Monday, April 21, 2014

An Alternate Reality #1: War of the Worlds Goliath

Ever since I was a youngster, I've been an avid "War of the Worlds" fan, whether of the H.G. Wells' text or the various productions that have emerged in its wake. When I discovered a couple years back that an animated, "steampunk" version was on the horizon, I got overwhelmingly excited to say the least. Hot dog!--at long last, I finally got to see the film, having stumbled upon a copy at a local Walmart.

This particular entry is entitled "War of the Worlds: Goliath": a Malaysian made sequel (from Tripod Productions), with an English-tongued cast.

After a harrowing prologue linked to the original invasion, the story commences in 1914, just prior to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, whose death ushered in the Great War. In this instance, however, the reverberating effects of Ferdinand's ultimate demise prove fleeting, due to another pending Martian onslaught, which naturally brings all earthly factions together to fight for the obvious, common cause.

In the context of director Joe Pearson and writer David Abramowitz's epic, Earth's nations have, in truth, long since anticipated such a return. As such, an elite, multinational military group called ARES (Allied Resistance Earth Squadrons) has manufactured a fleet of towering, tripod machines based on Martian technology (which resembles the likes of "RoboCop'"s ED209s and "Star Wars'" AT-ST Walkers). Additionally, as a prevailing reminder of the Martians' eminent existence (and unsettling threat of re-occupation), NY is characterized by a distinct blend of steampunk and art deco characteristics: a radically modern world than would have otherwise surfaced without the alien influence.

As should come as no surprise, the Martians have also made advancements during the reprieve, having constructed super-sleek, flying machines (which resemble the original "Battlestar Galactica" Cylon Raiders or arguably the "Independence Day" alien crafts) to combat ARES' bi/triplanes and its awe-inspiring, war zeppelins, including the Leviathan, which figures into several of the film's rousing battle sequences. Also to their advantage, the Martians are now impervious to the bacteria that previously halted them, making it all the easier for them to stomp incessantly about, blasting structures with their Heat Rays and inserting humans into their weird, cylindrical cages to use as nourishment. 

Naturally, ARES wastes no time to cease such ghastly activities, and led by British Captain Eric Wells (who as a lad, watched his parents perish from a Heat Ray and later coins the term, "Goliath", for his own first-in-the-line,  mega-bulked, appendaged tank), they don't stand much a chance, particularly with the bullish, non-nonsense Secretary of War, Teddy Roosevelt encouraging him on. Manfred von Richthofen, the legendary Red Baron, is also there to enhance the "Hell's Angels"/"Star Wars" styled flight scenes, thus further bolstering ARES' ever staunch pursuits.

Ultimately, what permeates the tale is not so much an evident altering of history (though such most certainly progressively unrolls), but rather a meticulous experiment in steampunk imagery. Some of the scenes are, in fact, so beautifully rendered that most will find themselves easily lost in their destructive expanses. In the end, though, it's Roosevelt who readily implies that Earth, as we once knew it, can never be the historically the same, championing the notion that before the enemy can invade yet again, we must take the fight to Mars!

Incidentally, the film features the voices of many "Highlander" fan favorites (a franchise to which Abramowtiz holds a respected connection), which includes Adrian Paul, Elizabeth Gracen and Dick Wingfield, with Adam Baldwin thrown in for good measure. Additionally a cover of "Forever Autumn", from "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of WOW", is heard during the opening and closing credits to a most atmospheric and bittersweet effect.

"WOW: Goliath" won't be every one's cup of tea. The peaceniks will surely scoff at it, and youngsters who don't have a handle on its historical time frame (whether the WWI insinuations or the brother-vs-brother IRA subplot), may have a hard time unraveling the overall context.

Personally, I'd like to see another installment (particularly for the potential steampunk possibilities), but then again, anything dealing with Martian invasions is my cup of tea, especially when such faithfully swings back to Wells' imaginative, eternal source!

1 comment:

  1. In an afterthought to the above, I'd love to catch that "Great Martian War" mockumentary. Looks like it touches upon several of "Goliath'"s concepts. On the other hand, the classic Mercury Theater radio play is very much an alternate-reality vision. It sure as heck altered a lot of folks' perception of Oct 30, '38, at least for the first half hour it was broadcast!