I had to make a sudden business trip last week ripping me from my home for three days. I have to make a two day trip next week. I’m not a happy business traveler. I miss Bill. I miss my creature comforts, my cat, my guns. I fall behind blogging, gun cleaning, household chores, everything. I can’t even keep up with reading my favorite blogs because I don’t travel with a laptop—airport security is too much of a hassle. Oh the humanity (on reread I’m glad that I have so little to complain about).
My work puts me up in decent hotels for which I’m grateful. But, I have little to do or see beyond sightseeing and I’ve done enough of that. So, out of boredom I sometimes rent one of the really expensive movies hotels have now (although at $13.00 for a frickin’ movie I try to resist). In fact, I even posted about spending my money on hotel movies when I reviewed “Shaun of the Dead."
Last Thursday, I rented “War of the Worlds.” I like science fiction movies and I’ve read H.G. Wells’ novel several times. I know there's a political background to both book and movie. Wells was a socialist and his “War of the Worlds” was a stab at Great Britain’s military might and Imperialism. Similarly, Tim Robbins’ character mouths platitudes about occupations always fail—a thinly-veiled stab at Bush’s Iraq policy.
But let’s put politics aside and concentrate on gunnie interests in the movie. Overall there's a lot of shooting, but soldiers do most of it fruitlessly because the alien invaders have force fields. There are two civilian gun scenes. The second scene involves a shotgun that really doesn't come into play. One might say it’s a symbol of the futility of having a gun because Ray and another man can’t use it (the sound would give them away, alien machines are protected, etc.)
That’s all I’ll say about the shotgun scene because I want to discuss the first scene in depth. If you haven't seen the movie and don’t want the scenes spoiled...you know what to do.
Tom Cruise’s character, Ray, flees his home but not before sticking a snubnose revolver in his waistband. Alien invaders have caused an EMP type event frying cars and most electrical systems within a certain radius. Ray manages to steal a working van (he told a mechanic to replace the solenoids) and he, his teenage son Robbie, and ten-year old daughter Rachel rush out of town.
They head to Boston where Ray’s divorced wife is located. Taking back roads they run into few humans and no aliens. Their luck runs out when they drive through a town whose main street is clogged with refugees.
You can see what’s building up. Ray has the only working vehicle in the area with only three people in it. The crowd gives way at first, but eventually turns into a mob because they want the van. Finally, Ray and his son hit a pole and the mob pulls him and his son out of the van leaving Ray's shrieking daughter in the back seat.
People swarm into the van while Ray and Robbie fight the mob, but they can’t get to Rachel until Ray remembers his revolver and fires shots into the air. The crowd pulls away and Ray tries to get Rachel, but the mob won't give up the van.
Finally another armed man points a larger gun, a semi-auto, at Ray who drops his revolver and says take the van, but give me my daughter. The armed man agrees and takes the van. Ray and his children stumble into a diner and wait until their adrenaline levels return to normal.
Meanwhile, another man picks up Ray’s revolver and gets an “empowered” look on his face. He goes to the van and shoots semi-auto man. The mob swarms once again and one is left to think these actions will be repeated again and again.
On the face of it, the scene is an anti-gun message. The gun causes the death of semi-auto guy and Ray can’t save his van. But, there's another message. Ray used his gun to stop desperate people from driving away with Rachel. If he hadn’t had the gun he likely would never have seen his daughter again.
Since I’m a gun nut, I’d be armed if aliens or zombies attack. More down to earth, I’d be armed in a natural disaster like Katrina in New Orleans. Still, I recognize that a gun can’t solve all problems. It wouldn’t stop water rising, a mob, kill a force-field protected alien, or stop an armored vehicle. But, it’s like any tool. You can’t hammer a nail with a screwdriver so you better have a hammer. Similarly, f you need to defend yourself, a gun is your best bet.
Speilberg has a complicated history with guns. He’s publicly called for more gun control and yet he’s believed to have a large gun collection that he's neither confirmed nor denied. He misstated his age on a “handgun registration” form (unknown if this is a Form 4473 or a California requirement).
Of course, he’s hypocritical about gun ownership, but it’s possible he may be using his movies to subtly undermine gun control. Here’s an interesting argument along those lines.
I could be wrong, but I think the mixed messages in this scene were done on purpose. Maybe Speilberg would like to do a true pro-gun movie?