Where Spielberg's version lacked interesting characters, David Michael Latt's War of the Worlds lacks both interesting characters and a solid story. While the novel is a very deep story with powerful themes, this film adaptation gets lost among its narrative attempts and slips into a sluggish and mindless bore. The film does retain the "husband looking for his wife" story arc of the novel, but the various situations that he finds himself in along the way didn't feel as dire, nor could I find myself able to care whether or not he actually succeeded in his journey.
I grew up in the 80's, an era of many memorable actors (whether for good or bad reasons). C. Thomas Howell is one of those 80's actors I'll always remember; especially for films like The Outsiders, Red Dawn, The Hitcher and the infamous Soul Man (which more or less features Howell in black-face through most of the film). Howell is the star of this version of War of the Worlds, and I have to give it up to him. For a lousy film with some lousy characters Howell does give his all in the role of George Herbert, the husband/father trying to reunite with his wife and son during this alien invasion. His performance is a bit sporadic, and he often is more emotional than certain scenes require. But like anyone desperate for work, he does command the film more than anyone else in the cast.
The special effects aren't impressive, but you should expect that since this is a straight to video release (and an Asylum one at that). The alien's war machines aren't the tri-pods of the novels but rather these weird crab looking things. I wouldn't have minded them if it weren't for the fact that these machines act in a similar fashion to the machines of Spielberg's film. Thankfully the special effects don't dominate the film, so we aren't subjected to them for too long. Maybe if there weren't all those minor special effects scenes throughout the film more attention could have been spent on the finale of this War of the Worlds, and it could have been a little more thrilling.
On the back of the DVD for this film there is a quote that says "The most horrifying version of all." That isn't from a review, nor did it come out of anyone's mouth who saw this film. It's just words that Asylum pasted on the back of the box I suppose in order to trick people into thinking this film is worth buying/renting. But this one just isn't a film worth seeing. And how horrifying can a film be where the last ditch effort to save mankind takes place in a veterinarian's office with vials of rabies?
[font=Times New Roman][size=4] Having said that, I just have to also say that in order to avoid being a totally crappy film, it pretty much HAD to go the direction I mentioned above. This production obviously did not have the budget to make a special effects, eye-candy, extravaganza. The effects do their job well enough. I am a bit disappointed that the war machines used by the Martians were six-legged insect like tanks rather than the tri-pods of the source materiel. I am also not really thrilled with the inference (although they never really actually say it) that the main character was the one who infected all of the invaders some how.[/size][/font]
[font='Times New Roman'][size=4] The acting isn?t too bad. At least in this version I can identify with one or two of the characters and therefore I care about what happens to them. I didn?t get that in the big budget version of this story released the same year by Spielberg. The music score is pretty ?stuck in the back out of the way? type of music and it doesn?t really add to the film like a good soundtrack can. For the most part this is a good effort by a smaller budgeted independent filmmaker to bring a challenging story to life. I like that although they brought it into the present day, they tried to stay close to source materiel?s main theme which was the people, the survivors, not the invasion and the special effects. If you are a sci-fi fan, this is worth watching, at least once.[/size][/font]