Alien Invasion Main





2013 to Present

Visual Effects

Industrial Light & Magic was the main special effects company for the movie. While Spielberg had used computers to help visualize sequences in pre-production before, Spielberg said, "This is the first film I really tackled using the computer to animate all the storyboards."

He decided to employ the technique extensively after a visit to his friend George Lucas. In order to keep the realism, the usage of computer-generated imagery shots and bluescreen was limited, with most of the digital effects being blended with miniature and live-action footage.

The design of the Tripods was described by Spielberg as "graceful," with artist Doug Chiang replicating aquatic life forms. At the same time, the director wanted a design that would be iconic while still providing a tribute to the original Tripods, as well as intimidating so the audience would not be more interested about the aliens inside than on the vehicle itself.

The visual effects crew tried to blend organic and mechanical elements in the Tripods depiction, and made extensive studies for the movements of the vehicle to be believable, considering the "contradiction" of having a large tank-like head being carried by thin and flexible legs.

Animator Randal M. Dutra considered the movements themselves to have a "terrestrial buoyance", in that they were walking on land but had an aquatic flow, and Spielberg described the Tripods as moving like "scary ballet dancers".

Most of the alien elements revolved around the number three the Tripod had three eyes, and both the vehicle and the aliens had three main limbs with three fingers each.

Visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman considered depicting the scale of the Tripod as challenging, considering "Steven wanted to make sure that these creatures were 150 feet tall", as it was the height described by Wells in the novel.

The aliens themselves had designs based on jellyfish, with movements inspired by red-eyed tree frogs, and an amphibian quality particularly on the wet skin. A styrofoam alien was used as a stand-in to guide the actors in the basement scene.

Spielberg did not want any blood or gore during the Heat-Ray deaths; in the words of Helman, "this was going to be a horror movie for kids". So the effects crew came up with the vaporization of the bodies, and considering it could not be fully digital due to both the complexity of the effect and the schedule, live-action dust was used alongside the CGI ray assimilation and particles.

Digital birds followed the Tripods in most scenes to symbolize the presence of death, which Chiang compared to vultures and added that "you don't know if these birds are going to the danger or away from it, if you should follow them or run away."

During the scene where Ray's minivan is attacked by a mob, Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg wanted a lot of interactive lights, so they added different kinds of lights, including Coleman lamps, oil lanterns, flashlights and Maglights.

The IL&M crew admitted that the destruction of the Bayonne Bridge was the toughest scene to be made with heavy usage mix of CGI effects and live action elements, and a four-week deadline so the shot could be used in a Super Bowl trailer.

The scene originally had only a gas station exploding, but then Spielberg suggested blowing up the bridge as well. The scene involved Tripods shooting a Heat-Ray towards the minivan and minivan escapes from it involved a lot of CGI layers to work out. Over 500 CGI effects were used in the film.

Costume designer Joanna Johnston created 60 different versions of Ray's leather jacket, to illustrate the degrees to which he is weathered from the beginning of the journey to the end. "He begins with the jacket, a hoodie, and two t-shirts," explains Johnston.

One piece of Dakota Fanning's costume that takes on a special importance is her lavender horse purse: "I wanted her to have something that made her feel safe, some little thing that she could sleep with and put over her face," Johnston notes.

"That was the lavender horse purse. We tied it up on a ribbon and Dakota hung it on her body, so it was with her at all times." Johnston dressed Robbie for an unconscious emulation of his father, "They're more alike than they realize, with great tension on the surface," Johnston says.


Longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams composed the music score of War of the Worlds. It was the first time Williams had to compose with an incomplete Spielberg film, as only the first six reels, totalling sixty minutes, were ready for him to use as reference.

He considered the score "a very serious piece," which had to combine "necessary frightening atmosphere" with "propulsively rhythmic drive for the action scenes" the music would be symbolically "pulling forward" vehicles in chase scenes such as Ray driving out of Bayonne or the Tripod attacking the Hudson ferry.

Williams added small nods to classic monster movie scores by having orchestras doing a "grand gesture" in scenes overlooking Tripods. To increase the scariness, Williams added a female chorus with a crescendo resembling a shriek.

This would "humanize" the track representing "victims that go out without saying an 'ouch' they're gone before they can say that" for the Tripod attacks, and a nearly inaudible male choir.

Williams compared this to "Tibetan monks, the lowest known pitch our bodies can make" for the aliens exploring the basement. The only deviation from orchestras were electronic sounds for the opening and closing narrations.

A soundtrack album was released by Decca Records, that featured the film's music and Morgan Freeman's opening and closing narration. The songs "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Hushabye Mountain" are also featured in the movie, the former sung by Tom Cruise, and the latter by Dakota Fanning.


The film was described as an anti-war film, as civilians run and only try to save themselves and their family instead of fighting back the alien Tripods. Debra J. Saunders of San Francisco Chronicle described the film as "If aliens invade, don't fight back. Run."

Saunders compared the film to Independence Day, where the civilians do run, but they support the military efforts. Many reviewers considered the film tried to recreate the atmosphere of the September 11 attacks, with bystanders struggling to survive and the usage of missing-persons displays.

Spielberg declared to Reader's Digest that beside the work being a fantasy, the threat represented was real: "They are a wake-up call to face our fears as we confront a force intent on destroying our way of life."

Screenwriter David Koepp stated that he tried not to put explicit references to September 11 or the Iraq War, but said that the inspiration for the scene where Robbie joins the army were teenagers fighting at the Gaza Strip.

"I was thinking of teenagers in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks at tanks, and I think that when you're that age you don't fully consider the ramifications of what you're doing and you're very much caught up in the moment and passion, whether that's a good idea or not."

Retained from the novel is the aliens being defeated, not by men's weapons, but the planet's smallest creatures, bacteria, which Koepp described as "nature, in a way, knowing a whole lot more than we do".


War of the Worlds - 2005

While she looks at the water, she sees dozens of human bodies floating by. She is terrified by the sight until Ray suddenly finds her and scolds her for wandering off too far. Back at the truck, and Army convoy passes by.

Robbie seems overcome with anger and wants to join them in their counterattack against the invaders. Ray tries to reason with Robbie, telling him that the idea of them joining up with the Army is ludicrous. Ray lets Robbie drive for a while so he and his daughter can get some sleep.

They come to a small town where evacuated people have gathered. The crowd quickly becomes hostile toward Ray's family and wants their vehicle. Ray and Robbie are forcefully pulled from the truck and beaten by the mob.

Rachel panics and Ray, gathering his senses, uses his gun to force the crowd to retreat a bit. Moments later, he is forced to drop his pistol when another man, determined to take the truck for himself, holds a pistol on Ray.

Ray is permitted to get Rachel out of the truck and walk away. The crowd again becomes violent and the man who took the minivan is attacked. The family continues to walk with the crowds of evacuees.

At a railroad crossing, a train zooms by, the entire length of it is on fire. At a ferry crossing in Athens, New York, the family waits to cross the river on one of the boats. Ray meets a woman he knows who has her own daughter in tow. The sound of the alien call is heard nearby and the crowd of people begin to rush the ferry.

Army guards close the gates and deny Ray, his friend and their kids entry. They see a way to bypass the gates and make it to the boat, but only Ray and his kids are able to board. Robbie sees that several people are trying to climb over the ferry's ramp and goes to help them.

As the boat crosses the river, another tripod attacks it, turning it over and spilling cars and people into the water. Ray and the kids surface and swim for shore as tentacles from the tripod grab people out of the water.

Ray and the kids make it to the opposite shore. While they steal away, they see garments floating down from sky. Still walking, the family passes by a battle between the aliens and the Army. Jets zip by overhead and Robbie somehow becomes entranced by the battle, which is unseen and taking place over a hill.

Robbie approaches it while Ray and Rachel yell for him to come back. Robbie ignores them and is stopped at the top of the hill by Army personnel. Ray leaves Rachel under a tree and confronts Robbie, telling him that he doesn't need to become involved and that his sister is very worried about him.

Robbie insists that he needs to see the battle and Ray reluctantly lets him go, accepting that he can't stop his son's obsession. Ray picks up Rachel just as a final assault of helicopters fails to stop the tripods.

The last thing Ray sees after Robbie rushes over the hill is a tripod looming over a wall of fire. It also becomes obvious that the tripods have a protective shield covering them that repels all bombardment. Just then Ray and Rachel are called by a man who owns a nearby house. The owner, Olgilvy, offers them sanctuary in his basement.

However, it becomes clear to Ray that Olgilvy is mentally unstable and plans to tunnel out of the basement. A series of loud noises from upstairs prompt the group to hide. A snake-like probe is sent into the basement.

The group narrowly avoids detection and the probe is withdrawn after a few minutes. Later, three of the aliens enter the basement - they are three-legged and very curious. Ray also stops Olgilvy from shooting them with his shotgun, knowing the noise will attract more of them. The aliens leave when their horn sounds.

Ray also discovers that the aliens are covering the landscape with a mysterious and rapidly-growing red vine and they are using blood harvested from humans they've captured to fertilize it. At this revelation, Olgilvy becomes extremely agitated, digging frantically in his basement and muttering "Not MY blood!" repeatedly.

Ray realizes that if Olgilvy continues to act the same way, he'll only grow worse and they'll all be found. Ray tries one last time to calm the man but fails. Ray has Rachel put on her headphones and listen to her music while he confronts and kills Olgilvy behind a closed door. After he emerges from the room, Ray and Rachel fall asleep.

When Rachel awakes, she sees the alien probe has returned and they've been discovered. Ray uses an axe to cut the eye of the probe off. However, Rachel has fled the house. Ray rushes out in time to see her captured by a tripod. The tripod attacks Ray, who hides in a nearby Humvee, and he's flipped over. The tripod loses interest in him, however Ray uses a grenade from a belt he finds to get it's attention.

It uses a tentacle to lift him into an underslung cage filled with other people. Ray finds Rachel, who's in deep shock. While Ray figures out how to escape, a large valve opens overhead and sucks up one of the captives. The valve then tries to capture Ray, who takes the grenade belt with him.

His fellow captives keep hold of his arm and drag him back. When Ray lands in the cage, he shows a soldier that he'd pulled the pins from two of the grenades. They explode inside the tripod and the cage is released, falling onto a nearby tree, freeing everyone. Ray and Rachel make it to Boston. While being directed by more soldiers, Ray notices that the red weeds are dying and that a tripod has come down. Another nearby tripod sounds it's horn and everyone flees.

Ray notices that birds are flying over and landing on the robot. The robot's shields are down. As he goes to tell someone, the robot makes the viberating sound. He screams at a soldier to look at the birds. The soldier looks at them and doesn't get what Ray's getting at. He looks back at Ray. The noise continues erratically as if the robot is fighting to stay alive.

The soldier finally understands, who orders his platoon to bring up Javelin missiles. Ray gets in the tunnel as all the soldiers come running out. Soldiers scurry to get set up and they hurriedly fire missiles at the robot. The first missile hit's the grabbing claws. A few more shots and the robot collapses into a nearby factory. The factory explodes and the robot grinds to a halt on the ground.

The evacuees and soldiers approach the tripod, which opens a hatch, spilling a bright orange fluid. An alien arm with a pink hue (instead of the steel-gray color Ray had seen on the aliens in the basement) falls out limply. We watch the alien turn to stone as it dies.

Mary Ann walks up to the front door and sees Ray walking down the street with Rachel in his arms. She flutters open the door, she and Rachel run towards each other on the street. Mary Ann begins crying. They hug each other crying. Mary Ann looks at Ray who is still standing in the middle of the street and thanks him.

Mary Ann's parents come out of the door. The mother has a shocked look on her face. Tim is behind them. Ray's eyes and face perk up as we see Robbie coming down the front steps towards him. Ray and Robbie take a good look at each other. They hug each other in thankfulness for each other's survival.

NARRATOR: "From the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all of man's weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God and his wisdom, put upon this earth.

At the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges, for men do not live nor die in vein."


Alien Invasion Main





2013 to Present

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