It is by no means a bad film, in fact I rather enjoyed it when I saw it in the cinema shortly after its release. And it is still watchable second time round. Plot-wise there isn't much to tell. Aliens turn up, wipe out loads of people, the military proves ineffective against them and the aliens then catch a cold and die. The struggle to survive while making a perilous journey from New York to Boston provides the eyes through which we see the rout of civilisation, the massacre of mankind (sorry, couldn't resist).
There are some things I find incredibly annoying about this film. First is the unashamed gung-ho American fuck-yeah! The invaders may have always been here (beneath our very feet! But more about that in a moment) and may tap into the recurring American anxiety around the enemy within/sneak attacks, but even though it was bacteria that stopped the aliens in their tracks we just have to see the American military take down a sickly tripod who'd left its shields off. We are informed earlier in the movie that "the Japs" had taken down a few tripods in Osaka - we can't have anyone else outdoing Uncle Sam can we?
And yes, the war machines. I've mentioned before how I like my science fiction to be a little bit plausible when it comes to the biology, technology and sociology of alien civilisations, but here WOTW falls down on two counts. First, there is the invasion. Characters speculate the aliens' tripods had long been buried beneath the surface of the earth at least prior to the human colonisation of North America. They are reactivated when their pilots "ride" lightning bolts down into their cockpits. Hold on just a minute. If you happened to be planning an invasion of Earth for whatever reason, why take the trouble of burying fighting machines to reactivate them thousands of years later, when nomadic bands take a good deal less effort to subdue than industrial societies? Makes very little sense to me. And secondly, if you happen to be an advanced alien race of warmongers wouldn't you have the nous to develop inoculations against the nasty bugs swimming around in the Earth's atmosphere? If the US and UK make sure their troops get their jabs before being shipped off, why didn't the aliens have the same sense too? (And that leaves out entirely the ability of Earth-bound bacteria to infect and kill biological systems evolved under very different circumstances. I digress).
I was also left wondering how Tom Cruise would have squared alien invasion with his potty Scientology belief system? As I understand it Xenu of the ancient Galactic Confederacy dropped the bodies of 75 million aliens in the volcanoes of prehistoric Earth, and then blew them up with nuclear weapons. The souls of the aliens were then forced to wander the earth and then attached themselves to the newly evolving humans. These traumatised "body thetans" pour their negativity into humans and are therefore responsible for all the nasty things the human race has done. But if this explains all the bad in the world, what excuse does Tom and Scientology have for the genocidal aliens in WOTW? Were they too seeded with the frozen corpses of confederate citizens in prehistory? Could their invasion have been warded off with a free personality audit?