The War of The Worlds (1953 Film) - Plot - Differences From The Wells Novel

Differences From The Wells Novel

As noted by Caroline Blake, the film is very different from the original novel in its attitude toward religion, as reflected especially in the depiction of clergymen as characters. "The staunchly secularist Wells depicted a cowardly and thoroughly uninspiring Curate, whom the narrator regards with disgust, with which the reader is invited to concur. In the film, there is instead the sympathetic and heroic Pastor Collins who dies a martyr's death.... And the film's final scene in the church, strongly emphasizing the Divine nature of Humanity's deliverance, has no parallel in the original book."

George Pal's adaptation has many other notable differences from H. G. Wells' novel. The closest resemblance is probably that of the antagonists. The film's aliens are indeed Martians, and invade Earth for the same reasons as those from the novel (the state of Mars suggests that it is in the final stages of being able to support life, leading to the Martians decision to make Earth their new home). They land in the same way, by crashing to the Earth. However, the book's spacecraft are large cylinder-shaped projectiles fired from the Martian surface from some kind of cannon, instead of the film's meteorite-spaceships; but the Martians emerge from their craft in the same way, by unscrewing a large, round hatch. They appear to have no use for humans in the film. In the novel they are observed directly feeding on humans by draining their victims' blood using pipettes; there is also a speculation about the Martians eventually using human slaves to hunt down all remaining human survivors after they have conquered Earth. In the film the Martians do not bring the novel's fast-growing red weed with them, but they are defeated by Earth microorganisms, as observed in the novel. However, they die from the effects of the microorganisms within three days of the landing of the first meteorite-ship; in the novel the Martians die within about three weeks of their invasion of England.

The Martians themselves bear no physical resemblance to the novel's Martians. The novel's are bear-sized, bulkish creatures whose bodies are described as "merely heads", with a beak-like mouth, sixteen tentacles in two groupings of eight, and two "luminous, disk-like eyes". Due to budget constraints, their film counterparts are short, reddish-brown creatures with two long, thin arms with three long, thin fingers with suction cup tips. The Martian's "head," if it can be called that, is a broad "face" at the top-front of its broad shouldered upper torso, the only apparent feature of which is a single large eye with three distinctly colored lenses (red, blue, and green). The Martians' lower extremities, whatever they may be, are never shown. (Some speculative designs for the creature suggest the idea of three thin legs resembling their fingers, while others show them as bipeds with short, stubby legs with three-toed feet.)

The film's Martian war machines do actually have more of a resemblance than they may seem at first glance. The book's machines are 10-story tall Tripods and carry the heat-ray projector on an articulated arm connected to the front of the war machine's main body. The film's machines are shaped like manta rays, with a bulbous, elongated green window at the front, through which the Martians observe their surroundings. On top of the machine is the cobra head-like heat-ray attached to a long, narrow, goose-neck extension. They can be mistaken for flying-machines, but Dr. Forrester states that they are lifted by "invisible legs"; in one scene, when the first machine emerges, you can see faint traces of three energy legs beneath and three sparking traces where the three energy shafts touch the burning ground. Therefore, technically speaking, the film's war machines are indeed tripods, though they are never given that designation. Whereas the novel's war machines had no protection against British army and navy cannon fire, the film's war machines have a force field surrounding them; this invisible shield is described by Dr. Forrester as a "protective blister".

The Martian weaponry is also partially unchanged. The heat-ray has the very same effect as that of the novel. However, the novel's heat-ray mechanism is briefly described as just a rounded hump when first seen in silhouette rising above the landing crater's rim; it fires an invisible energy beam in a wide arc while still in the pit made by the first Martian cylinder after it crash-lands. The film's heat-ray projector when first seen is shaped like a cobra's head and has a single, red pulsing "eye," which likely acts like a targeting telescope for the Martians inside their Manta Ray-like war machine. The book describes another weapon, the "black smoke" used to kill all life; the war machines fire canisters containing a black smoke-powder through a bazooka-like tube accessory. When dispersed, this black powder is lethal to all life forms who breathe it in. This weapon is replaced in the film by a Martian "skeleton beam," green pulsing bursts fired from the wingtips of the Manta-Ray machines; these bursts break apart the sub-atomic bonds that hold matter together on anything they touch. These skeleton beams are used off screen to obliterate several French cities.

The plot of the film is very different from the novel: The novel tells the story of a 19th century journalist (with additional narration made by his brother in later chapters), who journeys through Victorian London and its environs while the Martians attack, eventually being reunited with his wife; the film's protagonist is a California scientist who falls in love with a former college student after the Martian attack begins. However, certain points of the film's plot are similar to the novel, from the crash-landing of the Martian meteorite-ships to their eventual defeat by Earth's microorganisms. Doctor Forrester also experiences similar events like the book's narrator: an ordeal in a destroyed house, observing an actual Martian up close, and eventually reuniting with his love interest at the end of the story. The film is given more of a Cold War theme with its use of the Atomic Bomb against the enemy and the mass-destruction that such a global war would inflict on mankind.

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