The War of the Worlds - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The War of the Worlds Reviews

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August 12, 2017
Of course, it's dated in most respects, but it still remains entertaining and involving even today. Easily the best version so far.
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2017
H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds is probably one of the most famous and influential science fiction stories in literature. The story has spawned films, radio dramas, TV adaptations, comic adaptations, videogames and even a record album. One of the lesser known works highly influenced by Wells work would be 'The Tripods' by John Christopher. This itself was adapted into a BBC TV series in 1984 which has since developed a strong cult following.

Of course the most infamous adaptation was a live radio broadcast narrated by Orson Wells in 1938. The story was presented in a news broadcast fashion which in turn led to many many listeners actually thinking it was real. Can't blame them really, if you think about it back then the radio was all people had. No internet, very little television, and what was on TV would have been extremely limited. So if a serious sounding news bulletin comes on informing you about destruction from unidentified objects, chances are you'd believe it.

But its this 1953 movie that is probably the most well known adaptation of Wells story the world over. Not only was this a loose but solid adaptation of the book, it was also an excellent science fiction film in its own right. For the time this movie was groundbreaking with its special effects, effects that earned the team an Academy Award in 1954. What is incredible is looking back you'd think the effects would be pretty hokey these days (much like many sci-fi movies of the era), but surprisingly they still hold up relatively well.

Of course the film is adorably cheesy and quaint, can't avoid that. The feature begins with the typically standard 1950's sci-fi narration accompanied with black and white stock footage. This footage shows us military technology as it progresses through the years, mainly through both world wars. It then cuts to colour with the movies title and then to a series of matte paintings of every known planet in our solar system. The narrator (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) informs us about each planet and its hostile environment, basically why the martian invaders would want Earth (but how would the narrator know this? Is the movie a story being told to someone by the narrator? Is the whole ordeal a flashback?). Anyway my point being the film unfortunately still relies on stock footage but also includes some lovely matte paintings.

The meat of the effects comes with the alien invaders themselves, although there were issues. Obviously for starters we all know the classic look of the Martian machines, huge towering tripods. Well at the time the effects crew had problems trying to create the three-legged machines so it was decided to alter the design. I have never really been happy with this look though, I realise there were technical limitations at the time so I'm not angry or anything, but the Martian machines just looked awful in my opinion. They essentially looked like a hovering, crescent shaped platform with a long periscope sticking out on top. They never really looked intimidating to me, more flimsy and fragile, and the green colour scheme was just ugly.

To make matters worse (in my humble opinion) the effects team did actually include the tripod legs...only they were force field legs and invisible. If you strain hard enough you can actually see the imprints (with a small pyrotechnic touch) in the ground as the machines move. Alas these look more like small explosions from shells or whatever than imprints from tripod legs. You can also see the wires holding the machines up in some scenes, which was amusing.

Indeed the chaos and destruction seen on the movies posters are well imagined in the film. The model Martian machines slowly hover down city streets (some live action, some models), their wires quivering. At every opportunity they unleash their devastating heat-rays from their cobra shaped periscopic eyes. Brilliant flashes of white heat that reduce damn near everything to rubble. Oddly though, at first the heat-rays reduce military equipment, vehicles and men to either piles of white or black charred ash (or just nothing at all). Yet when they take to the city streets the same doesn't seem to happen to buildings, they just crumble and catch fire. Theoretically there should be nothing left standing other than mounds of charred ash. Everything you see is a frantic blur of various effects such as superimposing, models, stock footage, matte paintings etc...That along with the terrific sounds effects for the alien weaponry (think [i]Star Trek: TOS[/i] photon torpedoes) and you have some great sequences of action.

The actual aliens themselves were a real achievement also. The level of detail on the rubber puppet was incredible for the time. It had veins, skin texture, skin folds, and it was moist which gave it a more realistic 'living' look. Sure they look silly now but considering this was all done in 53 its extremely impressive for the time. I think the one main visual flaw for me was the ridiculous looking, large three-hued (red, green and blue) eye they had. The actual shape of the aliens body, their short stocky torsos with long thin arms and three thin suction cup fingers, was all perfect, quite scary for the time. The sequence where Dr. Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia van Buren (Ann Robinson) are holed up in an abandoned house, only to be met by one of the little aliens during the night, was executed excellently. I'm very sure that had viewers screaming back in the day. But alas that big colourful bug eye looked like a kids toy from the 80's. It was neat to give the aliens this unique vision, but the three coloured lens sections looked a bit daft to me.

Of course this being 50's America you know it wouldn't take long before the Yanks would break out their Atomic weaponry. Although lets be fair here, the humans get their asses handed to them on a plate. But there is a really effective build in tension as the Americans blast the aliens with everything they have, including nukes. But still the Martian machines keep coming, protected by their amusing bell jar shaped force fields. Eventually the military leaders realise they cannot stop the invaders, the fate of the human race lies in Gods hands (not literally). Its actually quite a haunting solemn moment.

This again leads to another element of the film I don't really like. After getting separated the main duo (Forrester and Buren) meet up again in a church (now in LA). The Martian machines loom down on the church as they tear through the streets, nothing can stand in their way, not even the house of God. But low and behold just before they are about to destroy the church, the alien crafts falter and come crashing down. Of course I'm sure everyone knows why now, but the fact that its implied there may have been divine intervention from up above that saved the Earth (and that church) is somewhat off-putting. The idea that bacteria infected and killed the Martians was always a brilliant move, genius. Its also perfectly normal to accept that if something like this did happen in reality, there would of course be a lot of religious rhetoric flying around no doubt. But to end this exceptional sci-fi on the notion that mankind was kinda saved by God just sours the fun.

Whilst I recognise the brilliance of this film in everything it achieves, I can't quite bring myself to say its a perfect movie. Yes it is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made and it does still hold up today, but the few issues I have with this adaptation I cannot ignore. I think the main peeve for me will always be the look of the Martian machines, I just can't stand the fact they don't have tripod legs. Any imagery you see of towering alien tripods is just so instantly recognisable and evocative, it pains me that they are absent in this film. Nevertheless there is a good balance between the action and exposition scenes. Its not bogged down and boring, its actually a really tense and eerie affair, and you do genuinely care about the main cast (all of which do sterling work I might add). End of the day despite its small flaws, this is an absolute must see for all ages.
July 11, 2017
It might be a bit dated, but The War of the Worlds is still a classic sci-fi movie. Despite the Deus Ex Machina ending, it's a very enjoyable film that helped define the alien invasion genre.
July 4, 2017
This Movie Was 34 Years Old In 1987.
½ June 21, 2017
Despite some of the acting being a bit stiff, this invasion form Mars has found its way into Sci-Fi classic status. It's a good movie and I enjoy watching it, but I could do without the heavy handed religious overtones - this movie would be better served without it.
May 4, 2017
The War of the Worlds is certainly dated in its archetypal concept plus the human characters and acting are quite poor, but the film is a lot of fun and it succeeds in spades as an entertaining 50s blockbuster with some pretty good humor too. The special effects are outstanding for its time, the sound is great and the movie is fun enough that you can forgive it for its many flaws.
February 26, 2017
One night a meteor appears overhead in a small Californian town. It crashes on the outskirts of town. However, the meteor is in fact a Martian spaceship which proceeds to kill some members of the town. The army is called in but their weapons are ineffective against the spaceship. Soon similar craft start landing all over the planet, killing any humans they meet. It is soon apparent that the Martians intend taking over Earth...

Dull. Very little suspense or originality in the way HG Wells' story is told. Pretty much just a paint-by-number, blow-by-blow telling adaptation of the classic novel. Even the fact that the "meteors" contain Martians is given away in the opening narration. This ruins any intrigue re what the meteors are, or what is going to happen.

Add in some cheesy dialogue, predictable plot development and sub-plots and mediocre performances and this is a pretty weak movie.
February 16, 2017
Despite having some weird and dated parts, War of the Worlds is arguably one of my favorite sci-fi films ever made!
November 22, 2016
Actually pretty hard hitting in the term of hostility, though a charade of weaknesses in the cast, music, religion and love-story. At times thrilling, at times horrible.
September 4, 2016
This is a good piece of 50's science-fiction movie based on H. G. Wells' novel of the same name.
½ June 16, 2016
Despite the surprising reliance on religion for plot points and a very dated story, War of the Worlds remains an intelligent and compelling milestone in science fiction classics.
June 2, 2016
A pioneer of more 50s Science Fiction, War of The Worlds is able to dazzle many fans and the audience on H.G Wells' classic novel
½ May 29, 2016
This 1953 film is naīve and some kind of ingenious, but is by far more interesting without the special effects of the 2005 remake
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2016
The science works, it's the fiction that doesn't.
April 7, 2016
Mas apegada a la radionovela de Orson Welles que al clasico literario. Mantiene su status de clasico del genero a pesar de los aņos y lo rustico de sus efectos especiales.
March 22, 2016
It's a frighteningly apocalyptic film, and an exhibition of gorgeous effects that look more like the product of the eighties than the fifties. The War of the Worlds is a strange take on the classic H.G. Wells novel, but it manages to pull everything together and work in its own way.
Super Reviewer
½ January 29, 2016
Byron Haskin spent decades as a cinematographer then a special effects artist before moving fully into directing. He would recycle the Martian heat-ray/laser firing ships for Robinson Crusoe on Mars ten years later. He made genre pictures and surely science fiction was not a prestigious genre during the first half of the 20th century. The special effects are adequate for the time yet clunky. All the performers are non-descript and stiff. H. G. Wells' novel describes a near future in England, which had not yet experienced any world wars, yet still traveled by horse-drawn cart, bicycle, train, or boat. This adaptation has the Martians attacking California first and we are completely entrenched in 1950s attitudes. I was bored to death when the movie focuses on the military scrambling around or hunkered down trying to hold back the relentless Martians. I only slightly prefer scenes with Gene Barry as Dr. Forrester and Ann Robinson as Sylvia (though the little romance and her damsel in distress act get old fast). There are few scenes from the book left intact and with the lack of respect for the original material goes much of the intelligent social commentary. America has entered the Cold War so military force and old time religion are portrayed as our best saving graces, not science.
January 24, 2016
Questionable science and some dated 50s ideals aside, The War of the Worlds boasts great special effects and wonton destruction worthy of a Roland Emmerich production. Those who have seen the Spielberg version will easily recognize how this film influenced the latter. Pacing may be an issue for those not used to older films, but for all others it should still be an enjoyable ride.
½ October 9, 2015
This was the first version of the H.G. Wells' story I'd been exposed to as a kid and this film scared the hell out of me int eh most exhilarating way. The scene where the priest walks across scorched earth with his Bible in hand to confront the alien ships was burned into my memory as a child and it still a powerful scene to watch today. Other scenes burned into my memory include the alien who comes face-to-face with the film's hero, the huddled masses attending church as the world around them, and the films final image of masses on a high hillside. The story is deceptively simple, aliens from Mars invade earth and all of human technology cannot defeat them, that is until the most simple and brilliant of solutions presents itself. The special effects were amazing for the time and they still work today, even if the aliens and alien ship designs are dated. I'd also say that the sound design for the aliens and alien ships is also terrific and extremely scary and effective. Although it's probably too dated for modern audiences, this one is essential viewing for classic film lovers and for sci-fi aficionados.
½ October 4, 2015
Classic. 1950's science fiction at its finest. H.G. Wells would gush over this adaptation and be repulsed by the version that had Tom Cruise.
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