War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg Introduction War of the Worlds, is an American science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film was produced in 2005 and is an adaptation of H. G Well’s novels War of the Worlds (1898). Basically, the film focuses on the life of Ray Ferrier, a divorced man living separately from his two children. The film begins when Ferrier is visited by his ex-wife, Marry Ann who drops off their two children, Rachael and Robbie and later leaves to visit her parents in Boston. Later, Robbie takes off with his father’s car without asking for his permission.
As Ferrier goes out to search for his son, he notices an eccentric wall of cloud that begins to emit electromagnetic pulses which look like lightening. As a result, all electronic devices such as cars in the area are disabled. Robbie is forced to return, after his father’s car fails to function. While Ferrier visits the local mechanic in an attempt to find a solution to his car, lightening strikes and a big hole appears in the ground where a gigantic machine with three long legs appears.
The Tripod machine opens fire producing destructive heart rays that vaporize the people standing by and destroying every visible thing. As the Tripods continue to destroy the town, Ray manages to escape. He tries to protect his children from the attacks by fleeing with them to join his ex-wife in Boston (War of the Worlds 2005). This paper will examine how this film reinforces or challenges status quo and whether a signature style is evident in this film with reference to the film’s semantic and syntactic elements.
In this case reinforcing status quo will refer to adhering to the set conventions or the current state of affairs in science fiction genre whereas challenging status quo will refer to going beyond the set conventions of the science fiction genre. A critical look at the semantic and syntactic elements incorporated in this film, it is evident that the War of the Worlds mainly reinforces status quo since most of the semantic and syntactic elements incorporated in this film imitate the classical science fiction genre in a highly reflexive way. Reinforcement of status quoAltman’s (1989), sentiments on the semantic –syntactic model provides a suitable approach that can be used in the study of film genre.
According to Altman, a genre constitutes of semantic and syntactic traits that distinguishes the genre of one film from the other (Moine, Fox & Radner 74). “War of the Worlds” epitomizes a science fiction genre. The semantic and syntactic elements incorporated in the film evidently portray similar characteristics with science fiction films. This film reinforces the status quo of this genre mainly because it adheres to the set conventions of the science fiction genre.
By critically looking at the semantic aspects of the film, one can clearly classify “War of the Worlds” as a science fiction film. Tellotte (2001) notes that the science fiction genre incorporates speculative science –based representations of phenomenon that are not real, unaccepted or confirmed by mainstream science. In most cases the science fiction films depict unreal or unconfirmed phenomenon such as time travel, alien worlds, robotic images, extraterrestrial life forms and highly advanced technologies. Most of these films centre on alien invasion (Tellotte 34-43).
For example, renowned science fiction films produced in the 1900’s such as “Metamorphosis: The Alien factor” (1990), “The Deadly Spawn” (1983), “ShadowZone” (1990) and “Alien 3” (1992) among many other films focus on alien invasion, and the existence of extraterrestrial life forms and highly advanced technologies. The props used in these films include super natural and futuristic elements like robots, space crafts, aliens, extraterrestrial life forms, interstellar space travel and cyborgs among other technologies. Generally, these films and many others produced during these era incorporate semantic elements incorporating super natural and futuristic elements.
In addition to this, the settings, plot lines, props and technical cinematographic elements incorporated in these films adhere to the conventions of the science fiction genre set out in the early years of silent cinema. The semantic elements depicted in these films typify the early science fiction films like “A Trip to the moon” (1902) by George Melies.