Wednesday, July 20, 2005

War of the Worlds

"...intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

Ah the smooth vernacular of 1898, how it traipses across the tongue and palate. Mr. H.G. Wells created a novel of such horrifying substance that even a century later we are still frightened by it.

With that said I will begin my analysis of Steven Speilberg's latest creation.

I will start with significant departures from the book. I will keep this piece to only major plot changing alterations as it is a given that the medium of film is quite different than the written and as such must be treated differently.

1. The Martians have been on earth before mankind. Or at the very least their machinery of war. It is stated that the Tripods were buried "millions of years ago". HG Wells has them arrive by "shells" as if they were literally fired from a canon.

Problems with this change? Tons. If the Martians had already been here to plant their machinery in advanced preparation of exterminating us once we became the dominate species than why not just settle here anyway. Populate both Mars and Earth at the same time? The environment hasn't changed significantly enough to warrant waiting. Not at least in comparison to Mar's environment. It's been like that for millions of years, perhaps billions. In addition, if they have already been here and are studying us so carefully then they should have some concept of single cellular life. We have them in our guts. They make up the foundations of our entire ecosystems which provide us with life. You mean to tell me advanced creatures from another planet who have already been here are not aware of bacteria? They have no clue about disease and they have been studying us as a species since we came on the scene? Please.

Even if they were not resistant to our microbes, do you honestly think they could not have made those amazing sophisticated machines hermetically sealed? They would have space suits if they needed them.

But doesn't HG Wells run into this problem? Nope. Why? The Martians have never been here before. They have been viewing us as we view Mars, by massive telescopes (remember this was written in 1898). They understand our ways of basic society, where we live, how we war. They have no concept as to our physiological natures or that of our fellow species. They know the constituents of the air and the size of our planet, it's gravitational pull and atmospheric pressures. Physics. They are totally taken by surprise by our pico-sized friends. HG Wells must have assumed that there was no such entities as bacteria on Mars, otherwise his Martians would have expected as much on earth.

Furthermore, what is the chance of mankind not stumbling upon one of these buried Tripods? They've been here for millions of years and yet erosion and changes in the courses of rivers has not exposed one? The drilling of oil shafts, subway tunnels, and quarries has never turned upon one of these titanic beings. Just how deep where they? Not terribly as was shown in the scene when it first appears in the movie.

2. The Tripods were dead-on. I was proud of those things. Menacing and titanic and yet still resembling HG Wells descriptions. Very cool. The Tripods did 3 things to eliminate man from the face of the earth in the book. They fire their super cool heat ray (singular), they collect people and stick them in jar-like canisters, and they spray a black gas that poisons and kills people. In the movie they do only 2, they fire their heat rays (plural) and they collect people and stick them in cages for future use as fertilizer for their red vines.

I don't mind the extra heat ray, it looked cool. Collecting people in cages is neat, no black toxic clouds, ok. Pumping out peoples blood for use as fertilizer? What the...?

What is that but simply a chance for gratuitous gore and not even that since the whole scene is hidden behind a tractor? Who would have thought that our blood chemistry makes great Miracle Grow for those red ropy vines from ANOTHER PLANET!? Dumb. And lets say that it wasn't fertilizer but fluid food, suspension media, for the pilots of the Tripod. Which would explain the massive gush of red fluid from within the capsule when opened at the end. What did they do before they started collecting people? And why not make the operation selfcontained. Why not have that long tentacle arm thing that appears in the cage just harpoon them there and suck out the blood? Just a dumb scene.

The vines are never explained. At first I thought they meant that the people were being transformed into them, now that would be gross. Maybe they were. Moving on.

Forcefields make sense. HG Wells was way to early to have even thought of such a farout concept but back then a massive walking titan with a heat ray was more than a match for early howitzers. I mean whats the firing rate on those ancient guns? In fact in the book the military actually takes out a few. One lucky shot hits one Tripod in the knee and brings it down. And I think a battleship in the Thames takes out another.

If the Tripods didn't have forcefields then they all would have been toasted by thousands of cruise missiles fired from deep sea subs. So although it's kind of Independence Dayish we'll let it slide.

Now that instance when Cruise is getting sucked up by that giant sphincter (Evolution was just screaming at me) and he blows up the whole Tripod with 2 grenades. Nice but come on! 2 grenades wouldn't blow up an Abrams Tank from the inside. That Tripod was huge and a grenade in it's sphincter chamber blows the whole thing up?! Well it looked cool though.

Did you notice though that this scene was the only one in which mankind kills a FULLY FUNCTIONING tripod? It's done by some hopeless schmuck loaded with explosives getting eaten. During the movie a person mentions that in Osaka Japan they were reported as having killed several Tripods. What people perfected the kamikaze attack which is exactly what Cruise did? I think that's awesome. Japanese soldiers getting eaten on purpose and loaded down with explosives to blow the Martians to kingdom come.

The heatray effects were cool. I liked the concept of the body being vaporized and the clothing that wasn't incinerated by direct contact just getting blown away by the force of the blast. All that ash was disturbing.

The scene with the church steeple falling was from the book, except it was shot by the heat ray from quite a distance and wasn't toppled because the Tripod was underneath it. And honestly if a huge soccerfield sized sinkhole opened up at my feet I would be hustling my little self out of there. And you can definitely be sure that if a massive 6-7 story alien walker crawls out of it I am way gone! Those NJ morons just stood around! What did they think it was? The Transit authority putting in a new subway station? Unlikely Mr. Spielberg.

3. Flaming Amtrak was cool.

4. That battle with the Hummers. Weak. They should have at least shown it. They could have made it horrendous. With those sad little trucks just getting pounded. Then a quick cut to a bunch more hummers driving over the hill without any clue what happened to their brethren. Honestly, those things get blown up by cellphones strapped to old mortar shells, like they could do squat against those beasts?

5. Although the aliens were not tentacle squamous octopus things they still looked cool. And I suppose it makes sense that they have 3 legs like their walkers. Just like we have 4 wheels like our cars...Wait...

6. How sweet that the whole family survived. Especially Robbie. Um dude didn't that entire hill get napalmed? Where the heck did you go to survive that disaster. Deus Ex Machina...gotta love it.

7. The scene in the farmhouse...too long with a guy that looked to much like Tim Robbins. They could have truncated that thing by 15 minutes and lost that whole gotta kill the raving idiot scene.

8. It would have been great to have had a scene from the International Space station looking down on earth getting smeared, the astronauts losing contact with each other's respective bases.

Man I should be a director, or at least an author.

9. I'm not bothering to talk about the car's ability to drive when no one else could. The movie explained that fine. I do think that when a Jumbo Jet falls on your house the chances of your van surviving should be close to zero. If it does survive the chances that a clear path should be made between the 2 halves of the fuselage and the wings should be nil.

10. The tipping ferry was neat. But seriously, what idiot packs onto a boat full of people when giant walking machines of death are marching all over the place. HERE WE ARE! ALL IN ONE PLACE! IN WATER! LIKE FISH IN A BARREL! COME KILL US!

11. The scene with all the floating bodies was neat. But where did they come from? Heat rays don't leave bodies. Did a dam burst or something? A bridge collapse upstream? Well I suppose those are highly likely. OK not a nitpick.

12. Um...where were the nukes? If I was the President and this must be the first alien invasion movie not to include a President, I would be nuking everything.

13. I find it interesting that creatures who live on a planet with a different atmosphere than ours, not to mention temperature. Could walk around without any issues.

95.3% carbon dioxide (CO2),
2.7% nitrogen (N2),
1.6% argon (Ar),
0.15% oxygen (O2),
0.08% Carbon monoxide (CO),
Surface pressure 1-9 millibars, depending on altitude; average 6 mb

78% Nitrogen (N2)
21% Oxygen (O2)
1% Argon (Ar)
0-7% water vapor (H2O)
0-0.01% Ozone (O3) both the H20 and O3 should be tiny 2's and 3's.
0.01-0.1% Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Surface pressure 1013 millibars, depending on altitude of course.

The surface pressure of earth is the equivalent of 14.7 lbs per square inch. Mar's is about 1/150th of that. For a Martian it would be like breathing mud.

Did HG Wells know this? Nope...Should bet.

The only way it could work is if the Martians breath Argon and the other elements have zero effect on them. Yeah not likely.

Oh and the average temp on Mars. -63 Celsius!!!! Celsius!!! Whole Crap! They would have been hotter than a monkey's bum down here!!

But honestly HG Wells did mention the aliens complete discomfort and lack of mobility while within the crater trying to assemble the Tripod. Score 1 for HG!

Well it's after midnight and I'm sure I could go on.

My opinion of the movie. Good not great. It could have been great if it wasn't so summer time popcorn fun. Or STPF as I like to say stupf pronounced st-upf. As in stupid with a F and no id. yeah that's stupid.

Liked the big explosions. Whatever that city was in NJ, they got hammered. I loved seeing entire buildings just get shredded by that beam. Cool.

The book is by far superior and it's also free domain being over 70 years old. I think that's how long it takes to be free domain. Which means Conan is up in 2007! YES!


Anonymous said...

good review, you raise many of the concerns that i also had.

i was willing to let them slide, since i thought it was a great movie(or at least better than the majority of swill that graces my poor poor eyes).

The things that bothered me most were:

1. the buried tripods. such a stupid idea. it makes sense in rural wherever, but comeon, tokyo and new york? not likely. but the tripods looked awesome. and they made THE COOLEST sound!!!! i want to see it again just for that!!!

2. the shields bugged the crap out of me. so independence day, i had the exact same thought. HG wells did it much better.

3. the bacteria deal. best. one thing i did notice though. or maybe im making it up, but.... the fluid ejected from the tripods in the beginning was clear. at the end it was orangeish. seemed like a pussy infection to me. but maybe not...

4. unlikely that they could survive a plane crashing on their house when they were only in the basement.

what i loved:
1. the tripod's foghorn. When the two or three tripods attacked the ferry at the hudson crossing, they blared out, and their tones were each slightly different, i thought that was freakin awesome.

2. when the bridge got blown up in the beginning, my mouth was literally flapping open.

thats about it. but i still liked it.


Proteinstar said...

Yeah the Tripod's hoots were awesome. I thing HG Wells mentions the aliens themselves making sounds of a similar nature.

rover said...

Hey! I thought you were going to review the movie, not write a whole new book! It's a shame that heat ray didn't vaporize Tom Cruise.

Mr Shoop said...

Actually - I believe it was Tim Robbins in the farmhouse.

Anonymous said...

it was tim robbins