On a recent vacation I visited a local Blockbuster to find a movie for my then girlfriend’s parents to watch inbetween endless games of Boggle and chasing down copious amounts of Frangelico. Uninterested in Blockbuster’s selection of new releases, my wandering eye for cinematic trash came upon a box cover with a cheaply digitally drawn image, looking similar to the graphics of a scientology book, of an alien ship blowing up something or other. To my surprise, it was a sequel to War of the Worlds; instantly my curiosity level was raised.
I turned over the box cover to see what else this obvious cash-in had to offer, and found a picture of the Soul Man himself C. Thomas Howell, who apparently was not only the star, but the director as well. “But who is that slightly pudgy frog eyed guy standing next to him?” I thought to myself. Oh my god, it’s Kid from Kid ‘n Play! From those awful House Party movies of the nineties! Now my curiosity was definitely peaked and I had to give this one a go.
The movie starts off nice and campy, just how you want it to; a 20 second montage of shots depicting the original Wells story (or, more likely, the Spielberg version) opens the flick and then the story jumps to two years afterwards. The hero of the original story, George Herbert (played by Howell), has been living in a shack in the woods with his prepubescent son, waiting for the day the Martians will return. On his ham radio, George hears the sound of the Martians (which sounds more like an early modem) and leaves his son to go tell the local scientists his discovery.
There George learns things he never knew about the Martians; that people might not have been killed when the Martians zapped them, but rather may have been taken prisoner inside the Tripods. But he also learns a secret even more shocking; the Tripods are not the ships for the aliens, but rather the aliens themselves! And the aliens are transporting the living into their bellies, escasing them in layers of ectoplasmic skin, and sucking out their blood. George returns to his cabin to retrieve his son, but it’s too late, as the boy gets zapped as soon as George arrives.
And that’s when the movie stops being fun really. For the rest of the movie, there is very little evolution in the plot, and George is constantly trying to get beamed up by the Martians in order to find his son again, creating many scenes of needless running around. The scientists find a way to fly jet fighters into outer space and find wormholes to blast themselves to Mars to fight the red planet, and George finds himself on Mars in a giant diorama of Earth the Martians have concocted to view the habits of Earth people. But by now, you’re really not interested in what’s happening; the movie ends and you wonder why you watched this movie instead of watching a better rip off like, say, Escape From the Bronx.
Now this movie has some things going for it; first off it has balls for trying to rewrite a classic Wells novel. Changing the fact that the tripods aren’t ships but aliens is so ridiculously amazing, you’d wonder if Antonio Margheriti didn’t secretly pen this baffler. Certainly some of my favorite movies in the exploitation genre have been rip-offs of other people’s ideas, and it isn’t a surprise the movie was made by Asylum Entertainment, the company that also brought us Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls, a movie based on the story of Indiana Jones. In other words, true exploitation.
And now for the points against the movie; most of the exterior shots of the movie have somewhat decent B-grade CGI for the aliens, but when George enters the aliens, the sets look like ripped up drop cloths with colored lights shown on them. The production quality is that of a rejected Sc-Fi Channel original movie. After the first 20 minutes of build up, the script stops explaining why things are happening, and you kind of wonder why you’re watching all this lame, slow paced action at all. And Christopher “Kid” Reid should never be allowed to act again; clearly put in the movie to have some kind of “urban” appeal, Kid bumbles through every scene contributing little but lame catch phrases and the occasional swear.
Now of course you don’t really expect a sequel to War of the Worlds with such star power to be exactly Spielberg, rather you hope it to have a similar caliber of a cinematic train wreck like a Turkish remake of E.T. I’ve read a few posts online about this movie claiming it’s the worst movie ever, but believe me this is no frolic in the park like Troll 2, it’s more like Snakes on a Train. There is little fun to be found in the movie, and you almost instantly forget you just watched Kid and the Soul Man running away from Martians, and that’s really saying something.
Now there is one thing on here that almost warrants the rental alone; a bonus feature titled “The Magic of C. Thomas Howell.” In it Howell performs street magician tricks for the crew in between takes; at one point he produces popcorn from his I-Phone! If there’s any emotion you feel from this movie, its immense pity for the former teen star, who put so much effort into a movie that isn’t even worth your time.