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The War of the worlds by Steven Spielberg can be categorised as a hybrid genre, containing a mix of a sci-fi and a family drama. The audience establishes that it is a sci-fi with aspects of family drama right from the start of the film, as there seems to be two openings to the film.
The first opening is a voice over by Morgan Freeman, using scientific words to describe how people (referred to as a swarm of ants – small and insignificant) were being watched by another intelligent group of people. The speech finishes with the use of paralanguage, a technique whereby his voice takes a more serious tone when discussing how others are going to take over the world. These words are combined with the imagery that appears, as a white light starts to increase, which could be described like an eye, which obviously portrays someone watching.
The other opening to the film is used to establish the main character Ray Ferrier and his family. This is where the other genre of a family drama appears. Dramatic irony is instantly set up as the audience knows that doom is about to occur; however the characters don’t. We follow the family throughout the film as they struggle to survive against the aliens, and watch their relationships with one another being tested, as Ray learns more about his family.
This is completely contrasted to Independence Day by Roland Emmerich, as this film is categorised as a sci-fi and action film. This film is a lot more involved with the government rather than the family aspect, unlike War of the Worlds. However, there are elements of romance during Independence Day, as one couple gets married and the second couple who broke up before the film started, hold hands and we see a shot of the wedding ring that the man has worn throughout the whole time of their separation.
There is also an opening sequence at the beginning of Independence Day. As the title credits appear, the music is very military like, which includes snare drums and even gunshots. The very first image that the viewer sees is the American flag, together with a stretch of footprints on top of the moon. This portrays to the audience past glories that the Americans have achieved. However, this does not last long as the footprints slowly vanish from the scene, perhaps showing an extermination of mankind. After this opening scene finishes, the scene cuts to a shot where the music that starts up contains the lyrics “it’s the end of the world as we know it.” This is subtle irony, as obviously the audience knows the end of the world is about to come. Numerous other clichï¿½s like this one appear constantly throughout the film such as the use of cigars, to highlight the stereotypical America, but are completely taken out during the War of the Worlds.
The music in War of the Worlds is completely different to Independence Day. This is because the music heard at the beginning of War of the Worlds is not military and is more thrilling and emotive. This highlights further that the genre of War of the Worlds is not just a sci-fi/thriller movie, but also more of a family drama.
Narrative is constantly used to make sense and to create meaning out of our chaotic experiences and is essential to our understanding of experiences of the world. Narrative structure is also used to give order and shape to the series of events. The structure identified in War of the Worlds is linear owing to the fact that it is single stranded as there is only one main story throughout the film. The film starts off as a low concept film and ends as a high concept film. This is completely contrasted to Independence Day, which has a multistranded narrative and is very fast paced with a collection of short sequences. This represents the chaos that everyone is experiencing, and the fact that everyone is bewildered. From all of these different narratives occurring through the film Independence Day, the viewer knows we will eventually come to a conjunction with all these different storylines and this appears true when the audience arrives at July the 4th and the narrative from then on is single stranded.
Narrative also requires a narrator, someone who tells the story from his or her point of view. In War of the Worlds, the entire film is from the point of view of Ray Ferrier and his family. This helps the viewer to relate to the characters and become more emotionally involved. This does not happen in Independence Day, as there are several main characters and all different storylines and therefore it becomes increasingly difficult for the audience to participate in the action of the film, and has to merely sit on the sidelines as an observer.
The narrative of War of the Worlds also contains references to the 9/11 attacks. This is noticeable at the beginning of the film where the voice over is heard and suggests we are being watched by another intelligent group of people. Furthermore, throughout the film there are other references that signify this, such as the plane crash, clothes falling from the sky, and ash fogging up the sky. This is clearly a post 9/11 film, unlike Independence Day, which is a pre- 9/11 film that suggests that America is confident that they are the leaders and everyone else is following them.
The film Independence Day portrays an idealistic view of how they would like to think America is. Firstly, President Whitmore is an idealistic representation of a president, as he is clearly hardworking, witty, an ex-warrior and a family man. Furthermore, throughout the film there are shots of certain landmarks, which show the very iconic America, such as shots of the moon landing, and the Statue of liberty. In addition to this, the scenes in Independence Day are completely varied from City scenes to the deserts. This suggests to the viewer that America is a country of a multi-ethnic society. The stereotypical America is also represented further in this film by the use of glasses being worn by important and clever people, showing that glasses signify intelligence. Also, it contains every type of character including young and old, and straight and gay.
The mise-en-scene presented in War of the Worlds is a lot bleaker and darker than Independence Day, which portrays more War-like imagery. Furthermore, there is a lot more death and destruction than there is in Roland Emmerich’s film. The vulnerability of the children is also a lot stronger, which highlights again the fact that War of the Worlds focuses on the family point of view. The whole script of the film is a lot more authentic than Independence Day, and contains more realism, for example when Ray says to always put yourself first. The overall film doesn’t pay attention to the sci-fi genre, but is more of a sci-fi played on a modern film. This is also emphasized right from the beginning of the film, as we learn that this film is taking place in the 21st century, and the majority of sci-fi films are set in the future.
Throughout War of the Worlds, there are many shots that are over exposed, which suggests that the things that are happening are beyond reality, and hyper-real. This is completely juxtaposed to Independence Day, which has a lot of different creeds of colour situated in the film. This suggests Independence Day is a more light-hearted film, rather than War of the Worlds, which is a lot more dismal.
Throughout War of the Worlds, the News on the television in the film acts as an exposition tool, which gives the audience the background of the characters and the present situation. This does not happen in Independence Day, the script of this film plays out contemporary anxieties and fears which Americans have, and expresses important US values.
Having looked at the similarities and differences of Independence Day by Roland Emmerich, and War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg, it is clear that the way each film is portrayed, through the use of mise-on-scene, the music, the characters, and the way the films are structured, generates the type of genre and narrative each film can be identified as. War of the Worlds can be described as a hybrid genre, containing a mix of a sci-fi and a family drama, owing to the emotive elements and scenes of the film, whereas Independence Day could be categorised as a sci-fi/action film, owing to the usage of the strong, military music, the government, and the general alpha-male context. Although both of the films narratives are extremely identical, the structure of it is completely different. This is due to the fact War of the Worlds has a basic narrative structure, owing to the fact it is linear and single stranded, as the film has one storyline which commences as a low concept film and ends as a high concept film. This is contrasted to Independence Day, as this film contains a multi-stranded narrative up to the last day, which keeps the film fast paced, and highlights further the chaos and tension of America’s society.