THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
THE CLASSIC WAR OF THE WORLDS
The most fascinating of these productions was this version from Seattle-based director Timothy Hines and his company Pendragon Pictures. Hines promised to do one thing that no other version of the story had attempted to do to date film the book as it was written and to retain the Victorian England setting in which H.G. Wells was writing rather than take the easy route of updating it. Hines had been working in the film industry for a number of years, although had only made one film previously with Bug Wars (2000). Hines had been fascinated with The War of the Worlds since a child and had for a number of years attempted to mount his own production. He was eventually granted a budget to conduct a modern version, only to see this curtailed following 9/11. Hines was eventually able to attract a budget around the $20 million range (although sceptics place that figure well down into the six figure range, with the IMDB even currently listing it as an improbable $5000). Shooting through most of 2003-4, the film was caught up in legal dispute with the Spielberg version but ended up being released directly to video/dvd less than a month before Spielbergs film was. The Pendragon version exists in two different cuts the original version released was just short of three hours long (179 minutes) but this was later cut down to a more commercial 136 minutes (seen here).
Timothy Hiness The War of the Worlds is an amazing mix of the amateurish and massive ambition that goes waaaaaaaay beyond the resources that were clearly to hand (especially if the film was made on the unlikely budget of only $5000). The film almost deserves an Academy Award alone for its enormous effort in turning contemporary Seattle into Victorian England on next-to-no-budget. Everyone tries hard to appropriate the accents and get the period props right. The IMDB goofs section is awash with numerous historical and geographical inaccuracies but for the most part these would not be visible to anyone who has not studied the history of the era in detail.
The special effects are generally hit and miss, as much one as the other. The first appearance of the Martians from their cylinders with tentacles waggling comes with undeniably unworldly and eerie effect. The first appearance of the war machines rising up out of the pit, tripedial as they should be, all in sleek chromium and accompanied by vast thumping sounds as they walk over the heads of the tiny people beneath them are fabulous. The most accomplished scene is their attack on Waybridge with the machines striding across the landscape, outlined against the cathedral and with great images of them picking up and tossing people away or where one of them is hit and stumbles into the cathedral before falling into the water. The war machines were all marionette creations that were manipulated on rods by puppeteers, which is perhaps why they are some of the films most convincing effects.
While some scenes are a marvel of imagination and economy, others look cheap and amateurish. The appearances of the heat ray disappoint the raygun rather absurdly looks like a wobbly cable tv dish, while there is no actual ray as such, just a rippling optical effect, although there are some undeniably cool effects of people being crisped to the skeleton. There are some extremely sub-par effects the scene with the war machines blasting a train as it crosses a bridge, or where the Martians collect people in their baskets. The worst sequence is the attack on the warship Thunder Child, where the CGI effects of the Thunder Child and war machines striding through the water only look like the graphics for a low-resolution 1990s computer game. (Also in the same scene, the intercut scenes of the brother and two girls sitting on board the ferry come with back-projected footage of the water that looks like it is at a 45-degree angle to the ship).
The film is shot with the grainy cinematography of cheap video-era camerawork that makes the film a strain on the eyes. One annoyance was the score, which insists on crashing away with over-emphatic symphonic moment at all points, even when the characters are doing something mundane like walking across fields. There is a certain amateurishness on the part of the cast all are non-professionals that do not appear to have any other film acting credits. That said, Anthony Piana as the eponymous writer has an undeniable leading man handsomeness and surety that could easily carry over to other film work.
The film is without a doubt faithful to the H.G. Wells story. Timothy Hines and co-writer Susan Goforth (who also plays the writers wife) have a reasonable ear for period dialogue that sounds convincing (even if it is unlikely that any real Britisher would be able to place some of the accents). I didnt find the length boring maybe one needed to see the full three-hour version for that to be the case. There is the odd scene that could have been trimmed one with the heros brother engaged in a fistfight with three ruffians who attempt to have their way with the girls goes on far longer than it needs to. Nevertheless, I found what Timothy Hines was attempting to do an admirable endeavour. I would very much like to have seen what could have been achieved if he had been granted a bigger budget. As it is, The War of the Worlds is a marvel of amazing ambition, if not entirely of delivery.
Timothy Hines made a sequel War of the Worlds: The True Story (2012), a faux documentary that supposedly interviews the last survivor of the invasion. He followed this with a further period-set work, the non-fiction based 10 Days in a Madhouse (2015).
Clip from the film here:-