Rooting for the Martians

John Leo

7/18/2005 12:00:00 AM - John Leo

David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, says the Martian attackers in the film represent the American military, while the Americans being slaughtered at random represent Iraqi civilians. I see it differently. I think the Martians symbolize normal Americans, while those being attacked are the numbskulls who run Hollywood. Perhaps the normals went a bit too far in this easy-to-understand allegory, but think of the provocation.

Among other things, Koepp made the “there-is-no-Internet” mistake, carefully masking his analysis in U.S. interviews, but saying it flat-out in Rue Morgue, an obscure Canadian horror magazine, that he apparently thought nobody would notice. But as the movie makes clear, once the normals begin to track you with their newfangled technology, there is no escape. They can find you even in Canada.

Hollywood has grown eye-poppingly angry with the rest of the country, mostly over Bush and Iraq, but partly, at least, because the left coasters apparently thought they were somehow entitled to a string of Democratic presidents after Clinton. The upshot is that even mild-mannered nonpropagandists like George Lucas have come under pressure to display their lefty credentials with silly political touches. The first three, brilliant Star Wars had no such touches, but the last three, nonbrilliant ones surely do. In the last of the epics, two anti-Bush lines showed up, “Only a Sith [a dark lord] thinks in absolutes” and “If you’re not with me, you are my enemy.” Lucas said the “enemy” sentence had been written before Bush’s similar words after 9/11. Maybe so, but Lucas had three years or so to figure out the political impact of the line but left it in anyway. Last May, at the Cannes film festival, natural breeding ground for excitedly anti-American prose, Lucas apparently said that his final Star Wars movie, featuring the rise of Darth Vader and the sinister empire, is a wake-up call to Americans about the erosion of freedoms under President Bush. (I say “apparently” because Cannes news reports, appearing only in various Canadian papers, had no direct quotes about a wake-up call, only paraphrases.) Paul Jackson of the Calgary Sun wrote: “Now [Lucas] says the Star War movies a political message: Fight to free Americans from the ever more frightening dictatorial tyranny of the Bush administration.”

The soft and squishy side of the Hollywood mind was on display in Ridley Scott’s unintentionally hilarious movie about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven. A Crusader is shown beheading a hostage, thus establishing moral equivalence with the monstrous terrorist tactics of today. Saladin’s sister is executed by the Crusaders (in real life, as opposed to reel life, she was released). The famous Saladin picks up and admiringly fondles a Christian crucifix he finds on the ground. Somehow I doubt this happened. Muslims had spent several centuries slaughtering Christians or converting them at swords ’ point. The good-hearted Christian king of Jerusalem aspires to establish a tolerant, multicultural, and apparently relativistic kingdom of Muslims, Christians, and Jews that seems like a 12th-century version of Beverly Hills run by a studio head.

“There is a tremendous drive in Hollywood to exculpate Islamofascist terrorists,” Michael Medved says. No movie has been made about the terrorists since 9/11, nothing on al Qaeda, the Taliban, Daniel Pearl, Saddam Hussein, the USS Cole, the embassy attacks, the daring and impressive attempts to track down terrorists. Nothing. Not even a movie about heroic action after 9/11—the firemen who ran upstairs to their deaths to save others in the twin towers, the people who drove all night from Texas and the South to help New Yorkers cope with the disaster.

But wait. Help is on the way. Hollywood is still reluctant to irritate terrorists, but a few movies about 9/11 heroes are on the way. And whom did Paramount pick for the highest-profile one? Oliver Stone, the unhinged director/screenwriter who refers to 9/11 as a justified “revolt” against the established order and the six companies he thinks control the world. At a panel after 9/11, Stone said that the Palestinians who danced at the news of the attack were reacting just as people responded after the revolutions in France and Russia. He thinks 9/11 may have unleashed as much creative energy as the birth of Einstein. Internet commentators are going berserk over the idea of a wacky pro-terrorist paranoid directing the first big 9/11 movie.

It will focus on two American heroes, not terrorists. But it could well turn out badly. Besides, why pick Stone? What can be done about the Hollywood brain? And where are those Martian attackers when you really need them?