Set on the earth of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds: Goliath is an interesting venture in alternate history. It takes the idea of an earth that is invaded by Martians in 1899 and then fast-forwards fifteen years to 1914. The end result is less a direct sequel to Wells’ novel, in the sense of a story that continues with the same characters and setting, and more of an alternate timeline exploring what the world might have looked like if, at the dawn of World War I, humanity had found itself simultaneously confronted by the threat of alien invasion.
A PG-13 animated film, created primarily in Malaysia, Goliath offers some unique sequences that capture the look and feel of its world. While the animation is distinctly in the mode that one might find on superhero shows such as Justice League, with male characters that all have bulging muscles and female characters that all have perfect figures, the film nevertheless manages to convey the feel of a world at the dawn of the 20th century. The word “steampunk” is used in the marketing and that is probably the closest term to describe what this film is doing (using Victorian era steam technology to power sophisticated robots, war machines, and the like). However, its blend of steampunk technology with World War I airplanes, cities, weaponry, etc. give this film a look unlike any other that I’ve seen. It’s a distinctive and original audio and visual experience, and I was immediately drawn in by it.
Unfortunately, after drawing us into a world rife with political intrigue and a multi-national cast of characters to explore, Goliath rapidly ditches any substantive character development or examination of political complexities in favor of extended shootouts between the A.R.E.S. forces (the elite troops defending humanity) and the invading aliens. It’s a shame because the setup is quite intriguing and I really would have liked to see them go further with the “what if?” questions that this sort of alternate history presents. Instead the second half of the movie is essentially a drawn out series of shootings and explosions, with one action sequence piled on after the next. It’s not without it merits, but is does become tedious after a while. I would have liked to see more of the world being explored and less of the fighting.
That being said, I would still recommend WotW: Goliath to comic book fans that think the premise sounds intriguing. It is a film that brings to life a fantasy world that is distinctive and unique. It provides some immersive sequences that draw the audience into a time period that is infrequently explored in contemporary cinema. While imperfect and suffering from overindulgence in comic book clichés (aka a muscular Teddy Roosevelt brandishing a machine gun and firing it approaching alien spacecraft) and well as poor character development, it is a movie that succeeds in bringing to life a distinctive fantasy world that is one of a kind and one that many comic book fans will find worth the visit.