H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds

H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds (2005)
The Asylum
Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Andy Lauer, Rhett Giles, Jake Busey, Peter Greene
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes

With famous novels of a certain age it is always hard to exactly pinpoint who owns what and as such it sometimes happens that multiple people actually own movie rights in a certain property. This is the case with H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel ’The War Of The Worlds’ for example and while Stephen Spielberg and Dreamworks put out a box-office-exploding blockbuster movie in theaters right now, a small independent studio called ’The Asylum’ has released an indie production of the material on DVD.

The movie takes some liberties with the material, moving it from Victorian England to modern day USA among other things. Despite its indie origins, the film is aptly put together however, with solid acting and a gripping, intense story line. Even the special effects are surprisingly effective and add to the overall apocalyptic feel of the movie. Locations and production design are also surprisingly good, never giving this film the look or feel of a small budget production.

The movie is presented in a 16×9 widescreen transfer n this DVD, but it’s a big of a mixed bag. The transfer is generally clean but this seems to be a video production as video artifacts are abundant. In dimly lit scenes – which are frequent – the video noise is exaggerated and throughout the film shows excessive edge-enhancement. Colors are also a bit unstable, especially under difficult lighting conditions. It’s never so bad that you won’t be able to watch it but at the same time the film never looks like a high-end celluloid production. There were also a few drop-outs in the video stream, leaving large visible artifacts in the image, about once every 20 minutes and in a number of scenes, compression artifacts are evident as well.

The audio comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track that is aggressive and dynamic. It has a wide frequency response and very good bass extension, which is used effectively to exhibit the size and weight of the aliens, as well as to create an atmosphere of foreboding in moments of suspense. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable but sadly, the studio has not added any subtitles or captions, which should be obligatory for any DVD release.

As extras the DVD offers two commentary tracks, one by the filmmakers and another by the actors as they serve up some interesting background information on the production. Also included is a 4-minute visual effects featurette, a behind-the-scenes featurette with plenty of cast and crew interviews, as well as three deleted scenes and a number of outtakes.

’H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds’ is not a bad film, it cannot hide its indie origins but nonetheless comes across as a solid, full-bodied production that is gripping and entertaining. Check it out while you wait for the blockbuster incarnation to make its DVD debut.