"War of the Worlds" works as one of the most entertaining and effective pieces of filmmaking Steven Spielberg has directed in years, the ghastly flipside to more optimistic pictures such as "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Behind the scenes extras offer a fascinating look at how a project this complex got done so swiftly.

“War of the Worlds” works as one of the most entertaining and effective pieces of filmmaking Steven Spielberg has directed in years, the ghastly flipside to more optimistic pictures such as “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Behind the scenes extras offer a fascinating look at how a project this complex got done so swiftly.

The set’s four-part production diaries reveal how the directed calmly handled a cast of thousands. “Don’t freak out,” producer Kathleen Kennedy recalls Spielberg saying. “There are three people who are the heart of this movie, and every now and then there are 1,000 people running around in the background,” he told her.

The first segment details everything that went into the ambitious first appearance of the aliens in the film — a tripod war machine bursting out from under a busy city street — with the remaining three segments focusing on the ferry boat attack, an outdoor crowd scene and shooting on sound stages in Los Angeles.

The other bonus offerings are more standard and less interesting. “Revisiting the Invasion” gives a short history of the alien invasion genre with Cruise, Spielberg, and screenwriter David Koepp’s comments on their intentions for the film, while a short piece on author H.G. Wells introduces his grandson and great grandson, but doesn’t give much information about the man.

The stars of the original “War of the Worlds” film, Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, speak briefly about their cameos in the current movie. Extras on alien design and the score will likely be of interest only to hardcore fans of sci-fi or John Williams. Production notes and galleries are par for the course. The production diaries, however, make this limited edition worthwhile.

War Of The Worlds: Two-Disc Limited Edition

Nov. 22; Two-disc set: $39.99

Production

A DreamWorks Home Entertainment release of the Steven Spielberg film.

Cast

With: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto.
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