It’s Thursday, so we all know what time it is! Time for Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
But which era are we throwing back to? Is it the original story written by H.G. Wells in 1897? Or is it the famous radio play that supposedly sparked panic across the nation in 1938? Or, possibly is it the movie made in 1953?
Well, I think you can guess by the title of this article, it is, in fact, none of those. This is mostly because I think ‘War of the Worlds’ (2005) is often underestimated as a strong addition to the thriller genre, but also because it deals with aliens in a way that I think is always interesting science fiction: they are very alien.
What do I mean by that? Well, we never know what they want or why. They just show up and start transferring people like Pokemon into a meat grinder to get human candies. I think. I don’t know. I’m not really sure. It’s disturbing in any case, and it really does seem like they have a mission of catching them all.
Many might say that the movie isn’t very good because it only has the barest resemblance to the original book. To that I say, who cares? By modernizing it, and setting in a contemporary timeframe, there wasn’t really a whole lot the book was going to share with the movie anyway. The basic premise is still there (i.e, aliens come to Earth and try to take over) and I think that’s enough.
The heart of ‘War of the Worlds’ (2005) is in the characters, a welcome addition to the rather stodgy and flat main character in the original novel. We have a father trying to keep his kids safe and foist them off on his ex-wife because he’s not very good at taking responsibility. We have a young daughter that is wise beyond her years yet still a little girl that needs protection as the world crashes down around them. And we have a son who is at odds with his father and doesn’t believe he can protect them. There is emotional tension in every scene as each member of the family fights with their preconceptions of one another as well their need to stick together.
But that’s not all. Nothing is explained in the movie (aside from Morgan Freeman exposition at the end), which makes it an incredible thriller. What starts as lightning strikes turns into an invasion. The horror of the movie is centered on running away from something nobody understands, and that makes it even more terrifying. Pepper in truly eerie scenes of people’s clothing gently floating down as the family escapes, and you have a movie with a truly deep sense of place.
Is it good sci-fi in terms of science fiction? I would say yes. It deals with aliens without anthropomorphizing them and that’s always important. It also deals with the human condition, which all good science fiction should do.
So, if you haven’t given this movie a try, you should. It’s great from start to finish.