ray must make the ultimate choice of whether to let Robbie go and protect Rachel or go with Robbie and endanger Rachel.
End (Resolution) - Rachel is united with her mother. This is the first scene since the basement scenes where Rachel has enough energy to run to her mother. Ray realizes his responsibilities as a father and after seeing that Robbie is alive, they both put there differences aside.
Hidden symbolism is also a very strong under-lying theme that runs throughout the course of the entire film. One of the biggest being that this movie is post 9/11 and references to the 9/11 attacks can be seen throughout the whole film. When Ray emerges from the streets covered in ash, that can be directly linked to people emerging from the streets of New York as the World Trade Centre collapsed. The theme of uniting against a common enemy is one that also can be seen with Robbie's urge to fight back.