Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


The martians run amok!
H. G. WELLS' THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005). Director: Timothy Hines [also co-screenplay/editing].

This long -- way too long -- direct-to-video adaptation of H. G. Wells' masterpiece was rushed -- and I do mean rushed -- into production in order to beat out Steven Spielberg's vastly superior big budget remake of the George Pal classic. While this lugubrious, badly padded  version is perhaps more faithful to the source material -- and takes place in the correct time period --  it is on almost every level a misfire. Whereas Wells gets right into the thick of things in his novel, this takes forever to get going. The whole tone of the production is immediately lowered by the addition of a ponderous old astronomer, atrociously acted, who dominates the first half hour. Lead actor Anthony Piana (who also plays his brother sans mustache) has his moments later in the picture, but seems mostly like a little boy playing dress up. Most of the other actors are similarly miscast. Jamie Hall's theme music isn't bad, but often the score is completely at odds with the activities on screen. The business of the martians' heat ray turning people into skeletons smacks more of the Pal film than the book, in which the ray simply burned people to death. The stop-motion [or similar technique] martians and tripods are not badly designed, but the special effects and really poor matte work make everything resemble a video game. There are few memorable scenes, but one that works has Piana desperately trying to stay out of view of a martian tentacle that enters the wrecked house where he's taken shelter, a scene that also occurred in the two aforementioned Hollywood versions. What one carries way from this are all the scenes of the hero walking, walking and walking ... Too bad.This is almost completely devoid of movie-making nohow.

Verdict: Skip this tedious mess and go with Spielberg and Pal instead. *1/2.

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