is the best way to sum up Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which I saw this afternoon. (NOTE: This review contains spoilers… which I think may be a misnomer in the case of this film… there is no way to spoil a movie that is already rotten through and through).
I cannot recall seeing another film as intent on lying to the audience about the nature of the human person — not once, not twice, but in nearly every scene. It was a relentless, disturbing vision that rarely, if ever, qualified its disdain for humanity. Man is essentially selfish, except (sometimes) toward those to whom he is genetically related. What man does has no significance for the future of the world. Such lofty matters are settled by higher life forms… the true protagonists of this film: aliens and bacteria.
Maybe you think I’m being overdramatic in calling it a satanic vision. But it’s the most theologically precise way of describing the movie I can think of. As the credits rolled, my first thought was, “this is the artistic vision of a fervent atheist.” And then I corrected myself, because I realized I was being unduly generous. It isn’t simply an atheistic viewpoint – it is satanic.
Let me explain myself. The name of Satan (or ha satan) surfaces in the Hebrew scriptures (see Job 1:6) and translates literally as “the accuser.” In the New Jerusalem Bible, the editor glosses Job 1:6 by saying that the angel Satan is “responsible for testing human beings in their faithfulness to God.” Basically, Satan comes to God and says that Job is actually not the God-fearing and righteous man that God claims he is. Satan’s challenge to God is this: If you take away his possessions, including his personal health, Job will curse your name. His allegiance to you is simply a result of the easy life you have provided for him… In other words, he doesn’t really love you. So God allows Satan to test Job…
In the scriptures, Job is put through many trials, but he refuses to curse God even once. At the end, Job, still an afflicted man, makes this beautiful speech:
“I know that you [God] are all powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I was the man who misrepresented your intentions
with my ignorant words.
You have told me about great works that I cannot understand,
about marvels which are beyond me, of which I know nothing.
Listen, please, and let me speak:
I am going to ask the questions, and you are to inform me.
Before, I knew you only by hearsay
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2-6)
Obviously, Satan has been completely wrong about Job, and about his capacity for love and reverence.
Now I turn to Spielberg’s film. It’s quite a different story. Tom Cruise is the anti-Job, the one who proves the accuser right. There is no God according to the ethos of the film, except as someone to be cursed. And there is no reverence for the human person, made in God’s image… a being capable of imaging the Trinitarian, self-giving love of the Godhead. In the face of catastrophic circumstances, Cruise’s character runs out on his daughter, abandons his son, and kills a man (not out of self-defense, but because apparently he feels like it). The other humans in the film are equally cowardly and selfish. Everyone is clawing for their own survival… there are no stories that parallel the actual accounts emerging from World War II, the Twin Towers, etc., about heroic self-sacrifice in the face of catastrophe. There’s no room for that in Spielberg’s vision (except some brief moments with Cruise’s son). And no one ever cries out to God, except to curse His name. So the film adopts a Satanic ethos that asserts that man is not capable of either altruism or reverence.
This is the vision that emerges from the director who brought us Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan! Has Spielberg sold his Jewish heritage for a one-night stand with the culture of death? I just don’t get it.
Equally disturbing is the proposed anthropology. Man is inconsequential to the narrative being presented. The aliens existed before humans did… and humanity has nothing to contribute to the defeat of the aliens. That task is left to a higher life form (bacteria).
So, in brief, my take on the film is this: The movie lies to us about man, about his origins and his possibilities, from the first frame until the last. The movie endorses the thesis of the Father of Lies. And, to my mind, it never qualifies the endorsement. It’s eerie to me how the aliens are mounted on tripods… the enemy looks suspiciously like a film crew on location that is constantly seeking to obliterate humanity. Every time I saw the tripod, I began thinking to myself, “Look out! Here comes Spielberg!”
So, if this is the kind of movie you find entertaining, inspiring, or otherwise worth your support, I submit that there are perhaps more cost-effective ways of supporting the degradation of the human person. Organizations like Planned Parenthood are more than happy to accept donations.
I have more to say about how this movie is explicitly a vehicle for the culture of death… but I’ll save that for another post.
Some people will say I took the movie too seriously. But I think the movie took itself seriously, so I’m simply responding in kind.
Two thumbs down. I can’t support a project like this without surrendering my humanity.