‘War of the Worlds’ at 15 – VultureHound

An article marking the anniversary of 2005’s ‘War of the Worlds’.

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15 years ago, Steven Spielberg brought audiences a darker vision of a close encounter. Here was a Spielberg that felt far and away from the guy who gave us the cuddly E.T. and the curious beings that came to whisk away Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 2005 extraterrestrials that Spielberg set upon the Earth were here to terrorise, to colonise, and to destroy. With his adaptation of HG Well’s classic novel, Spielberg not only provided an antithetical alien encounter to his previous work, but he also joined a long tradition of using Wells’ novel to express a growing paranoia within a nation reconciling with its own role as an invading force in its own history. It is much more than the ‘fun-filled Summer ride’ that it was billed as upon release.

Spielberg’s take on the tale is the second feature film to adapt Wells’ novel, originally published all the way back in 1898. In the years since then it has been adapted in many other forms, from multiple TV series (two as recently as last year), a groundbreaking radio play and a Jeff Wayne rock opera musical. It is a story that has proved to be fertile ground over its long history, standing as one of the most iconic alien invasion stories ever written.

The novel itself offers many details that remain consistent across its various adaptations, from terrifying alien machines with a seemingly unstoppable means of destruction, to the imagery of a sinister red weed spreading across the globe. The novel has often been read as a comment on the sense of guilt surrounding British Imperialism, with its characters on British soil having to face an experience in which they are the ones being violently driven from their homes by a more advanced and aggressive force. It has a palpable sense of anxiety and paranoia around the idea that the history of British Imperialism will bring with it an inevitable sense of karma; the scales of power shift and you will have to pay the price for your crimes. 

Full article over at VultureHound, originally published July 1st 2020.

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