HG Wells’ War Of The Worlds (2005)

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I was tempted to make this review 20,000 words long, describing every single thing that happened to me during the course of watching it, in the flattest most boring detail possible. Only then would you understand just what I felt I was going through.

This is the start of the Asylum as we know and hate it. While not their first film (it’s their fifth) it is their first mockbuster, which presumably came about when one of their executives, fresh from his daily sacrifice to his dark lord Satan, realised that the story of that big new Tom Cruise movie was in the public domain and they could use it too. If you read the Wikipedia page, there’s all sorts of stuff about the book being Asylum head honcho David Michael Latt’s favourite, but I’m confident that’s a load of rubbish.

I apologise for dragging this review off-topic a moment, but literally anything is more exciting than talking about the movie itself. Wells was a politically active guy, and there’s a paragraph in the book which makes his motivation very clear:

“And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and the Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”

Okay, “inferior” is a rough word, but he at least is bothered by it, which is more than can be said for most other authors of his day. I’d have been happy if some of that political thought had gone into this movie, but it seems despite being a big fan Latt missed all that.

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So, C Thomas Howell is George Herbert (his character in the novel is never named, so this is a tribute to HG Wells), a scientist, although his particular expertise is never used during the course of the film. His wife and son go to DC while he has to stay behind and do some work. Then the aliens invade, and that’s really that. George wanders through a number of patches of wasteground with a few people, one of whom disappears for half the movie then shows up again at the end, has a few conversations about religion with a Pastor he meets, sits about a lot looking sad, then right at the end, he finds his wife and daughter and the aliens all die, just as they did in the book.

It felt like it was 9 hours long. I was sure I was being fooled by the timer on the DVD player, that the 90 minute running time was a joke on behalf of some cruel producer. It’s almost unbearable, with a sum total of one even partly interesting scene, when George walks through a town that’s not been touched and everyone’s just sort of carrying on as normal. Yet he has a chance to load up on supplies and all he gets is a bag of crisps and some tablets, which made me want to slap him, and then slap everyone else involved in making this.

I remained puzzled throughout that humanity was just giving up, that there was no attempt to attack the aliens at any point. No tanks, no fighter jets, no guys with rocket launchers, no nothing. Just C Thomas Howell trudging through small towns, no indication that he was getting closer to where he was going, no real timescale to judge achievements by, plus lots and lots of camera angles that seemed to exist just because they’d seen them in other movies and they looked cool, no matter whether they helped the film or not.

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I really can’t emphasise enough how boring this film is. It’s so bad that it takes a reliable wild-card actor like Jake Busey and turns him into a dullard. It’s so bad that its success pains me. That success is to blame for the next decade of Asylum productions, too – trick people with the title, sell it to a few cable channels, small profit made, on to the next one. I suppose it’s more difficult to trick people like that these days, with DVD shops a thing of the past, but now they have irony on their side and a couple of years to surf on Sharknado goodwill.

Rating: thumbs down

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