July 9, 2005

A Week of Wells

I saw War of the Worlds last week, and just finished The Time Machine, so it's only appropriate I form some opinion of H. G. Wells and his stories before I forget who he was, what he did, and if I fancied any of it.

[Spoilers Below]

I would hate to judge an author by the Hollywood depiction of his book (especially when the lead is crazy Tom Cruise), so my opinion of War of the Worlds is only based on Speilberg's interpretation. By comparison, it was better than Signs, worse than Independence Day, and probably scored just below average in my grading of Sci-Fi movies. The special effects were great, but for someone that watches movies partly to dissect and analyze plots and character detail, the major flaws were a lot to stomach. In the beginning of the movie, a lightning storm creates an electromagnetic pulse that seems to put all electronic equipment out of commission. Seconds later, we see one guy in the streets with a video camera taping the alien destruction, and later, we see a camera crew that has close up video of the lightning striking the ground and transporting the aliens into their underground ships. If the EMP destroyed all electronic equipment, neither of these devices should have functioned. Also, how does the son manage to escape unscathed and beat Ray and Rachel back to Boston when the entire path he is traveling towards explodes into flames? Beyond those major flaws, I'm still not sure I even know what the aliens wanted on Earth. First they go zap crazy and exterminate humans into dust, then they go vampire and want everyone's blood. Just when I thought things were getting good and the aliens were going to be victorious, Morgan Freeman chimes in with a short explanation of why the humans win due to their own dumb luck.

As far as The Time Machine, I found it to be a disappointing read. Although the future world of the Eloi and Morlocks was unique and well founded, the events of the story were narrated anticlimactically, and the character development was non-existant. It is nearly impossible to fully immerse yourself in a novel if you can't relate to a character, or at least feel engaged in his journey. While reading, I found myself thinking "Hmm.. interesting idea. Yeah, I might buy that explanation of things," but never actually cared what happened to the Time Traveller. Wells had a few insightful passages explaining time and how the future evolved. He has an admonitory description of the human race in 2701, one which was maybe far fetched, but still interesting. It wasn't a book I'd rush to read again, but I could have easily found worse ways to spend the couple of hours it took to finish.

"I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It has committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes - to come to this at least... And a great quiet had followed." - The Time Machine, H. G. Wells

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