Is this the first time that I Just Saw has doubled up on a movie? I think so! Went back and read the von Burg, which I had skipped since I hadn't seen the thing yet.
Ron sees the movie as a story of matriarchs, sort of. I don't disagree, but it was the narrative of masculinity that left an impression with me. If Hitch was about the everyman thrust into heroics, this film is about the screw up in the same condition. It was fun to watch a lead character so flawed, and for whom the move to savior is not miraculously transformative like coming out of the phone booth as Superman. Cruise has bumps along the way and is never completely transformed but still changes during the movie. Of course, the disaterous way the movie ends does much to deligitimize this transformation, a very sour note to the best part of the film. And it really is tragic; the ending makes zero sense and undercuts the meaning of the film as badly as I have ever seen happen in a film.
Sure, the effects are fine. Lots of stuff blows up good. That is par for a movie of this size.
The film, though, does succumb to one of my pet peeves. I want the writers to have the subjects react to situations in character, not as a matter of plot convenience. Dakota Fanning's character is criminally negligent in this regard. This girl is both freaked out and screams at the drop of a hat (I want to sleep in my own bed, Why won't daddy tell me where we are going?) and at the same time holds steely nerves and uncanny perception (Look at the trees, the aliens are coming; yes, there are creepy aliens crawling around five feet from me, but I won't say a word). I can understand this if the character grew more resolve after being tested over the course of the film, but here the daughter's nerves are turned on and off at will by the writers depending on whether they want the raise tension or lower it. The son, as well, rebels and reconciles with his father as the flow of the story dictates, not the character's own development. I know why the screenwriters do that; they have to be more worried about manipulating the tension levels in the audience than in telling the story during a blockbuster. But it bugs me. So there.
All right, I'm probably wrong. But the effects are really the only things keeping this movie going. And that's not enough.