Monday, 6 December 2010

Film Analysis - War Of The Worlds (2005) - Steven Spielberg

The film I have chosen to analyse is War Of the Worlds (2005) directed by legendary hollywood director, Steven Spielberg. Although this film is a remake of  the 1953 movie. Spielberg has gone more to the roots of the novel written by H. G. Wells.

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 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. 

Creating Animatic using Sound

Sound plays a major role in most things, particularly when it comes to film, animation and video games. Sound is a tool used to create mood, atmosphere, tension, suspense and anticipation. It is a powerful tool and also a necessary one when creating an animation.

There are two types of sound in film - Diagetic and Non Diagetic sounds.

Diagetic Sounds - Sounds that are in a sense 'actual sound'. This includes things like dialogue, sound of objects, environment sounds etc

Non Diagetic Sounds - Sounds that are added for dramatic effect, mood music or narrators commentary.

'The distinction between diegetic or non-diegetic sound depends on our understanding of the conventions of film viewing and listening.  We know of that certain sounds are represented as coming from the story world, while others are  represented as coming from outside the space of the story events.  A play with diegetic and non-diegetic conventions can be used to create ambiguity (horror), or to surprise the audience (comedy).'  (


- Develop a storyboard & Animatic through the use of sound.
- Write and propose a synopsis for the idea.

- Screenplay of about 3 - 5 minutes (1 page approx = 1 minute)

- Needs to be presents with either a short critical or explanatory commentary (Pitch)

As this project is sound driven the first thing to do would be to listen to the sounds and analyse how they could be applied visually.

Sound 1 - Strings being plucked, could be an instrument (guitar) or maybe a bow and arrow.
Sound 2 - Windy day outside.
Sound 3 - Something being scribbled down.
Sound 4 - Multiple people running with heavy gear. Sounds almost like soldiers charging
Sound 5 - Teeth being brushed.
Sound 6 - Explosions in the distance.
Sound 7 - Something being eaten/ crunch sound.
Sound 8 - Toilet being flushed.
Sound 9 - Door being shut/ Gunshot
Sound 10 - Cow bells or a wind chime.
Sound 11 - Radio being changed.
Sound 12 - Cracking stone.

I can use these sounds as literal sounds which would make them diagetic or I could use them as almost sound effects creating a non diagetic sound. The idea of having the Wind sound and the radio sound as an almost non diagetic mood music would create a very eerie atmosphere that could work well. The sound of cracking stone could possibly indicate being underground or having the main character as a miner.

Few other ideas:

- Post Apocolyptic Wasteland, Mutated creature that lives in an underground lair.

- A miner trapped in a mine shaft.

- The use of a gargoyle would be interesting with the idea of it setting into stone to sleep and when it awakens, the use of the cracking stone sound could be used.

- The main character could be in a war zone completely unaware of his surroundings?

- A gargoyles war against pigeons.

A mood board I created of images that seem relevant to my ideas for the animatic.

The first thing once an idea has been finalised is to write the synopsis which is a quick summary of the plot.


It is a lone dark night, amidst the war torn city stands a old bell tower. Explosions in the distance can be heard echoing through the cold empty ruins. A warm light illuminates from inside the clocktower that contrasts with the bleak night sky. In the candle lit hall of the clocktower stands a single statue, gracefully posed in the moonlight, there are signs that someone lives within the clocktower yet no-one is established or introduced. A pigeon flies in through the balcony and excretes on the statue before flying back out the balcony. As the radio begins to play the statue comes to life and looks in disgust at his shoulder. He becomes very aggresive however his tone of aggresion is abruptly interuppted by a yawn as he simply forgets about it and hops over to the water bowl. The Statue washes his face and begins brushing his teeth ready to engage in a normal day of solitude. His night begins with writing a warning sign telling all 'PIGEONS STAY AWAY!' As he hops over to the balcony and begins putting his sign up he is bombarded yet again by a squadron of pigeon. He heads back inside and loads an arrow into his crossbow. Back on the balcony he begins firing his crossbow into the air yet he is once again bombarded by a squadron of pigeons. Now furious the statue rushes inside and fetches his 9mm handgun and frantically begins shooting at the passing pigeons. Suddenly the sound of a bell can be heard as the pigeons overun the entire clocktower and the statue can do nothing except admit defeat and live amongst his new 'guests'. At least he wont be bored anymore.
With a synopsis in place and a screenplay being plotted, I can now move on to the more visual design aspects of the storyboard.

With the main character being a statue, I thought it would be fitting to put the enemy as a pigeon as they tend to often ruin monuments and are often regarded as vermin. My design of the pigeons was very loosely based on a typical cartoon bird character with a few references to the actual thing.

The pigeon characters are stylistically quite cartoony and have a few resemblances to an actual pigeon as I wanted them to be only loosely based. The main key feature being the curved downwards beak.

For the statue I wanted to do a gargoyle stlyed character however I liked the idea of having a mighty looking warrior who just turns out to be abit of a loner. I liked certain elements of the gargoyle however I didnt want him to look too demonlike or as that seemed quite dark and that is not a feature I wanted him to have.

Most of these thumbnail drawings look too demon like and go more for the gargoyle approach. I quite like the look of the Easter Island stone heads with the actual shape of the heads and I liked the idea of a statue based loosely off a greek god.

I liked the idea of having a half statue, although it is based loosely off a greek god statue I also wanted some gargoyle elements in him. I like how Kratos has a tribal tatoos on his head which I would like to encorporate onto my statue.

A few facial expressions that I could use in the final storyboard.

The Statue in sleeping pose as the pigeon bombards it.

The Statue washing the dirt of his shoulder.

I also decided to do a few concept drawings of the old stone hall that the statue lived in. I thought it would be a nice touch to give them a quick paint job with watercolour and I like the simplicity of the design and layout.
Concept paintings of the tower. Interior and Exterior.

Screenplay for Short Horror Story

A screenplay is almost like an instruction manual for the production of a film/television programme etc. It gives the producers and in our case animators a foundation for the development of the production. Often screenplays are also adapted from existing novels or book adaptations.

I have had to produce a screenplay from a short story which I would class as Horror/Thriller short story.

This is the short story that I have had to develop into a screenplay using a software called Celtx which is like a digital pre-production software for writing scrips, screenplays e.t.c

I found a few interesting articles on screenplay writing that proved useful and insightful to screenplay writing.

A few things I found quite interesting and helpful in this article from the Guardian.

- 'In a film, you should let the story reveal the character.' I thought of this as a way of not showing that anything was too wrong when the girl first gets in the car however as the story progresses to pulling up outside the house, the plot begins to reveal the hitchhiker's true character. I also decided to add a tension between the relationship of the father and daughter as they go through the story.

- 'Characters tend to be blurry in screenplays, partly because, if you over-define things, you limit the number of actors you can cast from. But just because you can't describe their eyebrows shouldn't stop you understanding thoroughly what makes them tick. When Sam Peckinpah was rewriting scripts, he used to cross out all the characters' names and replace them with the names of people he knew, so he could get a fix on them.' I think this is a very effective way of imagining the personalities of the characters which is something that helped me when I thought of the father and daughter characters by taking certain personality traits from people I know.

- 'The real pleasure of any script is the detail. And a lot gets lost in the process. Put it back in at the last minute.'

Another very interesting link is to an article on the deconstruction of screenplays from existing movies and animations.

This article is about the deconstruction of the Incredibles (2004). The one interesting thing that I read in this article was 'The Hero's Journey is also a study of repeating patterns in successful stories and screenplays. It is compelling that screenwriters have a higher probability of producing quality work when they mirror the recurring patterns found in successful screenplays.'

'To write a successful screenplay it often helps to look at a successful script in the genre you are writing and deconstruct it to find recurring patterns and events in the plot.'

To begin writing the script I first need to outline the vital moments in the story that construct the narrative:

- The setting is a country road. It is not specified where or when which gives me the chance to fill in these gaps.

- The 2 main characters are the Father and Daughter. It is established that they are driving along this country road.

- Father & Daughter pick up a young woman who says she lives five miles down the road.

- They drive up to the farmhouse to find the girl they picked up has disappeared and is no longer in the back of the car.

- Elderly couple tell the Father & Daughter of their daughter that disappeared many years ago.

- Today would have been the young girls birthday.

After identifying the key elements of the short story, the rest is up to me to add in the details and re-write it into a screenplay. Looking at this story it seems to me that it is about the relationship between the Father and the Daughter and how they react together to a situation that makes no logical sense and it leaves them with the experience of something either very coincidental or paranormal.

When writing the screenplay for this short story I decided to add tension between the Father & Daughter. The Daughter can be seen as the archetypal teenager girl who does not quite see eye to eye with her Father . She can sometimes be overly-rude to him and often gives him attitude. The Father is alot more laid back and often likes to innocently tease his Daughter however that often gets her in a strop.

The tension changes from a petty argument to a very uneasy and quite a dark atmosphere when the young woman is picked up. The Daughter feels very uncomfortable about the young woman and tries to express her concerns to her father who is complete denial of the change in atmosphere and remains oblivious to the situation.

A good link for screenplay terminology which came very useful: