War Of The Worlds | 2005
No Martians this time – we're all too savvy for that now – but Steven Spielberg's grimy, post-9/11 updating of HG Wells’ classic alien invasion story still relocates the invasion of non-specific aliens to the US, beginning in New Jersey.
The neighbourhood of awkward dad Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is Bayonne, on the southern tip of the spit of land below Jersey City (given a dowdy makeover to take it down a few social notches). Ferrier's house is 11 Kennedy Boulevard, at West First Street, by Kill Van Kull Park.
The vast bridge overshadowing the house is the Bayonne Bridge, connecting New Jersey with Staten Island.
‘Harrington’s’, the garage from which Ferrier nicks the only working motor, was built on West First Street, at the southern end of of Kennedy Boulevard. Though there’s a real Harrington’s, the garage was replicated on Klumpp Field, 210 West First Street, a Little League baseball stadium (the deal was that the field would be given a major renovation after filming). The real Harrington’s can be seen about four blocks north on Kennedy Boulevard at Margaret Street.
Studio sets were constructed at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, formerly the Military Ocean Terminal, a military base off the east coast of Bayonne in New York Bay (which had previously hosted filming for Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind and Todd Haynes' Sirkian melodrama Far From Heaven).
Although it seems to be just around the corner from the house, the area where the alien machines make their first appearance is about six miles north in the the downtown, blue-collar Ironbound district of Newark. The first tripod erupts from the depths at the intersection of Ferry Street, Merchant Street and Wilson Avenue, destroying St Stephan’s United Church in the process.
Despite the total destruction of the Bayonne Bridge, the stretch of road where Ferrier and the kids get caught in a major traffic snarl-up is on the West Shore Expressway – over on Staten Island.
The three are heading for the house of his ex-wife, which turns out to be tucked away on smart cul-de-sac Canterbury Way, at Camelot Drive, Farmingdale, I-195 down towards Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Supposedly heading toward ‘Boston’, the comfort stop, where Rachel (Dakota Fanning) sees bodies floating down the river, is in Windsor, north of Hartford, Connecticut,. A Wellesian-type panic was narrowly avoided after a couple of the dummy bodies broke loose and drifted off down the Farmington River.
As the car approaches the ‘Athens ferry’, it’s attacked by a frenzied mob and hijacked. This is not in ‘New York’ at all, but over in California. The scene was shot on Main Street, Piru, on the northwest fringes of Los Angeles. Its old-town look and proximity to LA make Piru a regular on both large and small screen (back in 1954, it was the site of the wedding of Judy Garland to James Mason in A Star Is Born).
The girder bridge is also Piru, but the landing stage, where panicked crowds attempt to board the last Hudson ferry really is Athens, at Second Street, off I-87 towards Albany. The town was previously seen in Hector Babenco's boozily downbeat 1987 Ironweed, with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
The army assault on the tripods, where Ray has to let go of his son, Robbie (Justin Chatwin), is back in California, at Mystery Mesa, south of Vasquez Canyon Road between Sierra Highway and Bouquet Canyon Road in Canyon Country.
It’s back east, to Virginia, to find the valley farm, where Ray and hide out in the basement with the increasingly paranoid Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins). The 19th century farmhouse is on Pisgah Road, Raphine, off I-81 west of Charlottesville. National Guard tanks bump along Decatur Road (it had been deliberately pitted with potholes for the film), near Bustleburg, between Hyde Road and the Brownsburg Turnpike.
There’s no real ‘Boston’ in the film. The factory block, where the alien machines start to fail is the old Uniroyal Chemical Plant, Elm Street in Naugatuck, to the southwest, south of Waterbury, back in Connecticut.
And the family house, where there’s tearful reunion, can be seen in Brooklyn. It’s 787 Carroll Street, opposite Fiske Place, in Park Slope (metro: Grand Army Plaza), west of the northern tip of Prospect Park. It’s become a Hollywood tradition to include cameo roles by stars of earlier versions – the grandparents are played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, the two leads of 1953’s The War Of The Worlds.
If you want to see a gleaming silver, three-legged Martian war machine, as described by HG Wells, you need to visit the UK. Head down to the town centre of Woking, Surrey, where you'll find one striding across the pavement (sidewalk) at Crown Passage. In the original story, the Martian cylinders landed on Horsell Common, Woking, and the seven-metre-tall sculpture, by Michael Condron, celebrates the local author.