Carl Jung, the depth psychologist of archetypes, once remarked that he had seen WWII coming in the dreams being reported to him by his patients. This conversation was in the late '50's or '60's, and these remarks prompted the interviewer to ask him what he saw coming now, to which he replied: a great change of consciousness.
Films (as with much art) are dreams communicated. Some have depths that come with their creator's self honesty and perceptiveness, and others, driven by greed and superficiality, have almost nothing to say. Where stands Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds?
Well, it was said by one reviewer, that while the ride was great (the film was wicked scary) it didn't make you think. No, that's probably true. It didn't MAKE you think. But what if you thought anyway, on your own?
Here are some thoughts I had a couple of days after seeing the film.
Spielberg (or his writers) changed the story in one very interesting way from its 1950's film version. The Martian ships had been buried in the Earth for eons, and rose up out of the Earth after (via a manufactured lightening) the Martians entered them in tiny capsules. What could this mean, in the sense of something coming from the artist's unconscious wisdom?
Mars is the God of War. The impulses to War are buried deep in the human psyche, and really only seem these days to poke through when politicians of varied kinds find a use for such organized violence. Yes, there are a lot of wars going on out there, but nothing on the scale to match the World itself. We had WWI, which mostly consumed Europe. Then we had WWII which consumed Europe again, as well as parts of Asia. Then we had the Cold War, which pretty much wicked scared everyone in the world. Now we have the War on Terror (a name which doesn't bear up well to being carefully thought about), behind which is also hidden something some call a Clash of Civilizations (Islam vs. Christianity).
Are we on the verge of a truly World Wide War (a War of Worlds), one that consumes and enflames us all?
Both Spielberg's version and the 1950's version (I haven't read the novel so I don't know if H.G. Wells had this in his story) have scenes in which human beings fall to fighting each other in their fear and need for survival as they flee the Martian war machines. This in both films is one of the scariest moments, because it reminds us that our neighbor, with whom we have been on friendly terms for years, might just shoot us if he thought he had to choose between his survival and ours. As the book, and film the Lord of the Flies, reminded us, the veneer of civilization seems to be very thin indeed.
Gasoline is going into decline in supply. Governments and elites are getting ready for social collapse (if we read the signs right, this is obvious). In the deep Earth instincts of our psyche, we bear a martial impulse for survival. What happens if the problems of scarcity suddenly increases on a world wide scale? Will it be only a spasm, or a true collapse into barbarism?
In both films, and especially in the Kevin Costner film the Postman (based on David Brin's wonderful novel of the same name), there are those who survive through cooperation. The martial impulse is not buried in every psyche. Whether spasm or collapse does not have to mean we retreat into animalism and forsake the full grace of being human. Even so, it surely will take a great deal of courage, and perhaps War of the Worlds and other coming films are there just to get us thinking (if we choose) about which side of our soul we are going to bring forth: the survive at any cost animal, or the cooperative human?