Because there seems to be some interest, I've looked into this matter a bit. Though he denies it, Spielberg appears to have fashioned his version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS rather closely to the 1953 George Pal production, substituting a family (Tom Cruise, Miranda Otto, and Dakota Fanning) for the original characters. Tim Robbins plays a character named Ogilvy, but I am unable to nail down just who he is in the film. If there is a counterpart of Welles' Professor Pierson, Robbins would seem to be it.
Thanks to Orson & Jazz, we have Spielberg's narration from the trailer. For comparison, here is Orson Welles' beginning, followed by the opening paragraphs of H.G. Wells' Novella:
We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's, and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
With infinite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small, spinning fragment of solar driftwood which, by chance or design, man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space.
Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the great disillusionment. It was near the end of October. Business was better. The war scare was over. More men were back at work. Sales were picking up. On this particular evening, October 30th, the Crosley service estimated that thirty-two million people were listening in on radios.
H.G. Wells' Opening Paragraphs:
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
My guess is that because of the heavy use of CGI, Spielberg's film will be rather wearisome because of necessary overuse of close-ups for the main characters. But if his trailer narration is in the actual picture, he is tipping an up-to-date hat to Mr. Orson Welles.