End of an era?



Email to Al Sullivan



            Today, the speculation stops.

            The date has been tattooed onto the brain cells of Steven Spielberg fans since first announced, and has become a countdown to when we learn all the secrets kept from us.

            We learn how this film stacks up against Spielberg’s other collection, and whether or not the wait was worth it.

            This is, of course, the end of an era for places like Bayonne – those places Paramount, Spielberg and Tom Cruise invaded for a short time last fall. What has been a still living entity, both in the editing room of Paramount and in our minds, takes its final shape – and short of reissue later – becomes a fixed, unalterable piece of history.

            Certainly fans will flock to the theaters to catch the flick, and we all will likely walk away in awe of Spielberg’s master of technique, the quality of Cruise’s (and Dakota’s) acting, and amazing special effects. We will finally learn what actually transpires as story after months of speculation. We will actually get to see what the aliens look like, how red weed behaves and whether or not Spielberg employed Black Smoke in his tale as some report.

            For staff who participated in the making of the movie, this will be a crowning moment to see if their own speculation was right, that Spielberg had grabbed hold of a tiger’s tail with this film, one that would set the standard for the Summer film season the way Jaws or Star Wars did.

            Workers will search the credits to see if they did enough to earn a place there. Extras will crowd the front row of each theater to squint closely at the large screen to see if they can make out their own faces. People in Bayonne, Athens, Staten Island and elsewhere will come to see the landscape of their lives altered in a fictional reality, crying out when something familiar is destroyed.

            But something is also lost today for me, some thrill of the hunt that detectives feel when finally the mystery is solved and the guilty parties exposed. Over the last months, the film making has taken on a life of its own, becoming its own entity, a living, breathing creative process that was to me as important as the final product. Half the fun of War of the Worlds for me was trying to get inside a great director's head, to figure out what he might do from the host of clues he left behind in his sets and in reports of those who took part.

            In the next few hours, I’ll learn the answers to nearly every question, whether my guesses were right or not, and I’m certain I will be awed by surprises Spielberg and company placed inside the tale.

            Yet the moment the film starts, the mystery is over, and unlike detectives who move on to solver other mysteries, there is no more left for me.

            Everything that can be written – except to analyze the final product – I have written, at least from the limited perspective of Bayonne.

            Like stories about Woodstock, the 1965 blackout, or even 9/11, tales of the making of War of the Worlds lose currency, except as personal myth or anniversary stories. Over the next few weeks, people will recall the part they played, but then, this will fade as new movies replace this one on local marquees. Who will care to hear about the local artist who’s husband came home one day from work in Brooklyn to tell her that he had just meet and told a joke to Mel Brooks, and her reply: “That’s nothing dear, I just had coffee with Tom Cruise.”

            Bayonne will seem a little less colorful after today.



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