At the world premiere Monday of his latest film, director Steven Spielberg said the days when movie audiences sympathized with a lovable alien like "E.T." may be over — the time is ripe for "War of the Worlds."
At a post-premiere news conference with the film's star, Tom Cruise, Spielberg noted that the panic-causing radio play of the classic H.G. Wells' science fiction novel was produced in the late 1930s when many feared the rise of Naziism in Germany, and that the 1955 movie was made during the Cold War.
"All occurred at a time of great unease in the world," he said. "It seemed like the time was right for me as a filmmaker to let the audience experience an alien that is a little less pleasant than 'E.T.' ... Today, in the shadow of 9/11, I think the film has found a place in society."
Spielberg has covered the spectrum of alien behavior, from the mysterious yet ultimately benevolent explorers of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to the cuddly munchkin of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and the manipulative abductors in his miniseries "Taken."
In "War of the Worlds," Spielberg presents the aliens as monsters bent on destroying humankind.
The film substitutes space invaders, called "tripods," for the Martians of Wells' book. Spielberg said the first tripod is killed in Osaka, Japan's second-largest city.
"Osaka has a lot of experience," he said, referring to the many scenes of urban destruction in "Godzilla" and other Japanese monster flicks. "I'm proud of the film, and I'm proud to bring it to Japan."
Cruise, meanwhile, stressed that the movie is more about family values than interplanetary disturbances.
"The idea was always about family," Cruise said. "What would you do for your family, how far would you go. Can you protect your family."
"War of the Worlds" opens worldwide on June 29.