Rating: PG-13
Stars (voices):
Peter Wingfield, Elizabeth Gracen, Adrian Paul, Jim Byrnes, Adam Baldwin, Mark Sheppard, Beau Billingslea, Matt Letscher, James Arnold Taylor
Writer:
David Abramowitz, story by Joe Pearson & David Abramowitz & Leon Tan, based on H.G. Wells’ novel WAR OF THE WORLDS
Director:
Joe Pearson
Distributor:
Anderson Digital
Release Date (theatrical, VOD, iTunes):
March 7, 2014

Of all the places one might reasonably expect to find a professional writer and cast reunion of HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES, an animated alternate history version of H.G. Wells sci-fi classic WAR OF THE WORLDS wouldn’t be most people’s first guess. However, WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH brings together HIGHLANDER’s story-supervising executive producer David Abramowitz, who wrote the film’s screenplay from a story by director Joe Pearson, Abramowitz and Leon Tan, with series leads Adrian Paul (who starred in a completely different TV series version of WAR OF THE WORLDS back in 1989), Peter Wingfield, Jim Byrnes and Elizabeth Gracen. For this reason alone, WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH is a bit of a trip.

Another reason the new (to most audiences – it was released in Malaysiain 2012) movie is interesting is its storyline. The filmmakers take Wells’ original scenario – a Martian invasion of Earth in 1899, foiled by the aliens’ susceptibility to germs – as a jumping-off point. In 1914, the Martians have regrouped and are preparing for a second invasion. A multinational (and multiracial and mixed gender) force, Ares, is preparing to counter the alien war machines with its own weapons, principally a combination of giant robot/tanks that recall the Jaegers of PACIFIC RIM. (Technically, GOLIATH was first; perhaps this is a case of alien invasion movie makers thinking alike.) Captain Eric Wells (voiced by Wingfield) names his machine Goliath. There’s also the little matter of World War I starting up in the Balkans, but most of the Ares troops opt to disobey the orders of their individual countries in favor of saving the world.

There’s a sweet optimism about so many representatives of humanity coming together with a grasp of the big picture, and the effects of the Martian death rays are suitably PG-13-animation gruesome. The backgrounds are static – no one is going to confuse this with major studio animation. Additionally, the male characters are strangely huge-chested, with bulky necks and big jaws; it’s as if all of them were modeled on the dimensions of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his CONAN days. This may have been someone’s notion of making them look heroic, but instead, we worry about how they are going to fit through hatches and maneuver around corners.

Everybody gets some kind of a back story, though some are very condensed, and there’s a bit of conflicted loyalty. There are plenty of big battle sequences and some good how-do-they-get-out-of-this-dire-plight scenes. Since we see that the human forces can blast the legs out from under the Martian machines, it’s puzzling that this tactic isn’t used more often.

Director Pearson and his visual team give the human machinery orange blasts when they fire, whereas the Martian beams are green. This makes it easy to distinguish who is hitting whom in the big melees. The steampunk look of the environments, with blimps, goggles and leather coats, makes for an enjoyable contrast with the quasi-Fifties look of the outer space invasion.

One other effective touch is the use of Justin Hayward’s cover of Jeff Wayne’s WAR OF THE WORLDS song “Forever Autumn.” It provides an extra fillip of things that may make viewers smile with nostalgic pleasure. WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH isn’t fabulous cinema, but it’s still got a specific vision and a great voice cast, attributes that make it both distinctive and fun.

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Article: Movie Review: WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH

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