H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds (2005 film)
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|H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds|
|Directed by||David Michael Latt|
|Produced by||David Rimawi|
|Written by||David Michael Latt, Carlos De Los Rios|
|Based on||The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells|
|Starring||C. Thomas Howell
Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots
|Music by||Ralph Rieckermann|
|Edited by||David Michael Latt|
|Distributed by||The Asylum|
|Running time||90 minutes|
H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, also known as Invasion and H. G. Wells' The Worlds in War internationally, or simply as War of the Worlds, is a science fiction horror film produced by The Asylum and directed by David Michael Latt. It is one of three 2005 film adaptations of H. G. Wells' 1898 science fiction novel The War of the Worlds.
Much like Dreamworks' film version, War of the Worlds is a modernized adaptation, but was released by independent production company The Asylum, whose budget may be more on par with the Pendragon film version. No theatrical release date had been planned; instead the film was a direct-to-DVD release. All three were released in June of the same year.
War of the Worlds follows the narrative of an American astronomer who witnesses a devastating invasion of Earth by aliens in walking war-machines which distrupts all communication in the country, while trying to reunite with his wife and son in Washington D.C..
The DVD was released on June 28, one day before Dreamworks' film, and has a few notable stars including C. Thomas Howell, Peter Greene, and Jake Busey. The alternate title of Invasion is likely for the film's overseas distribution since Paramount claim to own exclusive film rights to the War of the Worlds title in the European Union. The film is one of The Asylum's most successful, having sold over 100,000 copies from Blockbuster upon its release. A sequel, War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, was released in 2008.
On the surface of Mars, the Mars Rover is destroyed by an unknown source from the planet itself. Astronomer George Herbert (Howell) and his wife Felicity (Van Wyk Loots) are packing for a trip to Washington D.C. to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary. George's son tries to spot Mars through his telescope, but actually discovers a meteorite entering Earth's atmosphere. George is called to work about the incident, and his wife and son leave early for Washington without him. As he drives to work, a crashing meteorite disrupts all technology in the area. An alien "walker" emerges from the meteorite and massacres the witnesses with a Heat-Ray, George barely escaping with his life. George decides to meet with his younger brother Matt in Hopewell before moving on to D.C., leaving as the aliens destroy his hometown.
Despite rumours that D.C. has suffered some of the worst of the invasion thus far, George continues his journey and meets with Sgt. Kerry Williams, the last remaining member of his squad. George and Kerry meet with Lt. Samuelson, a power-mad soldier with unrealistic notions of resistance against the invaders, who rejects George and Kerry as cowards. In Hopewell, the aliens perform a heavy insurrection and George and Kerry find Matt dying in the trail of destruction. George is separated from Kerry in the confusion and escapes the attack. A Pastor, Victor, finds George and describes his belief that the invasion is a form of the Rapture. The two continue on together towards D.C.. Victor's faith in Christianity is deeply shaken when a member of his church curses God for the death of her young children. George and Victor witness the final effort of the military to fight off the walkers who are overwhelmed as the aliens begin using chemical weapons to disperse their opposition.
The two seek refuge in the abandoned house of a medical doctor for food and medical supplies when the neighbourhood is flattened by another of the aliens' ships. Hiding in the house's ruins deep in the aliens' camp, Victor concludes that God has abandoned them before denouncing his belief altogether. Rations become sparse and the aliens begin harvesting humans. George finds rabies vaccines with the hope that it can spread among the aliens and wipe them out. Victor regains his faith after George successfully infects one of the aliens, but only before it kills Victor and leaves. George realizes after a few days that the aliens have left the area and he continues his journey on foot to Washington D.C.. George reunites with Kerry and Samuelson, who has made himself a general and is building a resistance under his own dictatorship. Samuelson senselessly murders Kerry, and George in turn murders Samuelson. Samuelson's soldiers show no concern.
George finally reaches Washington, which is completely destroyed. He offers his life to a lone alien, but it seemingly drops dead in front of him. A handful of human survivors emerge and reveal to George than the aliens have been killed by a virus and lost the war. George finds Felicity and Alex among toppled alien walkers.
- C. Thomas Howell as Dr. George Herbert
- Andy Lauer as Sgt. Kerry Williams
- Rhett Giles as Pastor Victor
- Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots as Felicity Herbert
- Jake Busey as Lt./General Samuelson
- Peter Greene as Matt Herbert
- Dashiell Howell as Alex Herbert
- Edward DeRuiter as Max
Adapting the novel
Director/editor/executive producer/co-writer David Michael Latt (who admits to never seeing the Byron Haskin/George Pal version or the 1988 television series, but has been a fan of the H.G. Wells novel since childhood) made it clear that his film changed certain aspects from the source material outside of the time and location. Most notable is that the tripods have been changed to six-legged crab-like machines called "walkers" (a result of allowing the effects team creative freedom).
The aliens are indeed Martians (though the film never states this, but is confirmed with an opening credit sequence using shots of the Red Planet's landscape), but they bear little resemblance to their novel's counterparts. Whereas Wells described his invaders as bear-sized tentacled creatures, the film's Martians are insect-like with four tentacle-like legs. These aliens also have the ability to spit acid from their feet, which melts anything. At the end of the legs three tongue-like appendages closely resemble the Martian fingers from Byron Haskin's 1953 film version of The War of the Worlds and the 1988 television series version.
The war machines are crab-like "walkers" with six legs. A Heat Ray is built into the machine's "head", and is fired from a single eye. The fighting machines do not appear to have protection against modern artillery (avoiding the "invisible shields" seen in the 1953 film version and Steven Spielberg's 2005 film), leaving their ability to conquer unexplained. The aliens do have a substance similar to the black smoke, but is more of a dense green toxic gas unable to rise above ground level, allowing survivors to escape by getting to high places.
The protagonist is George Herbert, a reference to H. G. Wells. Rather than being a writer, as in the novel, he is an astronomer. The film leaves the eve of the war storyline and its characters almost completely absent. He also has a son, who is portrayed by Dashiell Howell, who is actually the son of George's actor C. Thomas Howell.
Despite these differences, George goes through much of what befalls the novel's protagonist, even in sacrificing himself to the Martians, only for them to drop dead of infection. He is also separated from his family and tries to reunite with once the invasion begins, Like the novel, they are alive in the conclusion. George's brother, a Ranger, is less fortunate; he is seen only briefly after being fatally wounded in an attack by the invaders. In the book, the narrator's brother takes up a major narrative role.
A major deviation from the text is that the protagonist actually tries to produce a means of stopping the Martians, but whether or not he is directly responsible for their downfall is ambiguous. There is a theme of disease throughout - George's son is seen suffering a mild cold, while George himself suffers a major fever which leaves him incapacitated for two days.
The novel's Artilleryman is divided into two characters. The first, Kerry Williams, exhibits the defeated status. He accompanies George as they move to unaffected areas, meeting soldiers oblivious to the danger they will soon face, until they become separated when George takes refuge underwater to elude the Martians. After his ordeal in the ruined house, George encounters same defeated Williams again. Instead, the other personality, portrayed in the novel's later stages, is Lt. Samuelson.
The novel's unnamed Curate is film's Pastor Victor. While the two are very similar, the pastor is optimistic and is sure that the invasion is the Rapture. However, his faith is deeply shaken when he meets a congregate who screams against God for the loss of her family, causing the Pastor to question why he himself has yet to be taken. Unlike the Curate, the Pastor keeps his composure when he's trapped in the ruined house as he wrestles with his thoughts. Where the Curate had to be subdued in the novel, the Pastor regains his faith just before he is killed by the Martians.
David Michael Latt and producing War of the Worlds
David Michael Latt often expresses his fascination for H.G. Wells' novel in the DVD's Audio Commentary and Behind the scenes features. He had written a script for War of the Worlds a year before production of the film, and upon learning that DreamWorks were making their own War of the Worlds film, The Asylum soon began production.
David Michael Latt based the themes of the film (internationally titled Invasion) on the 2002 film The Pianist, which tells the true story of a Polish Jew who struggles to survive the battle between the Wehrmacht and the a Jewish resistance in the Second World War. Latt used the similar themes of a man's survival as civilization around him reduces to ruin, stating:
"I tell my friends [War of the Worlds] is like The Pianist, but instead of Nazis you have aliens."
Like the protagonist of The Pianist, the main character of War of the Worlds is not shown to have any kind of resistance or plans to fight back, only a persistence to keep alive. The film is considered by some to be the darkest retelling of Wells' novel, and described by actor Andy Lauer as a "sci-fi noir".
The casting for Andy Lauer was almost sudden, himself having an interest of working with The Asylum. Latt had concerns about Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots ' casting, assuming she may object to her naked sequence at the beginning of the film. However, Van Wyk-Loots had no objections and was more than happy in starring in War of the Worlds, being a fan of science fiction (admitting to have seen "every episode of Star Trek ever made"). The casting of C. Thomas Howell seemed to be more complicated, as he was currently starring in an American TV show. David Michael Latt and Andy Lauer were confident in getting Howell in the film, and Howell was happy to read the script and accepted (in fact, he was so happy with the film that he would eventually direct the sequel). Howell offered his son Dashiell as a role to play Alex Herbert, when he found that Latt was looking for an eight-year-old to fill in the role. Jake Busey's audition was successful, having won the role on the first day of auditions. His scenes were all filmed in one day. He tells that one of his favorite films as a child was the 1953 War of the Worlds.
The development of Invasion's plot and characters was a challenge. Adapting the characters and plot faithfully from the novel was tricky to retell for a modern audience, so there are some significant changes. For example, readers will notice that the "eve of the war" arch is almost absent from the film, skipping the novel's earlier characters and details of the "safe and tranquil" world before the invasion begins. This is, however, easy to understand because of the film's length. The film also ignores the sub-plot of Book One: The Coming of the Martians, in which the book's perspective shifts to the narrator's brother, who accompanies two women to safety and witnesses the battle between the aliens and the HMS Thunderchild. A sub-plot would violate the nature of the film, and also increase its length.
The film has received mixed audience reception with a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes and also only four known critic reviews which were mixed.
On April 1, 2008, a sequel, War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, was released. C. Thomas Howell directed the film and reprised the role of George Herbert, and his son Dash Howell reprised the role of Alex. The film also starred Christopher Reid.
- War of the Worlds, Steven Spielberg's 2005 blockbuster which is also a contemporary adaptation of H. G. Wells novel.
- H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, a more faithful, lower-budget film adaptation of the novel.
- The Pianist, a 2002 film that inspired this film's themes.
- The Day the Earth Stopped, another Asylum film starring C. Thomas Howell that features an invasion by extraterrestrials.
- H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds Official page.
- H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds at the Internet Movie Database
- H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds at Rotten Tomatoes