When the aliens finally arrive, Steven Spielberg (search) expects them to be galactic good Samaritans like E.T. rather than the malevolent marauders of "War of the Worlds."

"I have to certainly believe what my heart tells me. That the first time there is a meeting of the minds between extraterrestrials and human beings, it's going to be friendly," Spielberg told The Associated Press in an interview looking ahead to his "War of the Worlds" saga, starring Tom Cruise (search).

Spielberg has covered the spectrum on alien behavior, from the mysterious yet ultimately benevolent explorers of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind (search)" to the cuddly munchkin of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" to the manipulative abductors in his miniseries "Taken."

With "War of the Worlds (search)," based on H.G. Wells' science-fiction classic, Spielberg presents monsters from above intending to snuff out humankind. The film, due out June 29, substitutes space invaders of unknown origin for the Martians of Wells' book.

While Spielberg's latest aliens are bad guys, that does not mean he has turned pessimistic on the prospects of buddying up with off-worlders. Given the level of technology required for interstellar travel and the long star trek required to reach Earth, Spielberg figures aliens inevitably would come in peace.

"I can't believe anybody would travel such vast distances bent on destruction. I believe anybody who would travel such vast distances are curious explorers, not conquerors," Spielberg said. "Carrying weapons a hundred-thousand light-years is quite a schlepp. I believe it's easier to travel 100,000 light-years with their versions of the Bible."

So why does Hollywood tend toward first-contact stories of war and mayhem? First, it's more fun to show aliens blowing away puny earthlings rather than shaking hands and sitting down to a nice meal.

Second, it's more a reflection on human nature than extra-terrestrial nature.

"We tend to project our own human aggression into outer space," Spielberg said. "It doesn't necessarily mean there is aggression out there."