Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movie Reviews: The War of the Worlds (1953 and 2005)

We have already looked at The War of the Worlds novel and the radio broadcast.  Today, I'd like to share with you two movies based on the novel.  One was made in 1953 and the other was made in 2005.  Both of these movies were loosely based on the novel in that they take the events that occur in the novel but follow different characters during those events.  Also, they events take place in different areas.

Title:  The War of the Worlds
Year:  1953
Director:  Byron Haskin
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5 heat rays

This was the first film adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel.  Dr. Clayton Forrester befriends Sylvia Van Buren at the site of the first Martian landing, and we follow them during the assault on the Earth.

This movie feels a lot different from the novel.  The novel focused more on the individual during the alien invasion.  However, Dr. Forrester spends a lot of time talking to government officials and generals in the field.  This gives the movie a much heavier feel.

There are a few parts of the book that I wish the movie incorporated.  The first has to do with the Martians using human blood as food.  This fact paints them in a much more terrifying light.  There is something much more foreboding about humanity being captured and held prisoner as a food source compared to simply being destroyed.  The second point that I missed was the focus on the hysteria that the citizens of the world feel when the planet is invaded.  The only time the movie mentions this is in a small montage, which is disappointing since it was a big part of the novel.

Finally, I need to talk about the special effects.  I'm sure they looked amazing back in the 50's, and there is nothing wrong with old school scifi.  However, the limitations of technology unfortunately altered points of the story.  For instance, instead of large tripods, the aliens ride around in what look like spaceships.  I imagine this is because moving legs would have been to hard to animate.

In all, The War of the Worlds may not be the best movie, but it definitely has a certain charm about it.  Check out the trailer!


Year:  2005
Director:  Steven Spielberg
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5 lightning bolts

In 2005, another film was made based on H.G. Wells' classic.  Dock worker Ray Ferrier struggles to protect his two children as the aliens invade New York.

Spielberg took many more liberties with the story than the 1953 movie did.  First of all, the term "Martian" is never mentioned in the movie, and in fact Spielberg said that his aliens didn't even come from Mars.  Instead, they come from a place much more far away and malevolent.

Also, instead of the aliens crash landing on our planet because of the fact that the habitat on their planet was inconducive to life (as in the book), we quickly learn that the tripods were buried under the Earth - possibly millions of years ago.  This makes the motives of the aliens feel much more sinister.  Instead of fighting to survive in a new environment, they are taking back what they believed to be theirs all along using as much force as necessary.

One of the things that I loved most about the movie is the focus on the individuals and the mass hysteria that the invasion caused.  Instead of a famous scientists being the main protagonist (as in the 1953 version), we follow the journey of a middle class guy and his two kids.  They are forced to fight for their lives against the aliens and the humans.  And yes, the threat from their fellow man is just as real as the extraterrestrials.  What would happen if someone had the only working car in the country?  Or if there was only so much space on a ferry that was leaving an alien infested area?  When people's lives are threatened, there is no telling what they will do.

If you are a fan of Wells' novel, then I think you will enjoy this movie.  It is similar enough to appease die-hard fans, and fresh enough to feel new and exciting.  Check out the preview!

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