**As with my first look there will be spoilers, if you’ve not watched it and plan to come back afterwards.**
There has been a longer period of time between this and my original thoughts on the first episode. This has been due in someways to the Christmas holidays but also because I actually found this hard to write, the main reason was I struggled to have enough interest in the program. I have so much respect for anyone who gets a TV show or film made, the amount of work that is needed to get any production off the ground is astronomical. I, as was my wife were so looking forward to this adaptation as it had so much going for it, being set in the era of the book and the might of the BBC behind it. I am sad to say I really didn’t think it was the best adaptation, parts of it worked well but other sections really didn’t work for me. If you want to read my thoughts on episode 1 please follow the link at the bottom of the page.
One of the main issues when adapting a well known story is to give the audience something new either visually or in the narrative to make it worthwhile revisiting the story, sadly I think this series failed on both levels. There was some interesting content within it, but as an overall production I felt it didn’t quite work. The Edwardian setting twinned with the modern writing made the production feel strained at points. It feels like they didn’t fully understand the original work and wanted to shoehorn so many different themes, from the allegory of British colonialism, Science over faith and more modern themes about the equal rights of women. None of these ideas are essentially bad but it did feel a little to me that they forgot the basic premise of Martians invading the Earth and being defeated by the most innocuous (well to us) bacteria. As I mentioned in my post of episode 1, there hadn’t been a period visual adaptation of this story before so it was a shame it didn’t quite work.
Right, lets get stuck into episode 2 now. As I originally said the ending of the first episode left me intrigued and hopeful for an interesting take. The end of the first episode left Amy in London with Frederick (George’s brother), meanwhile George was still in Sussex where he decided to head for the family holiday cottage in Shoeburyness. In both a visual and narrative way the story is very insular. This can be good in some stories as it can enforce a feeling of claustrophobia and impending threat. War of the Worlds though is a worldwide invasion story, by giving this feeling to the production they reduced the feeling of worldwide threat. There was a high-point though, when everyone meets up on the beach and the Martian war machines attack. Finally you get the cinematic feel I wanted with the visuals of the Tripods striding over the beach. Sadly this expansive feeling was short lived.
We still get the flash forward moments through this episode with Amy and the child whom we find out is George’s Son. It must be a few years in the future as the child is at least 4 years old. The original story from the book takes place over a relatively short period (a few months). I felt that there was no need to extend the timeline as it did not add much to the story, in fact you could say it over complicated it.
After the beach scene the story started to return to its more insular line as the characters went to hide in an old school, where we see the Martians outside their machines. In the book the Martians struggled with Earth’s gravity (hence the machines) but the design and movement of the Martians in this version had thrown that idea out, ending with a more generic creature that reminded me of ones in Starship Troopers (1997) but without the flair.
In the final episode we see George sacrifice himself so Amy and their future Son can survive. What doesn’t make sense is in Episode 1 we see Amy in the future searching for George but in this episode she see’s George sacrifice himself so that she knows he is dead, so why is he still searching for him? Back in the future Ogilvy finds Amy, I was glad to see a bit more Robert Carlyle and this explained why nothing was made of his possible death in episode 1. The Martian red weed has taken over the planet and then the story makes a most unsubtle point about Science over Faith. Maybe I missed something but they never did clarify if the Martians were still there in the Future or it was just the red weed? The original basis for War of the Worlds and the Martian defeat was that they were defeated by the simplest of bacteria, however in this adaptation they made it far more complicated and missed the simplicity of the original story which I missed. In this final episode we also do not see any Martians. One of the visuals I always remember from the the book is the Birds pecking at the dead Martians in their war machines. This is what I wanted, a big expansive scene showing scattered war machines with crows pecking at them but this never happened.
I know some people really liked this so I’m glad for the production because everyone involved in these programs want people to like and enjoy their work. Sadly it didn’t work for me and the blu-ray’s wont be appearing on my shelves in the near future. I personally feel it was an opportunity missed and in some way’s limiting the whole thing to 3 episodes made it feel rushed. I am wondering if it has been expanded to let’s say 6 episodes they could have included the themes they wanted in a more measured way more suitable to the story. If they had stuck to the original themes and timeline however 3 episodes would of been plenty, just look at what Steven Spielberg or George Pal managed to do with the story in 2 hours.
I’m actually quite excited to see the Fox/Studio Canal version of War of the Worlds, it’s due to be broadcast here in Scotland over the coming months. All I know about it is that it’s a modern version over 8 episodes set in Europe. It premiered in France in October 2019 and it stars Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern, two great actors. I’ve avoided all other information so I’ll probably talk about it when it is finally shown. You wait for one version of War of the Worlds and two come along, this could be good as long as the Fox version does better than the BBC (I secretly have high hopes for this one).
I hope you’ve enjoyed my sum up of my opinion on this program, I never planned on BAFTD to do traditional reviews but I like to talk about some of these programs with context to their sources and aims. I felt that War of the Worlds was worth talking about considering the history of the story and the fact it was an adaptation set in the same period as the book. It was also an interesting topic considering another version is due out as well. At the end of the day my favourite versions of this story (as of now) are still the Musical version along with Steven Spielberg’s film, I also have a soft spot for the 1980’s TV series as well.
Previous Episode: War of the Worlds (2019) – First look Episode 1