I was thinking recently about what films I would love to see the new season of MST3K riff, and one film immediately came to mind – one that not many people have likely heard of or seen. You see, I’m a connoisseur of bad movies, and I always love collecting them in order to obliterate everyone in bad movie marathons. Gems like Manos: Hands of Fate and Robo-Vampire are my usual ammunition in such contests, but I honestly think H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is worse. You might be sitting there while thinking “that 2005 The War of the Worlds film with Tom Cruise was alright though….” but that’s a different film that is somewhat better than the topic of today’s discussion.
Our story goes back to sometime in 2001, and some message-board I was reading at the time was keeping tabs on an upcoming War of the Worlds film. It was supposed to be a modernized re-telling of the original story and more of a horror movie than any version prior. Everything was rolling strong until the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Pendragon films, the studio behind the picture posted the following to their ebsite in the aftermath.
Since events of 11 September…
Pendragon Pictures’ principals are concerned over a rumour that production of WAR OF THE WORLDS is about to resume on October 8th. Director Timothy Hines expresses dismay at the rumour, “It is absolutely not true that War of the Worlds is about to resume. The reality is that we are massively reworking the script in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster and we will not be able to go before the cameras for a little over a year.”
The Pendragon principals lost a close friend and investor in WAR OF THE WORLDS in the World Trade Center attack.
Timothy Hines goes on, “It has been a very difficult time for everyone. The whole world was touched by the WTC experience. For us personally those planes slammed directly into our lives. We lost a very close friend and have been in mourning. We also watched portions of our fictional screenplay being played out on September 11th. I knew immediately we couldn’t do War of the Worlds as conceived. It was a strange time. I found myself weeping on the phone with Michele Jeffers at Foundation Imaging. They were great in that they wrote off some of the effects work we had built for War of the Worlds. The fans of War of the Worlds will be very pleased with the direction we are taking, but I won’t just slap it out there. War of the Worlds deserves care and time and there is no other way I could do it.”
Pendragon Producer Susan Goforth adds, “The script has to be rewritten from the ground up. This new version will be a true and accurate adaptation of the Wells classic story placed in its original 1898 setting. It’s been emotionally difficult for us to see sets and thousands of preparations scrapped. But Timothy has made the right choice.”
It’s really a shame, because this was a piece of concept art:
Timothy Hines was also posting stuff like this prior to the old film being scrapped:
“The fans of War of the Worlds will be very pleased with the direction we are taking, but I won’t just slap it out there. War of the Worlds deserves care and time and there is no other way I could do it.”
– 7th October 2001
“Everyone has come away from the script telling us that when we film this story, it will be the most frightening movie ever made.”
– 6th June 2001
Now this wasn’t a bad thing necessarily, having a period drama version of the original story would be amazing if done well. As long as the script is there, something like this could be a huge hit. It took until 2005 for the film to finally surface in trailers and press clippings and it did not look good. due to the delay, Steven Spielberg had swooped in with his own film, and one by Asylum pictures was also in the works. it seems that Pendragon had to get the movie out there, and boy they did! Everyone knows that you can’t adapt a book 100% to a movie, because if you do it will be a horrendous borefest. If you want a case-study in that fact, look no further than this movie.
Before we get to that, I wanted to touch base on one of the most baffling things associated with the production of this film – the Amazon scandal it was part of. It seems Hines, or someone else working for Pendragon Studios (then later trolls) decided to flood Amazon.com with over 3500 fake 5 star reviews, one of which actually implied that film made a lady stop being lesbian and another that said the film was a religious experience.You see, this film was ONLY available on Amazon and Wal-Mart for some reason (probably because it’s bad) and they wanted to ensure bad reviews got buried. next thing you know, the film is top of Amazon’s film ratings and is selling like hot cakes to people that think it’s the Tom Cruise film most likely.
This was the era of look-alike films at video stores to trick old people, a business plan championed by companies like Asylum Entertainment – the guys behind such “mockbusters” as Snakes on a Train, The Land That Time Forgot, Transmorphers, AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, The Da Vinci Treasure, Battle of Los Angeles, and Paranormal Entity. H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds fit right into the mold.
The film is basically comically bad in every way possible. Usually first time directors decide to do a small movie to get their ears wet, and if it that’s popular, go ahead and get more funding for something bigger. Hines decided to tackle an epic war film right of the bat. I could possibly handle the horrendous special effects had the acting been anything better than community theater acting. And by horrendous special effects I mean late-night Christian children’s programming graphics.
Then we have the plotting of the film, which moves at such a glacial pace, that the film seems 12 hours long. It’s honestly VERY true to the book, but it’s true to a fault because it makes everything nearly unwatchable. The plotting can be summed up as follows:
- Main character hears about aliens
- main character walks somewhere for 5 minutes
- main character talks to somebody
- walks back for another 5 minutes
- sees some alien thing that is completely useless to the film because….
- MORE WALKING!
- CGI Tripod blows up GCI houses
- repeat for 3 hours….
Another major flaw is realism. The story takes place in Victorian/Edwardian England, about the time of the Boer Wars, but everyone is either dressed as if it is an American western or in a World War II era war movie. this can be overlooked as me being a snobby history major looking for things to whine about, but the costuming is so inconsistent it almost looks like this was directed by multiple people. also, NOONE is British or able to pull off a convincing accent. Most people have some ridiculous sing-songy fake cockney accent this side of Mary Poppins or a faux Royal Accent that makes everyone sound like a bad community Shakespeare play. There is even a guy who must have a Scottish and Irish split personality, because he switches between both at will.
And don’t get me started on the main actors fake mustache that falls off either.
Here is one of the better scenes in the film if you want to see some of the glory within:
One of these days, I might have to give Pendragon Pictures another chance as they apparently took another stab at the premise with a docudrama called War of the Wolds: The True Story (2012). I’m under no impressions that the film looks amazing, but it at least looks interesting, and the special effects look marginally better. It seems to use the same footage as this film mixed with new stuff, so maybe the editing will mask any other problems the film had.
It allegedly won some awards, so it might be passable. Either that or Timothy Hines is the modern day Ed Wood.
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