War of the Worlds - Movie Review

by Scott LiPera

Reviewed October 9, 1996

The most salient point to me was how much Independence Day resembled War of the Worlds.

It is clear that the makers of this movie, and probably most during this period, had a very human-centric view of the universe. The strategies of how to defend against the Martians was to assume that they would do things as humans would. Case in point was the Army commander assuming that they would make their move at dawn. Perhaps day light was not a concern of the Martians. They might have had an aversion to the heat of the day. The point being that we tend to look at life through our own eyes, coloring our vision.

As for the portrayal of technology, it was inconsistent to me. On the one hand they had transport systems that were quite sophisticated. Using magnetic fields to levitate is not some simple feat. But their tools for seeing--the periscope, if you will--was quite primative. It relied on a tri-color (primary colors) projector/receiver, much like a rear-screen projector today. This was quite simple and unimaginative. However, that could be explained by the science at the time that H.G. Wells wrote the story. Back then much more was understood about magnetics than advanced optics. It has been in the past 30 years or so that we have had sophisticated optical devices.

Finally, I find it very amusing when movies use very unrealistic sound effects. Just as in movies dealing with submarines use unrealistic sonar and underwater noises, movies dealing with Martians and such use wierd noises for death rays. These must be modeled on laser, but why would the generation of light make that annoying sound? Certainly the destructive force would be noisy, but the light itself? Come on.

And if I can add, that they were very stupid regarding nuclear fallout back then. True, this was right after the dropping for the world's first--and only--atomic weapon attack, but they did not yet comprehend the hazards of fallout. In the movie, they were much closer to the blastzone than I would have ever wanted to be even with a conventional 2000 lb bomb.

I really wonder if intelligent people thought that was realistic in the 1950's?