First I recommend this quick list in Salon on how not to make sure your Superhero movie doesn't suck:
Don't believe the director makes that much difference? Wait until next year, when Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") gets his hands on the "X-Men" franchise.
Now on to a more heavy subject. I found a great group of posts talking about "War of the Worlds." Slacktivist makes the case that WOTW is a anti-Colonial work:
The book is an exercise in empathy -- what would it feel like to be on the receiving end of such imperial force.
The alien invaders arrive. We cannot understand them. Our best technology cannot harm them. They are inscrutable and unstoppable. There is nothing we can do.
That's what makes the book so enduringly creepy. Spielberg often captures this sense of inevitable doom, and the scenes in which he does are as unsettling as Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast of this same story in 1938. Right-wing critics of the film complain that Spielberg's hero, played by Tom Cruise, spends most of the movie running away and hiding. But that's the point -- there's nothing else he can do.
Empathy with the victim -- with the Tasmanians, or with the Mahdi at Omdurman, or the Wampanoag -- is not a favorite sentiment of the right wing. But there are other reasons they wouldn't like Wells' book.
These conservative film critic wannabes want a story to follow the moral outline of the old comics code or of Job's foolish friend Bildad. They want the good guys to be rewarded for their virtue and the bad guys to be punished for their vice. But Wells' story isn't about morality, it's about power. His Martian invaders have bigger, better weapons so they win and we lose. Period.
This, I think, is what the rightwing critics find most threatening in Wells' story and Spielberg's film. It vividly illustrates that might and right are not the same thing, that military superiority is not evidence of superior virtue. If the illustration of such a basic truth can now be interpreted as an "anti-American" political statement, that is neither Wells' nor Spielberg's fault.
I actually have a different take on the whole thing. In both the book and the movie the aliens lose in the end, killed off by Earth's deases. Its pretty clear that the aliens, confident in their overwhelming tech superiority, just didn't do their homework about conditions on Earth. Surely if you can cross the stars and ride the lightning you can deal with germs. Likewise the US comes crashing into Iraq with no idea how hard it will turn out to be, despite our overwhelming tech superiority. The Iraq war is not like the colonialism that Orsen Well was reacting to. The neo-conservative mistake is not believing that might makes right. Its that right makes might. That because our intentions are good and our enemies evil, we are sure to win regardless of strategy. In fact, we can screw up badly and have. We are raised by our pop culture to think that the good guys always win, regardless of odds. The truth is that if the good guys are stupid, the bad guys can win. That's the mistake of the Iraq war.
More on WOTW on Pandagon and Digby