From the Sacramento Examiner:
‘War of the Worlds’ comes close to historical reality in indie movie
July 12, 2012 By: Steven Rose, Jr.Making a new version of “War of the Worlds” using footage from the original 1953 movie would be unimaginable to many. It would probably be a mismatch with today’s high tech special effects. But strangely enough, independent film makers Timothy Hines and Susan Goforth achieve realism by using both special effects, including CGI, and old film footage in their adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel. Hines and Goforth make the events of Wells’ terrifying tale of Martians attacking Earth a historical “reality” in their mashup documentary style movie, “War of the Worlds: The True Story”.
Hines’s and Goforth’s version of “War of the Worlds” is told through the point of view of the last living survivor of the war with Mars, Bertie Wells (played by Floyd Reichman). He tells about his experiences of the 1900 Martian attack in a 1965 interview. Built around this interview is a mashup (or mix) of film footage both fictional and non-fictional that tells the story documentary style. Much of this footage serves as sets for the main cast whose images were digitally superimposed onto it. But this isn’t just a dull historical telling of the story. Think History Channel’s many dramatic documentaries of catastrophic events, such as wars and natural disasters, and you'll get a feel for Hines and Goforth’s movie. And so "The True Story" carries the suspense and drama of both the 1953 movie and Speilberg’s 2005 version but in a more realistic manner through its documentary style.
What inspired a documentary style for the movie? Goforth said, at the Crest Theatre’s 3:30 Saturday afternoon screening, that it was Wells’ eye-witness/newspaper reporting style of his novel. When yours truly asked if the Orson Welles 1938 radio version’s mass panic had anything to do with that inspiration she said it absolutely did. People who had tuned in late to the radio play thought it was live coverage of an actual Martian invasion.
The techniques used to make “The True Story” were very carefully done with a lot of thought and effort. Hines said at Saturday afternoon’s screening that he and Goforth very carefully chose the footage from the public domain and used it in a way so as not to cause infringement. Along with this, they had to be careful not to allow any of the Hollywood film clips to come across as usage for their own profit but only as usage for supporting the overall content of “The True Story”.
Hines also said that puppetry was used to create the creature effects, such as the robotic war vehicles the Martians attack with. The puppetry was done realistically to the point of suspended disbelief. The robotic vehicles and other creatures are smoothly integrated into the setting. The audio and visual effects for actions such as the war vehicles' firing of heat rays and the collapsing of bridges and buildings give the audience a striking impression without leaving a sense of mismatch between old footage and modern special effects.
Any flaws this movie had were outweighed by the high quality of the other elements such as script and technique. In an early part of the film, Bertie is shown in black-and-white footage walking with his wife, Amy (Goforth). In this footage, Bertie’s eye makeup, used to enhance shadow effect, on his right side shows when he turns his head toward the light momentarily. A few footages were mixed black-and-white and color. For example, the scene of the Martian ship crash is mostly black-and-white but the fire was colored orange. This was probably done for stylistic purposes but seemed to stand out a little too much for a scene that attempts to give the illusion of pre-color archival footage. Also, the 1965 interview scenes are clear and crisp in the first half of the movie but in the second half are made to look aged in the reel with scratching and molding effects. Again, these flaws are minor when weighed against the rest of the movie. Besides, the footage of Bertie and his wife walking together can be argued to be a “re-enactment” as the notice at the beginning of the movie indicates many of the scenes being. So if this scene was a “re-enactment”, it could be argued to be a “poorly” done “re-enactment” but a “re-enactment” nevertheless, therefore enhancing the realism.
Bertie’s character is rounded to the point of exposing his own feelings of vulnerability and he acts it out convincingly. He admits in the interview that he was wandering in fear and despair to the point of crying and so breaks the chauvinist stereotype of male lead characters. He even shows sympathy for a horse he flees on. When he tells the interviewer that the horse fell and broke its neck he refers to it as “poor thing”.
The great thing about a movie such as “The True Story” is that the producers don’t have to hire all the actors. Many of the actors come with the footage of past films. This is especially true for extras (background or passer-by characters). In this respect, there are cameo appearances by famous Hollywood stars such as Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor and even William Shatner (“Star Trek”)! Perhaps just as surprising, there is an Easter egg at the end of the ending credits.
Sadly, Saturday’s screening of “War of the Worlds: The True Story” was only a one day event at Sacramento's Crest Theatre. It hasn’t reached mainstream movie theaters (at least not yet). Because it takes a very different twist on a classic sci fi story, hopefully enough critical acclaim will bring it to the mainstream. It’s already in the plans to be released on video but not until Fall 2013, says Goforth. If you can’t wait until then, consider taking a road trip to one of its near future screening locations listed at the movie’s website.
“War of the Worlds: The True Story” lives up to its name. In illusion only, of course. But it is an illusion that is done with such high quality that when seeing the movie you really get the impression of the events being part of our own history. After all, isn’t all film supposed to give us such an impression? True, but Hines and Goforth’s movie does this exceptionally well with the very style it uses to tell Wells’ story.