Friday, June 10, 2005

Curiouer and curiouser

I've mentioned here from time to time the curious anticipation I have for the Pendragon Pictures version of War of the Worlds. This is the long-delayed, modestly-budgeted project that was shot in secret over in Britain while the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg big-budget actioner was still ramping up pre-production. The thing that sets the Pendragon film apart is that it is reputed to be a faithful period-piece adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells novel. Production stills have looked quite nice, but the online trailer that I've seen reminds me a great deal of the stodgy old "Masterpiece Theatre" productions on PBS. The look in the trailer is static and shallow, the scene framing pedestrian, and the special effects a good example of "reach extending grasp." Even so, I'm still more interested in this one than the Spielberg version for several reasons: 1) Spielberg's film is contemporary, a setup we've already seen with Independence Day, itself a shameless rip-off of the original George Pal theatrical version of War of the Worlds; 2) after the excruciatingly trite and nonsensical cop-out ending from Minority Report, I simply do not trust Spielberg and Cruise as filmmakers anymore; 3) the invading Martians aren't even from Mars.

There have been constant rumors, from the start of the Pendragon effort back in 2000 or so, of running legal battles with Paramount, which is producing the Spielberg version. This is stupid, mainly because the novel is public domain and Paramount has no claim to exclusivity, but I don't doubt it's true since a favorite ploy of major corporations is to bankrupt smaller competitors with baseless lawsuits. Originally intended for theatrical release, the Pendragon film now looks to be straight-to-video fodder, but that, apparently, hasn't stopped the mud-slinging.

On Amazon right now, the War of the Worlds DVD has a genuine flamewar going on in the customer reviews section. Amazing, first of all, how many people got ahold of said release prior to it's June 14 release date. My book's been out for close to four months now and all I have are two reviews on Amazon--one by my wife, listing the table of contents. The second, and more curious element here, is the striking number of "reviewers" who have only one review on Amazon--that for the Pendragon War of the Worlds. For the third part, the reviews are suspiciously either-or: A five-star masterpiece or a one-star disaster. Were one a cynical sort, one might suspect that the higher ratio of negative reviews stems from the fact that Paramount has more employees than tiny Pendragon. But gosh, a big studio would never, ever stoop so low as that. Right?

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer Return of the Manticore

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