Visually Exciting? Definitely! Did I Care For Any of the Characters? Not Really.
Mar 28, 2014
For a while now, I’ve argued with friends that Hollywood has been really missing a terrific opportunity to capture some of the magic belonging to vintage science fiction stories. For example, the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne create vivid tapestries upon which not only worlds are built but also they’d be ripe for further exploration. Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers are two other properties that tend to get re-examined once a generation or so. Despite being older works, these various franchises are designed with archetypes audiences already know and love. Why not tap into one or more of these tales and show us what comes next?
It looks like my wish has come true, and WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH delivers an all-new chapter in what may be the most familiar alien invasion stories of all time.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product advertising: “In a parallel universe, World War I is interrupted by an invasion from the planet Mars – a renewed attempt following the first failed attack fifteen years before.”
And, yes, that’s really all I’m going to spoil so far as a plot synopsis is concerned because if you like sci-fi as much as I do then you’re already certain to give this disc a spin. On most counts, GOLIATH won’t disappoint: it takes the premise postulated in H.G. Wells’ novel, and then it goes one step beyond. What we learn is that several of the massive Martian tripods actually remained in proximity to Earth, and, in the interim, they’ve developed an immunity to the diseases that ravaged their species in that fateful first invasion.
As tends to happen in films of this nature, mankind sets aside (for the most part) its territorial squabbling in order for the great nations of the Earth to join forces. Their singular purpose: to once and for all wipe our world clean of the Martians. It won’t be easy. But, thankfully, we learned a thing or two about the level of technology that would be needed from our previous dalliances with them, so this time we’re much better prepared.
With those particulars out of the way, GOLIATH blends in several additional influences into Wells’ prescient tale. For example, Earth has built our own ground fleet of mechanized infantry vehicles, and this gives us the ability to meet the Tripods machine-to-machine on the battle field. In ways, it reminds me of TRANSFORMERS, and there was even one sequence where I imagined that the AT-AT (aka Imperial Walkers) from STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK were fighting one another. It’s an inspired, mechanical derivative from the original tale, and it’s only part and parcel of what gives this animated film its legs.
Furthermore, the nations of the world have continued adding advanced weapons to aircraft, and the U.S. has these tremendous battle-blimps that are used to wage war from the skies. The airplanes are equipped with plasma guns, and they engage the Martian flyers in dogfight-style combat over cities and the countryside. Visually, GOLIATH is thrilling – definitely a sight to behold – and the film has been awarded several awards for its excellence in both 3D and 2D animation.
Sadly – and this is really my only grievance with the picture – it’s also chocked full of characters I just didn’t much care about. Captivating visuals can sustain any story only so long; if there’s little or no connection between the characters and the audience, then it’s hard to be anything other than dazzled by what you see. A few of the principles here to have their own hidden agenda or private reasons as to why they’re willing to risk it all and save the Earth (other than the obvious, that is). While that was nice, I never connected to them in any meaningful way, so even the action ends up feeling a bit ‘clinical’ in the final estimation.
WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH (2012) is produced by Tripod Entertainment, Finas, MSC, and Mavcap. DVD distribution is being handled through BCMG. As for the technical specifications, this is one smartly assembled piece of animation, and they’ve spared no expense at delivering some very high quality sights and sounds. Those folks who love to go behind-the-scenes with these animated features are in for a solid helping of special features: there’s “the movie in storyboards,” a short documentary introducing the talented voice actors, and a few other ‘shorts’ that explore how this thing went from conception to execution. They may not be as in-depth as one would like, but it’s a pleasure having them to view.
RECOMMENDED. When you have war without any real investment in characters, then you may deliver consistently stylish visuals and terrific action pieces … but you run the risk of having very little emotional investment on the part of the audience. WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH is a savvy idea – it expands on the circumstances original created in the seminal sci-fi novel of H.G. Wells; and, like that original novel, it even manages to slip in a welcome dash of social commentary along with the re-invention. Sadly, I just didn’t care about any of the characters, leaving me with a wonderful helping of eye candy that could’ve meant more than it did. Entertaining, yes, but not as satisfying as I would’ve liked.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at BCMG provided me with an advance DVD copy of WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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