Monday, 18 July 2005

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A Xenotheological Romance? or, Why God Loves His Terran Children More A chunk of narration near the end of Wells' War of the Worlds has always bothered me. That same chunk of narration in Spielberg's War of the Worlds bothers me even more. I haven't read Wells in years, but as I started to working the influence of evolutionary theory ca. 1890-1910, I realized I'd have to account for War of the Worlds. After all, it's one of the few novels in which evolution qua evolution wins. Pure and simple: the best laid plans of man and alien fall before the unremitting logic of Darwinian adaptation. That's why the inclusion of this passage--in the form of a voice-over by Morgan Freeman--seems so, dare I say, conciliatory: And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians--dead!--slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth. Spielberg, founding member of the Actual Jewish Media Conspiracy (a.k.a. Dreamworks), kowtows to an increasingly Christian marketplace of ideas by including that narration out of context. In the film, Tom Cruise and his daughter shack up wtih Tim Robbins, a former ambulance driver. Robbins--like Cruise's son in the film--is compelled by the need to do something to, well, do something. As the aliens approach, Robbins becomes increasingly unstable, and so Cruise must put him down. The scene works. The murder of Robbins the ambulance driver--in addition to sounding like a Smiths' B-side--expresses the limits to which Cruise will go to survive. However, Spielberg focuses entirely on the revelation of Cruise's character--Robbins shuffles onstage, speaks bravely, cracks, and is shuffled off--whereas Wells' focus is as much on the curate as the unnamed (and decidedly less heroic) narrator. That's right: I said curate. The criticism of the cloth in the novel is unmistakeable. To wit: At Halliford I had already come to hate the curate's trick of helpless exclamation, his stupid rigidity of mind. His endless muttering monologue vitiated every effort I made to think out a line of action, and drove me at times, thus pent up and intensified, almost to the verge of craziness. He was as lacking in restraint as a silly woman. He would weep for hours together, and I verily believe that to the very end this spoiled child of life thought his weak tears in some way efficacious. Once God abandons him, the curate's "stupid rigidity of mind" becomes blinding, his lack of restraint--appealing to the period's gender stereotypes--transforms him into a little more than "a silly woman." But here's the most damning phrase, the one that puts the film's final theocentricism to lie: "to the very end this spoiled child of life thought his weak tears in some way efficacious." Those "weak tears" poured forth from his eyes...

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