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DVD Review: H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Pendragon Pictures (Late in depth breakdown review)
By Nathan Hooper Jul 18, 2005, 8:15 GMT
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Finally my opportunity came to witness first-hand the legendary War of the Worlds, by Pendragon Films. After such negative reviews and awful publicity, capped off with all those timely delays and broken promises by the makers themselves, I tried so hard to detach myself from all this and to keep an objective eye and retain some much-needed enthusiasm.

I would like to take this time to say this, as the “Biggest WOTW fan in the UK” I had the idea that none of this publicity would affect my judgement. I mean, this is War of the Worlds! Nothing will disappoint me as long as is War of the Worlds. However, life it seems doesn’t seem to work that way.


CHARACTERS

THE WRITER

Anthony Piana. Gentleman, father and more importantly, a great pantomime actor. The first 50 minutes saw what can only be described as some of the most over-the-top acting in cinema history. The accent was unbelievably poor, his moustache was unbelievably plastic and his acting qualities were just simply unbelievable. How did a moustached man also manage to keep so clean shaven throughout then entire film? This lack of attention to detail is what plagues this film so much and so badly and it makes me utterly disappointed. So back to the writer…his body movement was too OTT and he appeared somewhat eccentric, even when life was ‘normal’. I’ll give Piana some credit. As the film went on, his acting got slightly better and I mean, slightly. He seemed to ditch the camp look and actually act how the writer would have done in the book. 4/10


THE WIFE
The worst actress in the business. Susan Goforth (more like gobacktocleaningbins), also engaging in about 40 other roles for the film, should have stuck to 39. Acting is not her best talent. In-fact I wouldn’t even call it a talent. It was shameful – my mother could act better and she knows nothing about acting at all. Her accent was all over the place and was almost making a mockery of the English “received pronunciation”. I was praying that Hines would digress from the book at this point and have her killed, in the worst possible way! It wasn’t even an amateur performance – it seemed like a woman who was simply taking the rip. 1/10


OGILVY

Slightly better than the previous two characters and it was a shame he was killed of when he was (I suppose he had to go, given the description in the book). However, still too OTT and was performing like he was auditioning for some really bad soap operas. He ran like he severely needed the toilet too. 5/10




THE ARTILLERYMAN
Another half decent performance in places, though the Arnold Schwarzenegger voice was not very impressive. I would have been even more impressed had the editor not cut out the moment he was going to burst into what seemed an effective crying score. 5.5/10


THE BROTHER
Mr Piana, again, was being a complete novice. However, it must be said he wasn’t as bad this time. The brother was played a lot better (maybe the plastic moustache affected his performance). The fight scene with him and the thugs was probably one of the best acted scenes in the whole film, simply because it looked realistic, and there was no CGI. 5/10

THE CURATE
By far the best actor in the film. Still Shakespearian in places and a bit too panto though. His facial expressions and change in intonation were wonderfully executed in places. His best moment came for the basement scene, which almost had me in tears. There was genuine terror and pain in the poor man’s eyes. His slow demise and deterioration was well portrayed throughout and I was beginning to wonder if Pendragon had blown their entire budget on hiring him. 7.5/10


THE MARTIANS

THE MARTIAN CREATURES

Just like the book states, this was a relief and joy to watch. However, the poor effects made them look too simplistic and unrealistic. It looked too much like a cartoon in places. Their movement was too easy and fluent (none of this heaving and pulsating) and they didn’t look menacing at all – it was like watching the lovable Gizmo from Gremlins. Did anyone also notice that they were very flat too? 6/10


THE TRIPODS
From the absolutely shambolic use of effects and CGI, this was about the most impressive work. The leg shots were brilliant – both terrifying and gripping and you actually felt some sort of tenseness during these shots, something you didn’t feel at any other point throughout this film. However, the top halves (and this maybe due to the poor effects) looked too much like some R&D footage from the latest X-Box game. The movement was too jerky and it often felt like the X-Box had problems loading the game it was supposed to be playing. To be brutally honest, it really didn’t look realistic and I felt as though I was watching some flash cartoon made on the web. Then of course there is the tripod noise. No all-powerful “ULLA” or “ALOO” this time, simply some sort of mono-recorded clip of an ‘Imp’ dying on the game ‘Doom’. Finally, I didn’t quite grasp the concept of Pendragon’s constant need to show flashing green and yellow behind the tripods as they were rising. I thought this was a professional film company trying to grip the audience, not deflate them. 6/10


THE RED WEED
Oh dear. Another failed mistake. This was clear evidence of Pendragon failing to balance CGI with reality. Had the weed not been computerised and actually blended properly into the set, it would have looked good. As it stood, it just looked disorientated. 3/10

GENERAL ACTING
Very bad. Sometimes you wondered whether Pendragon picked random people off the street to play the cast. Everything looked as though it had been rushed. You can smell the air of “we can’t delay this film anymore, maybe they’ll forgive us for a second-rate performance as long as we don’t delay anymore”. I think I speak for everyone when I say I’d have rather waited another few months and seen a quality and professional performance than a rushed and ill-fated compilation of poor accents, fake emotions and pure tedium. For example, when the onlookers around the pit get heat-rayed, the level of acting is laughable. I expect a 4-year old to drop to the floor wriggling around like a silly drunk, not a set of adults who do this for a living. 3/10

SOUNDTRACK
By far the best thing to come out of the film. Jamie Hall should feel proud of what he achieved in this film. Had I closed my eyes and simply listened to the music, the film would have seemed incredible. The mood was suited perfectly every time. There was no cheese, no shortcuts and no repetition. Everything was bold, fresh and exhilarating. Had the rest of the film worked to this standard, we’d be looking at another collector’s piece. 8/10


LIGHTING
What the hell was going on here? Sepia, blue, orange, red? Filters? Why? It added nothing to the film, only took more away from it. Sometimes you couldn’t properly see the background because the contrast was too high and sometimes there was so much colour that you wondered whether it was your TV screen which was the fault. I really cannot understand why this was done, someone please tell me! 1/10


CGI & SPECIAL EFFECTS

Where do I start?! CGI – can I actually call it that? The use of cardboard cut-outs, which sometimes weren’t coloured in, the use of puppets, sock puppets and things made on Microsoft Paint was unbearable. One thing which particularly annoyed me was the plastic and shiny skeletons which were used when the humans were burnt to cinders. Another area was the fire effects. It looked like clippings from one of those “virtual fires” which you can pick up at your local department stores for a few quid. It was unrealistic, ill-placed and tacky.



Then of course you have the regularity of the effects. Its like a really unsuccessful attempt at “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, which at least looked realistic to some degree. There was far too much of it. Using real humans and poorly editing them into the effects just didn’t work at this level. Had the actors also been CGI, it might have looked a little more impressive, simply because it wouldn’t have looked like a mess. The buildings just didn’t look right. Did anyone else notice that the shots of houses were merely edited images of houses in random fields? No roads, paths etc – just townhouses in that same blasted field. Big Ben looked like it was made from “puzz 3D” and even then, the puzz 3D version had more attention to detail in it.

The horses and the carts used in distant shots looked like they were made from socks with Lego men on top. When it rained it looked more like nuclear dust from fallout. Then there was the Vicar of Whaybridge. A cardboard cut-out which floated across the screen as he was flung away – I was in tears of laughter at this point! Further in this part of the story, the boiling water – it wasn’t boiling at certain points! The same could be said for when people were crushed by the tripod legs, into purple blood and a mash of mangled pixels. It was hilariously bad!

Thunderchild – man’s last hope and the last stand against the invaders. Was supposed to be the pinnacle battle. Full of power, explosions and rip-roaring and pulsating action. What did we get? A margarine tub with 3 toilet roll tubes sticking out of the top. This part of the film actually upset me, because they had taken one of the most important scenes and spat on it. It was a true insult to the book and to the idea of mans last hope being washed away with the sinking ironclad.

I also noticed that Big Ben always seemed to be 3:00. The clock in the Brother’s bedroom was 8:40 and outside the window, in all its glory, puzz 3D Big Ben was showing the wrong time! Its petty errors like this which shows how the film has been rushed.

I could go on forever with this spectacle of pure amateurish work and lack of attention. Next time Pendragon, hire someone who actually knows how to work the visuals, rather than paying some kids to have a mess around with Adobe Photoshop. 2/10


EDITING
This was even worse than the effects. Someone was drunk when the edited this. The actors often move across the awful generated backgrounds like robots and sometimes pieces of their heads and bodies are missing from the sheer basement-level quality. Scenes have been cut in the wrong place and there is more juxtaposition in a bar of soap than this film. Whoever editied this film needs to rethink their career. 1/10



SCENERY
Another cock-up to say the least. Pendragon obviously felt that they needed to cut down on the budget here by filming the whole film in the same field. Sticking random houses in it and putting the Thunderchild scene on the edge of this piece of grass is not acceptable.

One part which made me chuckle was when the Brother saw the women being attacked. He was in a town at the time, and they were on a quite country track. How many town centres have little country tracks in the same place?? It was beginning to become utterly ridiculous.

Then of course there were all the “walking” scenes. How much of the film were the characters running or walking around that blasted field? Take these unnecessary clips away and you have a film lasting 2 hours, not 3. In fact, take away all the walking and extend the Dead London and Brave New Worlds scenes, which were cut down to absolute shreds.

There was also the famous “singing bint” scene. Another truly pointless scene and time which could have gone to the areas which were awfully cut short. The best bit here was to see that she was killed, and in such a comical fashion too. If all fails, use a blow-up doll!

As one can see, I’m not impressed in the slightest. Poor HG Wells. His vision and imagery has been stamped upon with studded boots. 2/10


CONCLUSION
Well there’s my 2 cents to the film. I’m really glad I only paid £5 for this DVD, as it really isn’t worth much more. Fair play to Pendragon, they have a low budget and you can see that they’ve tried to make this film with love and passion, which would make any WOTW fan proud. However, they really haven’t made the cut, at all. I was left laughing at such a dreadful spectacle but also deeply betrayed, upset and demoralised at the thought that my greatest passion has been torn apart over a 3 hour period, in front of my very own eyes. People say the Paramount ending was abrupt; you wait until you have seen this ending! This one is even quicker. Maybe if Pendragon had cut out the dreadfully long first 2 hours, cut out the walking and made the acting and movement more quicker, we’d have seen a better and more fascinating ending, not another trip to the field to see the Writer on his knees, blubbing away because his giro cheque has bounced.

True, it may be faithful to the book, but people who have not read the book and see the film will get a severely tarnished view of what is simply a classic novel. And how faithful is it exactly? I reckon if we followed the film with the book in hand it might not be as accurate as Pendragon make it out to be.

In sum then. Would I recommend this film – YES! Everyone has to see this film, simply because you need to witness first hand the greatest sci-fi book ever being dismantled in the worst possible way. If you don’t want to spend a whole £5 then read the book again, because the imagery in your head is far greater than anything this film could produce.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

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