War of the Worlds: The True Story (2013)
Plenty of genre enthusiasts are going to be calling foul and complaining about being ripped off, but I liked this re-working of Tim Hines’ production of War of the Worlds (2005). My girlfriend also sat content, which in the case of watching low-budget sci-fi is a rare occurrence. You may recall in 2005 that 3 films adapted the H.G. Wells’ story: Spielberg’s visually impressive, but annoying (dumb script, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins as a pedophile) tribute, David Michael Latt’s film starring C. Thomas Howell (I’ve never seen), and Tim Hines’ faithful-to-Wells film set in Victorian time.
Fellow film aficionado Mark Leeper pointed out to me that Hines apparently re-worked his 2005 film:
“With a flop on his hands Hines said he was going to modify it or make a new film using the old film for the SPFX [Special Effects]. I think at that time he said it would be called WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE TRUE STORY. The editing could be tighter, but any change beyond that will much disappoint me.”
Mark’s review of the original film is HERE.
Hines’ War of the Worlds: The True Story (2013) is garnering a bit of buzz (8.2/10 on IMDb), but the film is not yet widely available. I ordered my DVD copy from the film website. The story proposes that the War of the Worlds actually occurred, and uses the “found footage” gimic where declassified and archival British footage of the 1900 Martian invasion was found in a vault. A 1964 interview of the last living survivor journalist Bertie Wells supplements the story, with bits and pieces of Hines’ 2005 film carrying along the narrative. The film is competently narrated by actor Jim Cissell.
Hines is clever in noting in the prologue that the film is padded with historical photos (ala Ken Burns effect) and films to better capture the feel of Victorian England and assist in the story-telling. As a result, we also see snippets of old movies interspersed along the way, including cameos by Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, C. Aubrey Smith (the quintessential British aristocrat), and others. I thought the editing to be tight, although at 97 minutes the film tends to drag (I think 10 minutes could have been trimmed after the second Martian attack wave).
Kudos to the special effects team! The visuals reminded me of the great Czech animator Karel Zeman (The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, 1958), who used a distinct wood-cut style that artistically and aesthetically blows any modern computer-rendered distractions out of the water. The visuals in WOTW The True Story use both traditional stop-motion animation, models and puppetry, prosthetics (the Martians are the best since Charlie Gemora’s 1953 tri-ocular alien), and CGI Greenscreen methods. Ezra Hamill handled the Martian tripod and miniature effects, while ULTRAKARL competently handled the creature and makeup effects. Down the road I may opt for the cool moniker of “Ultra-Barry”.
I particularly like the biological Martian effects which are faithful to Wells’ description of an octopoid creature with eyes and 8 whip-like tentacles. Only the beak-like mouth is missing in ULTRAKARL’s design. The supplemental section of the DVD includes brief footage showing the Martian prosthetic which was fabricated in the style of a vintage Rob Bottin creation.
Also compare the Martian to the cover of the 1927 re-print of War of the Worlds:
In flash-back retelling by Bertie Wells, WOTW The True Story effectively depicts the Martian invasion and destruction of London. The tripod effects are impressive, with hydraulic articulation, rivets and steam-pipe conveyances (I detest the term “steam-punk”), and although we only see brief glimpses of the machines they are the highlight of the film. I like the effect of digitally mapping the Martian war machines in a grungy sepia tone. Afterall, the footage is 113 year’s old!
These SPFX remind me a lot of early minature effects created by the Skotak brothers (Aliens, 1986; T2, 1991). There is a dream-like quality to these shots reminscent of silent films, which was the intent of the filmmaker.
…and look quick for Bill Shatner!
War of the Worlds: The True Story is not for all tastes. Portions of the film drag and I got a bit tired of the repetiveness of combining stock footage with other film sources. However, about the time I got bored a cool SPFX shot grabbed my attention. The Bertie Wells’ interview doesn’t work —It is too staged and scripted and doesn’t come off as being an old man reflecting on a tragic past. Overall, I liked the film and recommend it to fans of H.G. Wells and silent fantasy films.