Three Versions in One Year, Alas
During the promotion & first-run of the big-budget Stephen Spielberg carnival ride, a cheapo version of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds (2005) was rushed into production & released in time to be in the film rental stores while the theatrically released Spielberg film was at the height of its advertising schedule.
It's not all that bad a film really, but it certainly has that direct-to-video faded flare. The actors try to do a good job but aren't all that talented; the special FX are few & far between but kinda cutsie evocatove of 1950s sci-fi when they do occur.
One would expect a giant-budget AAAA flick to be a lot more interesting than a no-budget knock-off, but Stephen Spielberg's tripod robots are neither more nor less interesting than the cheaply done ones in David Michael Latt's direct-to-video version. Acting is better but when you come right down to it, Tom Cruise & Dakota Fanning aren't all that interesting. Cruise cast as convincing as a working class dockworker instead of the ken-doll attorney he actually evokes just never works. The cast of the cheap version at least look the roles.
Nor is the script Spielberg worked with any better than the cheapy. Right away the film establishes that the aliens have released an energy that wipes out all energy sources & computers, but people still have their digital cameras or digital video equipment working fine. Cars no longer work but because the script wants Cruise & Fanning to cover a great deal of ground, the script trumps up a halfwit excuse for Cruise having the only functioning automobile on earth.
The contradictions & lack of continuity in Spielberg's take mount up as the film progresses, as when Tim Robbins' as the basement lunatic stalks around with an axe ready to attack aliens, then between cuts he has a shotgun instead.
When the aliens came out of their ship & dicked around in the basement they were pretty cool animation. But the idea that three humans could keep moving unseen from one side of the cluttered basement to the other never making any noise & easily evading being seen was just stupid. Most everything about the film was just stupid.
One good sequence required Cruise to be sucked up the anus of the semi-organic alien ship, then get farted back out. I couldn't help but wonder if the FX crew who designed the big anus weren't having a secret joke on closety Cruise. But it was fun to see him get sucked in an anus, even though it was all rather easy how he & Dakota could fall the equivalent of a twenty story building & land safely in a tree.
When at the end Cruise breaks some of the alien redvine candies off the statue as the visual clue that the aliens & there redvines were dying of earth bacterias, it actually looked like it was a plant that dried out in order to go to spore. There was no rational reason for the characters to draw the happier conclusion they drew. Nothing about the film is designed to make much sense, & even the gosh-big FX often looked completely phony.
On the Big Screen it may work as a plotless carnival ride since the pacing is non-stop, but for home viewing only the most humongous tv screen has even a slight chance of sustaining the spookhouse carnival ride atmosphere, & it has nothing else to fall back on that D. M. Latt's B flick with one-one-thousandth the budget doesn't also have.
A third version also came out in 2005, putting a "the" in front of the title, The War of the Worlds, directed by Tim Hines. This version's rather worse than Spielberg's, & much worse than Latt's, but it is the only version inspired more or less by H. G. Wells' book rather than the Orson Wells' radio play, hence the only one set in Victorian London rather than in the modern USA.
Beyond that it offers a few short CGI scenes including tentacled mollusc aliens & an enormous amount of interminable walking & talking & running & talking & looking & talking & then more walking followed by some talking.
The camera man seems not to know how to keep a camera from wobbling, the film's editor seems not to know how to edit coherently, the actors make most Z-budget non-actors look great, & on every technical level no one seems to know anything about making films. It does mean the spirit of Ed Wood is alive.
The tragedy of this film is not that it coattailed a super-lousy big-budget film, but that it must've cut into the sales of the better film to coattail Spielberg. Anyone who suffered through Tim Hines' version but didn't know it was such a bumper year for this story probably bypassed the David Michael Latt knock-off which they might actually have liked, thinking they'd already unhappily seen it.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl