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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

H.G. WELLS' THE WAR OF THE WORLDS -- DVD review by porfle

(This is a repost of my very first online movie review, posted at in 2005. I had just bought the DVD of Timothy Hines' notorious H.G. Wells adaptation--the original version, that is--and decided to choose it as my debut title. Thanks to Mike Eschelman of Bumscorner for giving me my start.)

This certainly is a familiar title these days! I haven't seen the mega-bucks Steven Spielberg version or that other one with C. Thomas Howell and Jake Busey in it yet, but it's a pretty good bet that the absolute worst of the current bunch is "H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds" (Spielberg didn't mention Wells in his title, and the other one only has one "The" -- that's how you tell them apart), which is now available on DVD.

I'd seen the trailer online and was aware that this film's budget was way too small for cinematographer/editor/writer/director Timothy Hines to afford any really expensive CGI. But the shot of Big Ben getting blown in half by a Martian heat ray and crashing into a bridge looked pretty decent, and the quick glimpses of advancing tri-legged Martian war machines didn't seem too bad. I figured at that price (under nine dollars) I couldn't go wrong, so I picked up a copy and gave it a chance. Three seemingly interminable hours later I was wanting my money back really, really bad.

The script by Hines and Susan Goforth (who also produced and plays a role in the film) sticks close to Wells' novel, retaining the original period and locations and much of the text itself. The costumes are very authentic-looking. But as soon as we see the main character of the film sitting there with what resembles a glob of spinach glued to his upper lip, we know something's wrong. (Actor Anthony Piana also portrays this character's twin brother later in the film, without the fake mustache.)

From the very first scene this film looks like it was done by the same people who shoot dramatizations for shows like "Unsolved Mysteries" and "America's Most Wanted." It's hard to believe that anyone ever considered releasing this to theaters instead of directly to DVD -- I can't imagine sitting in a movie theater witnessing this amateurish effort actually being projected for an audience.

The computer effects look like something out of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", only slightly less realistic. I read somewhere online that Hines actually created them on his laptop, and I don't doubt it. As a viewer, it's really hard to suspend your disbelief when everything looks like really bad video game graphics.

Not only that, but almost every shot uses some kind of inept computer effects, even for simple backgrounds, both indoors and out, and the green-screen stuff is so bad that the contours of the actors' heads keep changing when they move. Distant soldiers and horses look like cartoons; people riding in carriages are manipulated against fake backgrounds like characters on "South Park." And some scenes which are supposed to take place at night are filmed in broad daylight, with a strip of star-bedecked black added to the top of the frame.

It just keeps getting worse. The first casualties of the Martian death ray burst into flames, become computer-generated skeletons, and then keep on thrashing around even after all their flesh has been totally vaporized. The Martians themselves are just plain dumb-looking -- sort of like Fruit Roll-Ups with eyes and tentacles. Their war machines look okay, but are clumsily-animated.

The performances fall into two categories: bad silent movie-type mugging, and tiresome overacting. Director Hines is no help, though, making his actors walk, trot, or sprint from one place to another in several unnecessary scenes, or simply having them stand there and make faces denoting various emotions as they pretend to witness spectacles that the special effects can never hope to depict. Much of his direction appears to have consisted of phrases like "Okay, look sad! Action!" or "Okay, look horrified! Action!", or "Quick! Jog over there! Action!"

Did I mention that this thing is three hours long? And those are doctor's office waiting room hours, not Happy Fun Theme Park hours.

There is one pretty good thing about this movie -- the music. The opening titles, in fact, are the best thing about it, with an impressive theme (the synth often sounds convincingly orchestral) and the cool way that the text slowly moves forward like in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." Sometimes I pop the DVD in and watch this first minute or so just so I don't feel like I totally wasted my money on it. There's a danger in doing this, though -- if I'm not careful, I actually see part of the movie before I can hit the "stop" button.

Buy it at

Originally posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005


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