Problem with War of the Worlds (probably with spoilers)

I can suspend my disbelief about aliens, machines underground, Tom Cruise finding the only working car in New Jersey, an advanced race that doesn’t know about antibiotics…
What took me right out of the movie was the portrayal of the main character as a poor working class schlub. I have no problem with Cruise’s work, I thought he did a good job. What didn’t work was having the main character living in a shitty row house under the Bayonne Bridge, can’t afford child support, can’t help with the kids tuition (“You don’t pay for it, Tim does”). The guy is a crane operator at Port Elizabeth. Did Speilberg bother to ask how much they make? A regular longshoreman makes over 100k a year. The crane operators are a very skilled and well paid and there aren’t very many of them. With overtime they make well into 6 figures. Someone as skilled as Cruise’s character is supposed to be would be making a lot more than “Tim”.
Without a hardcore gambling problem to explain it, I just don’t buy it (I don’t say drugs because I hope they test for that). Why pick that profession? If you want to make him blue collar make him a mechanic or something.

For the record I have never been a longshoreman but I did work for a shipping/container freight company.

Maybe he was screwed in the divorce settlement, and is still recovering from that.

According to, the average state-wide salary for a stevedore in New Jersey is about $68,725 (including benefits and bonuses). Not chump change, but not exactly six figures, either. Factor in the divorce, and I have no problem with seeing Cruise’s character living as a working-class schlub.

People have also complained that his car and watch are too extravagant for a blue collar fella to reasonably afford.

I expect that these criticisms kind of cancel themselves out.

Ray was self-absorbed and generally selfish before the little extraterrestrial crisis brought him around.

That may be the salary for the average guy in the union. The average guy does not operate the crane. That is a highly specialized and specific job. There are only a handfull of them at Port Elizabeth and they are very well paid. Believe or not everything is not easily found on the internet. When I was working in the business the crane operators mad several hundred thousand a year. That was 10 years ago. I doubt it went down since then.

When the longshoremen went on strike on the West Coast, there were a number of threads about how much those guys made, and it was, indeed, in the six figures range. (IIRC, the History Channel aired a program not too long ago about them and mentioned that they were well paid.)

Like you, Cruise being “blue collar” was pretty much a “Bwuh?” moment for me as well. (Not to mention he apparently did a lot of car restoration work, which could provide a nice secondary income under the table, and thus “exempt” from any divorce settlement.)

Remember that the cost of living in that part of NJ is ridiculously high. It was shown in the first scene that he doesn’t do overtime, and probably can’t be counted on to do more than the minimun. If there’s a chance for a promotion, somebody else is getting it.

Also, it’s possible – nay, likely – that he is simply dumb about money. It’s already been pointed out that he has an expensive car and an expensive watch. He doesn’t know diddly about budgeting or food costs, just buys all his food ready-made. So he’s spending his bucks on toys, not housing.

The car work might well be a hobby, not an income-producer. I’ve known of guys who were constantly claiming that they could make some real money on fixing up some car, only to never actually finish, so they have the expenses but not the income. (Hell, I’m married to one. I could tell you a ton of stories.)

A certain percentage of his salary is probably being taken for child support since he would never send the check on his own. He is nicely set up as a loser with a capital L.

Not entirely correct. He couldn’t do any more overtime, due to union rules, and it seemed to be implied that one of the reasons why he was bailing was because he had his kids coming over. I don’t doubt that NJ’s an expensive place to live, though.

The 'Stang might not have been all that expensive, depending upon what shape it was when he got it and how much of the work he did on it himself. I also saw the front end of another 'Stang in the garage briefly in one shot, so it is possible that he’s blowing his money on toys.

True, but he says something about that 302 block in the kitchen being out of there in a couple of days, so either that’s someone else’s or it’s going into the 'Stang in the garage. Either way, though, he could make money by doing repair work for friends on the side (as was kind of implied that he was an “expert” mechanic, since he knew what was wrong with the minivan when the guy at the repair shop didn’t).

Of, course, it’s Tom Cruise after all! :smiley:

100k a year is poor, to Steve and Tom.

As for the car, I had the impression that he probably bought it in bad shape and fixed it up. It was the only thing in his life, besides his rock hard abs, that he really loved.

The watch, yeah that’s a big blunder.

Ding Ding Ding we have a winner!

Except the average stevedor does:

And this is the job that pays $68K/year (incl. benefits).

I don’t know much about shipping jobs and procedures, but there are different types of cranes and the type that Ray Ferrier operated was for cargo containers, which it seems to me is the largest thing generally lifted at a dock. I’ve seen the Port of Oakland cranes plenty of times, and they’re freakin’ huge. I don’t think the guy who operates that kind of crane would be the same guy who drives a forklift around the dock or throws cables and hoses around.

I don’t think you quite get it. And sometmes websites are wrong or misleading.

*Operates crane or winch to load or unload cargo, such as automobiles, crates, scrap, and steel beams, using hook, magnet, or sling attached in accordance with signals from other workers. *

Sounds like someone operating a small crane unloading tramp steamers not the big container cranes. Even then the website is wrong. Took me about two minutes to find an article that quotes the average stevedore salary as 85k. Salary, not includng overtime. Thats for the lashers and other dockworkers. The crane operator is a whole other animal. Everyone in the union is not trained to operate the crane. It is a very specializd and skilled profession. Only a handfull of people can do it. You can not get the job unless you have connections. No wonder it is not easy to find a salary quote on the internet. There are very few people in the country with the job and it is hardly an entry level postion. If you don’t believe me thats fine, I won’t lose any sleep over it. I just thought that since I was in accounts payable and had to cut the checks for these guys everytime they unloaded one of our ships, maybe I knew something about the subject. Guess I was wrong.

They are not. You are 100% correct.

Go through a divorce, dude, and you will understand why someone with a $100,000 job might be living in a shitty-looking house and having trouble paying ridiculous private school fees.

Nothing will screw your financial life up like a divorce.

In fact, it actually might explain why he’s living in a shithouse but has an expensive watch. He had the watch before the divorce.

MLS’s point about his spending habits make sense, too. It is actually very easy to blow $100K a year and have little to show for it, if you’re always eating out, maybe go to Atlantic City every couple of months with the boys, spend a lot of money fixing up your car, AND making child support payments. Throwing all that in with the divorce, I see nothing at all impossible about his situation.

I hate to admit it, but that describes a lot of my friends lifestyles, and to a lesser extent, my own. We make good money but we blow it on toys, cars, Las Vegas, etc. One of my buddies has a Hummer parked in front of his tiny-ass duplex for example. Seeing Tom’s Mustang and expensive watch in juxtaposition with his crappy house struck an uncomfortable chord in me, so I have no trouble buying the character.

I believe an actor like John C. Reilly would’ve made the character a bit more believable however.

I can understand that, however, it is my experience that these guys make several 100k a year. I am hesitant to give a specific number because my info is 10 years old. I doubt it has gone down since then. My point is that the character would be more believable if he was working for his friend in the garage rather than at a high paying job like he was given. Most likely because Speilberg is out of touch with what real people earn.

No, it’s probably just that most people in Hollywood probably believe that all blue-collar workers are underpaid and only the evil top executives are making over 10k per year.

It wasn’t Spielberg’s idea, though. He didn’t write the script or come up with the character. Josh Friedman and David Koepp wrote the picture.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see a problem here. Suppose he made a lot of money. He could still blow a hell of a lot in a divorce and by spending his money stupidly. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. Income =/= wealth. And in any event it’s not clear to me he lives all that badly. His house looks like shit, but hey, he has a house. Bring in the Trading Spaces people and the place would look pretty good in a couple of days.

Perhaps Spielberg doesn’t understand what ordinary people make but it didn’t result in anything in the film being unrealistic.

It may have been his idea, maybe not. Whoever is credited with writing a screenplay does not necessarily write every word. Sometimes not even close. Sometimes the screenplay doesn’t look close to what the movie is by the end. The guild waves some chicken bones over the print and comes up with who will get credit. No idea what happened in this case.

I would have no problem if his lack of wealth was somehow explained in the movie. Just the opposite. He has a shitty house in a shitty neighborhood. He is a deadbeat dad and only puts money into his car. At the most that is a couple thousand dollars. Doesn’t add up. One line about his gambling problem or his wife’s shark lawyer would have opened the door for some explainations. No need to have his whole life on display, there are aliens to get to after all. But if you open the movie showing where this guy lives and how he makes a living in order to set the stage, it has to fit. I make a hell of a lot less than someone with that job makes and I have a nice house on three acres. In New Jersey. Things don’t add up for me (or my wife, she working at the same shipping company and knows how much they make too). If it doesn’t bother you than I’m sure Spielberg can live with having a couple of people scratch their heads about this one point. Overall I enjoyed the movie even with its many holes.