List of works based on The War of the Worlds

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The War of the Worlds (1898) is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. It describes the memoirs of an unnamed narrator in the suburbs of Woking, Surrey, England who recounts an invasion of Earth by an army of Martians with military technology far in advance to human science. It is said to be the first story that details a human conflict with, and overall defeat by, an extraterrestrial race.

Following its publication, The War of the Worlds rapidly entered popular culture. Through the 20th and 21st centuries, the novel has been adapted into a number of different mediums, including radio, television and film. These have been produced with varying degrees of faithfulness towards the original text, with many of the more famous adaptations, such as Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation and the 2005 film directed by Steven Spielberg, choosing to set the events in a contemporary setting. In addition, many adaptations, including both of the above, have relocated the plot from its original setting of England in favour of the United States.

Films[edit]

Related

Television[edit]

  • 1988: War of the Worlds (TV series) Loosely based on Wells' novel, but is mainly a sequel to the 1953 film.
  • 2001: Justice League animated TV series adapts the main events and visuals of the novel for the three part story Secret Origins. Aliens, after destroying Mars, attack Earth via tripods and a team of superheroes, including Superman, attempt to stop them.

Radio[edit]

Music[edit]

Game[edit]

Comic books[edit]

Other[edit]

1938 radio adaption by Orson Welles[edit]

The 1938 radio broadcast caused public outcry against the episode, as many listeners believed that an actual Martian invasion was in progress,[5] a notable example of mass hysteria.

Wells later met Orson Welles while driving through San Antonio, Texas, after stopping to ask directions and by coincidence happening upon the actor. They spent the day together, and later discussed the famous broadcast in a radio interview at Radio KTSA.[6]

The radio drama itself has spun off a number of productions based upon the events surrounding the broadcast, including Doctor Who: Invaders from Mars, an audio drama released in 2002 based upon the Doctor Who television series that depicts Welles' broadcast as taking place during an actual attempted alien invasion.[7]

1953 first film adaptation by George Pal[edit]

George Pal's film adaptation has many notable differences from H. G. Wells' novel. The closest resemblance is probably that of the antagonists. The film's aliens are indeed Martians, and invade Earth for the same reasons as those from the novel (the state of Mars suggests that it is in the final stages of being able to support life, leading to the Martians decision to make Earth their new home). They land on Earth in the same way, by crashing to the Earth. However, the book's spacecraft are large cylinder-shaped projectiles fired from the Martian surface from some kind of cannon, instead of the film's meteor-like spaceships; but the Martians emerge from their craft in the same way, by unscrewing a large, round hatch. They appear to have no use for humans in the film. In the novel they are observed directly feeding on humans by draining their victims' blood using pipettes; there is also a speculation about them eventually using human slaves to hunt down all remaining human survivors after the Martians conquer Earth. In the film the Martians do not bring the novel's fast-growing red weed with them, but they are defeated by Earth microorganisms, as observed in the novel. However, they die from the effects of the microorganisms within three days of the landing of the first meteor-ship; in the novel the Martians die within about three weeks of their invasion of England.

The Martians themselves bear no physical resemblance to the novel's Martians. The novel's aliens are bear-sized, bulkish creatures whose bodies are described as "merely heads", with a beak-like mouth, sixteen tentacles and two "luminous, disk-like eyes". Their film counterparts are short, reddish-brown creatures with two long, thin arms with three long suction cup-like fingers. The Martian's "head," if it can be called that, is a broad "face" at the top-front of its broad shouldered upper torso, the only apparent feature of which is a single large eye with three distinctly colored lenses. The Martians' lower extremities, whatever they may be, are never shown. (Some speculative designs for the creature suggest the idea of three thin legs resembling their fingers, while others show them as a biped with short, stubby legs with three-toed feet.)

The film's Martian war machines do actually have more of a resemblance than they may seem at first glance. The book's machines are Tripods and carry the heat-ray projector on an articulated arm connected to the front of the war machine's main body. The film's machines are deliberately shaped like manta rays, with a bulbous, elongated green window at the front, through which the aliens observe their surroundings. On top of the machine is the cobra-like heat-ray attached to a long, narrow, neck-like extension. They can be mistaken for flying-machines, but Dr. Forrester states that they are lifted by "invisible legs"; in one scene, when the first machine emerges, you can see faint traces of three energy legs beneath and three sparking traces where the three energy shafts touch the burning ground. Therefore, technically speaking, the film's war machines are indeed tripods, though they are never given that designation. Whereas the novel's war machines had no protection against British army and navy cannon fire, the film's war machines have a force field surrounding them; this invisible shield is described by Dr. Forrester as a "protective blister".

The Martian weaponry is also partially unchanged. The heat-ray has the very same effect as that of the novel. However, the novel's heat-ray is briefly described as having a spinning disk held up by a mechanical arm when first seen; it fires in a wide arc while still in the pit where the Martians first land. The film's heat-ray is shaped like a cobra's hood with a single, red pulsing eye, which possibly acts like a targeting telescope for the Martians. The book describes another weapon, the black smoke used to kill all life; the war machines fire projectiles containing a black powder through a bazooka-like tube accessory. The black powder when dispersed seems to have the same effect on life as the mustard gas of the First World War. This weapon is replaced in the film by the "skeleton beam", which fires green pulsing bursts of energy from the tips of the Manta-Ray body. The skeleton beams are apparently used to wipe out several French cities.

The plot of the film is very different from the novel. The novel tells the story of a late 19th-century journalist who journeys through Victorian London and environs while the Martians attack, eventually being reunited with his wife; the film's protagonist is a California scientist who falls in love with a former college student after the Martian attack begins. However, certain points of the plot are similar to the novel, from the crash-landing of the Martian meteor-ships to their eventual defeat by Earth's microorganisms. Doctor Forrester also goes through some of which befalls the book's narrator: like his ordeal in a destroyed house and seeing an actual Martian up close. The film is given more of a Cold War theme, with its use of the Atomic Bomb against the enemy and the mass-destruction that such a global war would inflict on mankind.

Unreleased adaptations[edit]

After World War II, Ray Harryhausen shot a scene of a dying alien falling out of a Martian war machine, test footage for an abandoned project to adapt the story using Wells' original "octopus" concept for the Martians. A video of the footage can be found here.[8]

Here Harryhausen talks about his proposed adaptation:

"Yes, originally, after Mighty Joe [Young] I made a lot of sketches for War of the Worlds. I wanted to keep it in the period that H.G. Wells wrote it, of the Victorian period, and I made eight big drawings, some of which are published – in the book and it would have been an interesting picture, if it was made years ago. But since then so many pictures of that nature have been made that it wouldn't be quite unique as it would have been."[9]

Sequels by other authors[edit]

  • Within six weeks of the novel's original 1897 magazine serialisation, The Boston Post began running a sequel, Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss, about an Earth counter-attack against the Martians, led by Thomas Edison. Though this is actually a sequel to 'Fighters from Mars', a revised and un-authorised re-print, they both were first printed in the Boston Post in 1898.[10]
  • In 1962, Soviet author Lazar Lagin published a political pamphlet named "Major Well Andyou" ("Майор Велл Эндъю"), a pun on "Well, and you?", which relates the story of a major in the British Army who collaborates with the Martian invaders. A condemnation of imperialism and capitalism, the story was dominated by Soviet analysis of political issues contemporary to the 1950s and 1960s.
  • In the 1970s, Marvel Comics had a character named Killraven Warrior of the Worlds who (in an alternative timeline) fought H. G. Wells' Martians after their second invasion of Earth in 2001. He first appeared in Amazing Adventures volume 2 #18.
  • The comic book Scarlet Traces (2002) begins a decade later with Great Britain utilising the Martians' technology, and ironic to the allegory of Wells' novel, have become more powerful because of it. Eventually, this leads up to a counter-invasion aimed for Mars in its own sequel, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (2006).
  • Science fiction author Eric Brown wrote a short story, "Ulla, Ulla" (2002) about an expedition to Mars, finding the truth behind H.G. Wells' novel.
  • In the short story Mastery of Vesania, Hayden Lee uses his appropriation to present the invasion from the perspective of the Martian invaders, also providing the link between the different nature of the two invasions presented in the book and the 2005 film (arriving from space and rising from the ground).

References[edit]