Monday, March 9, 2009

War of the Worlds (1953)

I barely need to discuss the plot for H. G. Well’s “War of the Worlds”, since it is so ubiquitous in popular culture. Martians arrive on earth by piloting hollow asteroids, they are hostile, and humanity has to fight them, but our weapons are seemingly ineffective against them. I probably couldn’t spoil the ending either, since it is so well-known, but for anyone whom somehow does not know the ending, I’m not going to be the person that spoils the ending of the novel or this movie for them.

In short, you aren’t going to watch this movie for the plot, because you know it already; only the details need to be filled in. It’s one of the only real criticisms of the movie that I can give, and not one that is entirely fair to place at the foot of this movie, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s not that the movie’s plotline is clichéd. The book was one of the original invasion novels, and formed the template for a slew of imitators, and the movie seems to do a reasonably faithful adaptation, excepting the setting change (this is from someone whom has not read the book). It’s the repetition of these ideas makes the ideas featured in the movie clichéd, even if the book originally wasn’t.

The other criticism is that the movie doesn’t really have much in the way of outstanding acting, either – it’s average at best. Sylvia deserves a special mention for the wrong reasons – she goes into hysterics when the men are calm and collected far too often for my liking. Not my idea of good acting by any means.

So, after you take away the plot and the acting from this movie, all you are left with are the special effects. Thankfully, they are quite decent even by today’s standards (it won an Oscar for them, apparently) – the death rays of the Martians, the mechanical craft they fly in, the battles between the Martians and Earth’s military forces are all reasonably credible. There’s one or two spots where the special effects are not as good, but this is the exception, not the rule.

So, although the plot is quite good, you know it already. The acting ranges between average and sub-par, and the special effects are good. Not bad, but certainly not numbered among the more memorable older SF movies, either. 3/5.

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