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'War Of The Worlds' Nightmare Continues For Pendragon

Michael Simpson explores the chequered history of Timothy Hines’ film

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By
Source: SyFy Portal
Aug-26-2005

Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” may not be everyone’s idea of how to make a movie of H.G. Wells’ famous novel. Ironically, though, it’s a low budget adaptation by Seattle-based Pendragon Pictures that has attracted the most ire. Critics called foul on director Timothy Hines even before its limited release on DVD. To make matters worse, allegations have arisen that he is conning customers of Amazon.com. Where did it all go wrong?

Pendragon’s "authentic" adaptation of the classic novel was initially greeted with glee by H.G. Wells fans. That began to fade in December, 2004, however, when the studio delayed its first theatrical trailer. Responding to hostile forum members on waroftheworldsonline.com, Hines said the trailer had been held back “in the face of the tsunami disaster.” Some international distributors had asked that he omit scenes of people drowning.

In March, 2005, Pendragon postponed the theatrical release itself, prompting more criticism. “The push back is due entirely to production," said Hines in a press release. Some forum members accused him of lying about having a distribution deal, and of exaggerating the quality of his film.

Ultimately, the movie never made it to theatres, putting Pendragon on the defensive again. Cinemas pulled out, the studio said, because they feared a backlash from Paramount. Detractors said that Hines’ picture was an abomination and he was covering it up.

Some Wells fans seem to resent Hines because they feel he misled them. For example, they have challenged his claims that roles were cast after ‘hundreds’ of hours of auditions. They point to the variable quality of the acting and the fact that Hines’ cast either knew him already or were from the Seattle area.

Other common complaints have been that soldiers in the movie wear various inappropriate uniforms, and CGI images of London’s Big Ben show it nowhere near the Houses of Parliament. Critics say these make a mockery of Hines’ claims of attention to detail. Moreover, they challenge his assertion that the special effects would be "state-of-the-art," noting that the use of animation, mattes and blue screen is often obvious.

These criticisms are relatively minor, however. Hines has also been accused of being anti-Semitic. As a strategy for subversively undermining credibility, this approach should be familiar to anyone that knows of the McCarthy witch hunts. His critics have also accused him of encouraging the public to buy his film under false pretences by faking rave reviews on Amazon.com.

When the DVD of Pendragon’s movie got a limited release in June, the general consensus among the first few reviewers on Amazon was that it was “unbelievably bad.” Since then, however, the number of four- and five-star ratings has grown rapidly. Hines’ critics are now arguing that the movie is so awful, these can’t be genuine. Ergo, Hines must be writing them himself.

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