'Toon Review - War of the Worlds: Goliath
I have an impulse control problem.
It used to be just for toys…but as the day job has increased my budget somewhat, it’s spilling over into movies now. Upon seeing War of the Worlds: Goliath on the shelf at the local Best Buy, I figured “Meh, what the hell?” and grabbed it. Must’ve been that kinda day, since I also picked up the live action version of Space Battleship Yamato that day too, again, just on a whim (okay, I’ll admit, and the $15 for Blu-ray didn’t hurt any either).
And it helps that the premise didn’t suck. If you read my Big O review, you know that I still lament the waning of the Mecha subset of anime…as fantasy, Pokemon and just generally weird shit seems to make up most of the genre now. So the fact that you have Martian tripods going up against human tripods reverse engineered from the wrecks from Mars’ first invasion…well, you’ve definitely got my interest. Plus, you know, honestly…when you think about how humanity won in HG Wells’ original, I find it hard to believe that Mars would’ve given up after what is essentially a bout of the cold. No, no, no…you take some friggin’ NyQuil, get yer ass back in that Tripod and you squish some goddamn humans. Buncha sissies.
Ahem. Right, my last admission as to why I bought this is purely rooted in quirk. It’s Malaysia-mation. Sure, sure, places outside of Japan and the US have been doing animation for a while now, Korea in particular but also France comes to mind (mainly for their EXCELLENT but sadly overlooked Fantastic Four cartoon they did for Cartoon Network)…so there really shouldn’t be any novelty to it. Yet, I can’t help it…there is. I can’t explain to you why I was tickled when I found out that Nickelodeon’s Wolverine and the X-Men was animated in India. It’s not like each DVD release came with a coupon for a free order of naan (though that would certainly get my girlfriend through the whole “accepting my boyfriend watches cartoons” thing much faster!). And for the same irrational reason, yeah, I picked this up.
So, I already touched on plot, but I should at least elaborate a bit more. Yes, this is intended to take place after HG Wells’ classic War of the Worlds with the threat of World War I looming in the background. As such, there’s PLENTY of name dropping. Ordinarily, that annoys me…but here? Yeah…it was pretty cool. I’ll start with the top ace of the human resistance, ARES, Manfred von Richthofen…the freaking Red Baron. But here’s how I sold the movie to a friend of mine: Imagine Teddy Roosevelt, atop a mech designed by Nicola Tesla, shooting down Martians with a machine gun. You should be sold by now. Sigh…you want more from me? Wow…tough crowd, but yeah, sure…there are plenty of other historical nods in there, but fortunately the film has its own story to tell. Yes, it’s a simple one, but come on, you don’t buy something like this expecting War and Peace, right? Lastly, while the aesthetic is steampunk…it is not annoyingly so. Yes, the human mechs belch smoke up into the air that would likely make damn near everyone in Portland and Seattle give you THAT look just for even watching it and yes there are zepplins, the hallmark of steampunk…but since most of the people you see in the film are in military uniforms anyway, well, like I said, it doesn’t get into that “annoyingly steampunk” area…unlike the cosplaying douchebag with the jodhpurs and monocle that you see at EVERY comicon. (Sigh, I finally have to say it…the preceding sentence…hell, may as well extend it to the whole paragraph because I’m sure the Seattle/Portland crack is gonna piss people off too…contains the views of the reviewer and does not reflect the views of Nuking the Cat or its editorial staff – Ed.)
While the character design is pretty simple, the CG mech and tripods are pretty cool. Actually, I’d extend that to the entire look of the world presented here; alterations to well-known landmarks to reflect/celebrate the first victory over the Martians, the layout of the cities, so on and so forth. On the topic of characters, the voice talent is serviceable. I will say that the voice of the main character was a little…weak. As a leader of a mech unit, I felt that the character needed a bit more authority to his voice. I understand that there’s some uncertainty in the character due to his losing his parents to the Martians in the first invasion, but hell, the dude’s over that within the first half hour of the film. And if that wasn’t enough to give him some baritone, well, something else happens (implied in the actual film, shown in the deleted scenes in animatic form) that would bolster any man’s confidence. Lastly, I have to give a nod to the music. This film could’ve completely sucked…and I’d have still loved it. Why? Because of the composer’s electronic version of the Moody Blues’ “Forever Autumn”. The opening montage…with that in the background…told me right off the bat that this was $15 that would certainly wouldn’t be wasted! Even if the rest of the movie sucked, I could just put the opening chapter on repeat and it’d be worth the price of admission right there.
Fortunately, the movie was just fine. I’ll be honest, in the end, there’s really nothing exceptional about it. But there is something to be said about taking a good idea, bringing it to life and not screwing it up in the process. War of the Worlds: Goliath is a well-executed sequel to something you didn’t even realize needed one. And with the dearth of mecha anime out there right now, I’d be more than happy if Mars decided to go for three times. Hell, third time’s the charm…right?