bly worth tuning in. Gunn will be answering fan questions about the reboot, and the panel description states that the members of Task Force X (i.e. The Suicide Squad) will join for a fast-paced, no-holds-barred Squad Showdown that tests every team member’s Squad knowledge — and survival skills. What that means is anyone s guess, and while no names are listed in the description itself, we know that Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Alice Braga, John Cena, Pete Davidson, and Nathan Fillion are scheduled to show up, among others (and they re in the trailer).The Snyder Cut of Justice League(Photo by DC Entertainment)When: 2:30 pm (PT)Length: 25 minutesThe fans who clamored for the mythical Snyder Cut of Justice League are finally getting their wish, as the purest version of director Zack Snyder s film is scheduled to premiere on HBO Max in 2021. With that in mind, Snyder will answer fan questions and welcome a few surprise guests likely at least Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller, both of whom have panels before this one.The Flash (TV)(Photo by DC Entertainment)When: 2:54 pm (PT)Length: 16 minutesOne of only two TV-specific panels that were moved to the Hall of Heroes presentation after FanDome was split into two days, The Flash panel will feature executive producer Eric Wallace and stars Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Nicolet, Kayla Compton and Brandon McKnight as they reminisce over Season 6 and look ahead to Season 7. In addition, they ll also preview a sneak peek at the black-and-white noir-themed episode Kiss Kiss Breach Breach, which was supposed to have run as part of Season 6 before the pandemic hit. It should be noted that this panel has been dramatically shortened to 16 minutes to fit into the Hall of Heroes schedule, so we may not get everything described above on August 22, but it looks like the full 40-minute presentation will be broadcast on September 12.Black Adam(Photo by DC Enteratinment)When: 3:10 pm (PT)Length: 15 minutesWe re finally getting the Black Adam movie in 2021 or we expect to get it in time for Christmas, anyway and star Dwayne Johnson will be doing a Q A session to give fans a taste of what his first comic book superhero movie will look like. The description for the panel also mentions a few surprises, so we may get some info on how the film may tie in to Shazam! (more on that movie below).Titans (TV)(Photo by Warner Bros.)When: 3:50 pm (PT)Length: 15 minutesThis is the second television series, along with The Flash, that was deemed worthy to move from its original placement in the WatchVerse module to the prime Hall of Heroes lineup, so that already hints that the panel will deliver something special for the fans. However, also like The Flash, the length of the panel has been cut down from its original 30-minute slot in order to fit here, but when it resurfaces on FanDome s September 12 broadcast, we ll get the whole shebang. With all of that said, the panel is set to include stars Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter, Conor Leslie, Curran Walters, Joshua Orpin, Damaris Lewis, with Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly as they talk about the upcoming third season and possibly unveil a premiere date.Aquaman(Photo by Warner Bros.)When: 4:05 pm (PT)Length: 10 minutesSure, Aquaman has been out for a couple of years now, so a retrospective look at the film may not be the most earth-shattering thing on your list. That said, director James Wan and co-star Patrick Wilson will be on hand for a brief look back at the world of Atlantis with some behind-the-scenes material, and that could potentially lead into some new info or some sort of a teaser for either Aquaman 2 (due out in 2022) or the horror-themed spinoff The Trench (reportedly due out sometime before Aquaman 2), both of which are in active development right now.SHAZAM!(Photo by DC Entertainment)When: 4:40 pm (PT)Length: 10 minutesLike Aquaman, Shazam! has already come and gone from theaters, but unlike the panel for that film, the description for this one specifically teases that star Zachary Levi and co-stars Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Granger, Faithe Herman, Meagan Good, and Mark Strong will discuss what the next movie might be about, along with surprise guests. Again, this could all point to the eventual Black Adam/Shazam! crossover everyone is expecting.The Batman(Photo by @mattreevesLA)When: 5:30 pm (PT)Length: 30 minutesThe primetime evening slot goes to Matt Reeves The Batman, possibly the most anticipated film of the event, if only because we ve gotten a fair amount of detail about Wonder Woman 1984 but still don t know a whole lot about the latest iteration of the Caped Crusader. Reeves will be joined by FanDome host Aisha Tyler to talk about the upcoming film, and while the description mentions a surprise (or two), we know that Robert Pattinson is supposed to show up at some point, so there could be some big reveals in store.DC FanDome s Hall of Heroes presentations begin at 10:00 am (PT) on Saturday, August 22. Click here for the full schedule.Thumbnail images by DC Entertainment
H.G. Wells’ serialized novel The War of the Worlds was first published in the late 19th century, telling the story of a Martian invasion and attempted extermination of our planet after the English writer had already delivered The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Wells’ works have been adapted several times in several different formats over the last 90 years, but never as memorably or successfully as the repeated attempts to breathe life into this timeless allegory. There was Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 radio broadcast, which panicked a nation and later inspired the backstory for Buckaroo Banzai, and Byron Haskin’s 1953 film is considered one of the seminal science-fiction films of its era. But in 2005, Steven Spielberg re-teamed with his Minority Report star Tom Cruise to offer a modern take on War of the Worlds, one that represented the culmination of the director s shift away from the idealist who once encouraged his audiences to watch the skies. On its 15th anniversary, we look back at what made War of the Worlds so effective, how it fits in Spielberg s filmography, and why it might actually be his most terrifying film.A GRADUAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFT(Photo by Universal Pictures)As early as 1964, when a 17-year-old Spielberg made a 0, 140-minute film called Firelight, his view towards the night skies (as well as life in general) represented more of a hopeful outlook than a cynical one. (He once questioned the screenplay of Used Cars for suggesting that politicians were in it just for the grift.) 1977 s Close Encounters of the Third Kind isn t exactly a glowing endorsement of fatherhood, but it ultimately concludes on an optimistic note, and in 1982 s beloved E.T., the greatest threat comes not from space or its alien visitor, but from humanity itself.Spielberg really began to embrace the darker elements of science fiction first in 1993 s Jurassic Park and its immediate sequel, both cautionary tales of human arrogance, and then in Stanley Kubrick’s long-gestating A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which he took over upon Kubrick s death. In the latter film, David the robot undergoes a harrowing journey in his search to become human that culminates in a touching but melancholy scene set after the extinction of humanity. Spielberg s follow-up the very next year, the Philip K. Dick adaptation Minority Report, then presented a world in which literal thought police are in charge and abusing their power in Washington D.C. Still, all of those films feel like a prelude to War of the Worlds, which drops all pretense, pulls out all the stops, and delivers a pulse-pounding survival thriller set into motion by the arrival of a deadly, relentless enemy from the skies. Gone are the days of Close Encounters musical tones of peace and the healing power of E.T. s glowing finger, replaced by darker themes inspired by real life events.THE UNOFFICIAL 9/11 TRILOGY (Photo by (c)DreamWorks, (c)Paramount, (c)Universal courtesy Everett Collection)While Spielberg never formally gave them a name the way fellow directors like John Carpenter (The Thing, Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness = The Apocalypse Trilogy) or Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven Earth = The Vietnam Trilogy) did with their own work, his three films from 2004 and 2005 trade in common themes and fears stemming from the attacks on US landmarks on September 11, 2001. The Terminal from 2004 is often dismissed as a whimsical Capra-esque vehicle for Tom Hanks, but it s also a fable about the trepidation of outsiders entering our country. Stanley Tucci’s customs director even attempts to make Hanks trapped immigrant admit that he is afraid of his home country in exchange for passage to ours. At the end of 2005, Spielberg directly tackled the terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. That film’s government-sponsored revenge unit epitomizes the never-ending violence-begets-violence message, justifying its supposed righteousness with misinformation, and Spielberg ends the film with the less than subtle final image of the still-standing twin towers of the World Trade Center.In between The Terminal and Munich came War of the Worlds, which might not seem at first glance to be an obvious thematic fit, despite its heavily allegorical source material. But when Dakota Fanning s young Rachel asks Is it the terrorists? as she ducks for cover in the back of a van and her brother Robbie (Justin Chatwin) echoes the question moments later, it draws a straight line to the events of 9/11, and the references don t stop there. The alien enemy of the film emerges with weapons buried within Earth itself, like a terrorist cell waiting in hiding for the moment to strike. As Tom Cruise s Ray seeks shelter for himself and his kids at his ex-wife s home, a passenger plane comes crashing down into the neighborhood. Spielberg isn t dabbling in shameless exploitation, though; he never asks us to marvel at the special effects or ooh and ahh as buildings are leveled the way we whooped and guffawed through Independence Day. When Ray returns home after the initial attack, the realization that the ash on his face belongs to the disintegrated people he ran through pulls him out of shock into a moment of panic, and it s equally terrifying for the audience, for both its literal and figurative significance.ABSENT SAVIORS(Photo by (c)Paramount courtesy Everett Collection)Spielberg’s relationship with his own parents particularly his father is well documented in his filmography and further fleshed out in Susan Lacy’s 2017 HBO documentary. Understandably, in War of the Worlds, Cruise’s Ray is not exactly the father figure his estranged children need in their time of distress. At the beginning of the film, he s a divorced deadbeat dad who doesn t know what to do with the limited time he gets with his kids when they arrive for the weekend, leaving Rachel to order her own food and watch TV while he sleeps; Robbie, who insists on calling Ray by his first name out of spite, seizes the opportunity to take his dad s car out for a spin. When they make their daring escape from the city later, Ray also appears to be unaware of his daughter’s claustrophobia or her peanut butter allergy. Father of the Year material he is not, but he s the only hope his children have for salvation.Meanwhile, their fellow humans begin to grow desperate, turning on one another in the tradition of everything from Night of the Living Dead to The Mist. The darker religious connotations of the latter have a more pointed role in 1953 s The War of the Worlds. One priest is martyred early in the film for attempting communication with the Martians, but when they attack the church where a group of survivors have gathered to sing and pray during the film s climax, they meet their downfall, as if by divine intervention. By contrast, in Spielberg’s version, a church is the first major building to suffer destruction from the enemy as they emerge from underground. God is pushed out of the way right at the onset, resulting in one less reason for the helpless to look to the sky.SPIELBERG S MOST TERRIFYING FILMThis may be a controversial claim, given that Steven Spielberg is responsible for two of the all-time most popular terror rides (Jaws and Jurassic Park) and at least an assist on a third (Poltergeist, which he produced and co-wrote), but it s certainly worthy of debate. He drops us in the water and then traps us on the Orca in Jaws never let anyone tell you this is not a horror film but the whole affair is splashed with a great deal of adventure. Jurassic Park s velociraptors, dilophosauruses, and T-Rex can hunt and chase you down both out in the open and in a kitchen, but the experience is also filled with the benign wonder of the first dino sighting, along with a sick triceratops and a sneezy brachiosaurus.War of the Worlds has no iconic John Williams theme that you can play over a loudspeaker and feel a sense of euphoric warmth; the music is as eerie and menacing as the aliens’ call-to-arms (a seven-trumpets-like signal that would later be repurposed for humor in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping). Spielberg never lets his foot off the gas, even when Ray and his kids are only walking or hiding. Moments that feel appropriated from his earlier works find fresh life here, most notably the cat-and-mouse game played with an alien tentacle in a basement that recalls the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park as well as the mechanical spiders in Minority Report. There s even a subtle nod to Spielberg s Poltergeist screenplay when Ray reassures Rachel that lightning never strikes in the same place twice.In between, Spielberg dreams up new nightmares, from a dead body floating in a stream that s soon followed by hundreds more to a flaming train that blazes past Ray and the kids as they make their way to a ferry with a massive crowd of fellow refugees. The ill-fated ferry ride itself is a horrifying set-piece well beyond the nightmares of Sheriff Brody, Jaws heroic lawman, who also never had to decide whether to save his kids by killing Mayor Vaughn, whose crimes against humanity were far greater than just making too much noise, like Tim Robbins Harlan. The throwaway moment of a blood bank announcing that they have more blood than we can use is alternately ominous and reassuring, but paired with the sight of an alien tripod harvesting a human being and spewing their blood across the landscape, it offers little comfort. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE(Photo by Paramount Pictures)War of the Worlds is usually not regarded with the same deference as Spielberg’s other timeless blockbusters, but it may surprise some to learn that it is still Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing domestic film with over 4 million at the box office. The ending remains a point of contention for critics of the film, and some still can t forgive the climactic resurrection of one character. But like many films, its reputation has changed with the times, and the one we are living through now, on the film s 15th anniversary, is its own reflective nightmare. Today, a mass gathering of sardine-packed crowds is a bad omen, but H.G. Wells himself indirectly predicted what it might take for us to come to our senses, and Spielberg s film expands on the notion.The die is cast early with Rachel’s splinter; Ray warns her it will get infected if he does not remove it, but she calmly states that when it’s ready, my body will just push it out. As the film ends and Morgan Freeman s voice is heard explaining its ultimate deus ex machina, we are left with these words: “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, in His wisdom, put upon this Earth. By 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 neither do men live, nor die, in vain.” The mere thought that the tables have turned, that we ourselves could now be the ones undone by God s tiniest creatures, is scarier than any shark or any dinosaur, and it s a stark reminder of how prescient the best science fiction can be.Where You Can Watch It NowFandangoNOW (rent/own), Amazon (rent/own), Google (rent/own), iTunes (rent/own), Vudu (rent/own)War of the Worlds was released on June 29, 2005.
Love spectacle? Love splosions? Love slow-mo? Then you probably love the output of directors Zack Snyder and Michael Bay. But which blockbuster director’s output is the most lovable? That’s what we’re asking in our fieriest episode of Vs. ever. Host Mark Ellis pits the two directors against each across five rounds: Box office performance; Tomatometer and Audience Scores; Iconic Character; Memorable Moments; and a special wildcard category. Will it be the man who gave us jacked-up Spartans, hyped-up zombies, and a very torqued-up Bruce Wayne? Or will the maestro behind Transformers, Bad Boys, and Armageddon get the W? Watch to find out, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.