“WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH” (Blu-ray Review)
The decision to review a 3D animated sci-fi epic on this, one of the most celebrated horror movie websites may seem odd, but not to this writer. The film in question, WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH is a dark, ambitiously designed film whose soul not only belongs to its source—HG Wells literary masterwork—but to Jeff Wayne’s cult phenomenon double LP concept album, 1978’s “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds.” That platter was a favorite of this writer during his childhood and remains so. Like that album and its accompanying, graphically illustrated book, WOTW: GOLIATH (which was released overseas some time ago) is evocative, violent and epic in scope, and firmly dependent on sound to deliver its grim thrills.
The film, a pet project of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES co-creator Kevin Eastman, is Malaysian-financed and US-produced and features voice work from the HIGHLANDER TV show’s Adrian Paul among others. From its first frames, director Joe Pearson ensures the throttle is full, with a fiery credit sequence that recaps the Martian invasion that decimated the planet and was ultimately foiled by the invaders’ inability to combat earthbound bacteria. Said sequence offers a special treat for fans of the Wayne rock opera by blasting out an industrial/electro cover of the album’s signature hit “Forever Autumn,” effectively dropping the emotional heft The Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward brought to the original in favor of a darker, metallic, but no less mournful approach. It’s a loud, reverent shout-out to the record and sets the tone for what’s to come.
After this mesmerizing passage, the story begins. It seems that 15 years after the initial invasion, the Martians invade anew, right in the middle of WW1. The superforce assigned to guard the planet against attack develop a monstrous battle tripod called the Goliath, an amalgam of steam, iron and other fantastical voodoo, to combat the alien fighting machines in a series of beautifully realized battles, made even more jaw dropping when viewed on a 3D TV. At the center of this bloodthirsty battle is a more intimate story of haunted young soldier whose parents were obliterated by the Martian heat ray when he was a child. It’s a rote anchor to be sure, and serves only to hang the set pieces on, but its evidence of the thoughtfulness the filmmakers attempt to inject into the larger-than-life mayhem.
More exciting than PACIFIC RIM (but just as gleefully juvenile) and full of beautiful, visceral, frightening designer retro-futuristic images, WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH is a fascinating, lavishly produced film that packs a punch, especially in 3D. BCMG’s Blu-ray looks stunning in crisp, colorful 1080p high-def and comes jam-packed with supplemental interviews and behind the scenes production documentaries. It’s absolutely first-rate animated fantasy hokum…