- This article should not be confused with H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, another film adaptation released in 2005. It should also not confused with the original H.G. Wells novel.
H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds is a film adaptation of The War of the Worlds novel; it is one of three that was released in 2005 of four in general. The original version of the film is 180 minutes long.
The film stands out against the other film version in that it is not a contemporary and displaced take, but rather set in the same time and place as that of the novel. However, as encouraging as this is, the film has generated much controversy due to what many perceive as lies and deceptions from Pendragon Pictures over the film's production history and many delays in release. In conjunction with these accusations, criticism has also gravitated towards the film over the acting, special effects, as well as its editing and pace.
Pendragon has responded to the latter complaint by releasing two subsequent versions that are shorter in length. The first re-release, entitled H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds: Director's Cut, was made available September, 2005 and is about 45 minutes shorter. This was released only in Regions 2 and 4. The second edition was released Christmas, 2006. The Classic War of the Worlds has a 125 minutes runtime and features additional scenes, new edits and revised special effects with and is considered by the director to the definitive version.
The film follows the experience of a late 19th-century journalist from Woking, known as "the writer", involved with the landing of a Martian invasion spacecraft. When the crashed cylinder opens, the Martians start killing anything that moves with a "heat ray" weapon. The writer discovers his house is in range of their heat ray and decides to rush his wife and servant to her cousins' home in Leatherhead; once there, he returns in order to return the borrowed cart to its owner, unaware that the invading Martians are now on the move.
The Martians have built tall tripod "Fighting Machines", six legged machines called "Handling Machines", and a "Flying Machine, and begun a destructive rampage across southern England. The film also details the adventures of his brother, a student in London, who accompanies two ladies to the east coast of England in order to escape from the slaughter and destruction wrought by the Martians.
Anthony Piana as The Writer/The Brother
Jack Clay as Ogilvy
John Kaufmann as The Curate
Darlene Sellers as Mrs. Elphinstone
James Lathrop as The Artilleryman
Susan Goforth as The Wife
Jamie Lynn Sease as Miss Elphinstone
The film's development dates back to 2000, when Pendragon Pictures approached Paramount with plans for a remake, but nothing came of it. Director Timothy Hines had long desired to make his own version of Well's novel since first reading the original at age eight. He had always wanted to set the tale in-period, but he eventually settled on a modern retelling, much like the original 1953 film and the 2005 Spielberg adaptation. Hines' version was to be set in Seattle, with a Martian attack preceded by neutralizing electromagnetic power; from there the tale's events would unfold and be as similar as possible to Wells' novel.
In a 2004 interview with Scifidimensions.com, Hines stated that after early Microsoft employees and others in the computer industry saw his desktop film, Bug Wars, a package of $42 million was assembled for the updated modern version. Katie Tomlinson was supposed to lead the cast as the lead character Jody, the foreign correspondent, and Susan Goforth was also set to star. Hines was also planning to shoot the film using the brand new Sony CineAlta HD system, which George Lucas had used to film Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Production began in early September 2001, with plans to move into principal photography by October of that year, with a Halloween 2002 target release date. Businessweekreported that Hines abandoned this approach after the World Trade Center attacks. Two weeks later, with the support of Charles Keller, the director of the H. G. Wells Society, Hines began writing a new script with producer Susan Goforth, while they were filming Pendragon's Chrome. The new direction taken would be to directly adapt the Wells novel, setting it in its original British setting and 1898 time period.
Little information appeared about the film until 2004, when it was announced that principal photography had finished under the cover title The Great Boer War. The producers planned to release the film on March 30, 2005, but that date came and went with no theatrical release; in North America it finally was released as a direct-to-DVD feature in June 2005. In a series of questions presented by audiences, Hines claimed that the film never saw a theatrical release due to exhibitors pulling out, either from being bullied by Paramount, or through fear of reprisal from the studio.
The 2005 book War of the Worlds: From Wells to Spielberg devotes a chapter to the Pendragon film; it states that the budget was "approximately $25 million."
Director Hines said of his film: "I wanted to make War of the Worlds. But what I made was something that has a macabre cult following, like an Ed Wood movie. [...] I’ve learned a lot since my first outing. My heart is really in the new War of the Worlds – The True Story."