The War of the Worlds is a major interplanetary war fought between Earth and Mars. Originally a science fiction story written by British author H.G. Wells, it was the first tale of its kind, depicting the struggle of humanity surviving against a superior force originating from another world. The story has been re-told and re-imagined many times since the original book was written in 1897 and remains one of the most popular sci-fi stories ever written.
The Original Story
In the late 19th century, Earth is visited by creatures from the planet Mars. These highly intelligent and aggressive beings have come to Earth on a mission of conquest after having exhausted the resources of their home planet, seeking to ensure their survival by dominating Earth and exterminating humanity in order to take the planet as their own.
The Martians arrive in great cylinders launched from the surface of their world to ours. These cylinders serve as the Martians' bases of operations where they build their terrifying three-legged fighting machines and send them out to destroy all human opposition with horrific weapons such as heat-rays that incinerate everything in their path, and toxic black smoke that kills anyone who inhales it. In a matter of days, the Martians devastate Great Britain (and presumably the whole world), destroying all military forces and leaving every city in ruins. All humans who survive the initial invasion struggle to stay alive as the occupying Martian forces hunt them down for the purpose of feeding on the blood of man and injecting it into their own veins. At the same time, the Martians seed the land with an unnatural red vegetation called "red weed". This red weed is what gave Mars its dull red colour and it grows at a frightfully fast rate as it soaks up water. It is never stated in the book if the Martians brought the red weed to Earth on purpose or by accident.
Later, the author (the story is told from a first-person perspective) arrives in the ruins of London, having lost all hope and contemplating suicide. He throws himself upon the mercy of a Martian war machine only to find that all the machines in the city have stopped, their operators having died from bacterial infections. Mars is a sterile world devoid of bacteria, so the Martians had no kind of biological defence against the abundant microbes of Earth, thus the entire Martian force occupying the planet is wiped out.
With the Martians killed off by Earth's bacteria, the human race begins to recover stronger than before. However, the author also notes his concern about the possibility of another Martian attack, fearing that they have been observing the invasion and have learned how to prepare themselves against Earth's germs.
There have been numerous film, radio, TV and written adaptations and even sequels to War of the Worlds. Some of these adaptations have been described below.
The first WotW film, set apart from the book in that it is set in the United States of America and does not merely focus on the survival of one individual in the midst of the invasion, but on the efforts of the US military trying to stop the Martians' advance. The military's weapons and tactics all prove to be useless against the aliens' manta-ray-shaped levitating war machines; even the atom bomb is incapable of breaking the force-fields surrounding the machines. Like in the book, the Martians are killed off by viruses and bacteria.
The War of the Worlds: Next Century
This Polish film was released in 1983 and is used as a witty commentary on the political situation of Poland in the period of the Polish People's Republic. The film starts with the arrival of a more advanced civilization from Mars which purports to have a friendly attitude towards Earthlings. The place visited by the Martians resembles a police state in which a huge role is played by television, which is used as a propaganda tool.
The main character of the film, Iron Idem, is a news presenter who has a popular TV program, Iron Idem's Independent News. However, the news that is presented on his program is carefully chosen by Idem's boss who later orders the kidnapping of Idem's wife. Iron Idem is forced to collaborate with the state apparatus, which is controlled by blood thirsty Martians, and encourages people to give blood.
After being thrown out of his flat, Idem has a chance to observe stupefied citizens who fall victim to the repression of the state apparatus. Finally, the main protagonist rebels and criticizes society during a TV Super Show which is a concert organized as a farewell to the Martians.
On the day after the Martians departure the Earth’s mass media change their perception of the whole situation and the visit from Mars is viewed as an aggressive invasion and Iron Idem is shown as the main collaborator. He is sentenced to death and killed but only on the television screen. In reality he leaves the television studio and steps into the outside world which is covered by mist.
In October 1938, Orson Welles directed a radio play based on the classic book. The story was delivered as a series of simulated news broadcasts depicting what sounded to be an alien invasion in progress with reports of fighting all across America against an inhuman army equipped with superior technology. In the real world, although there was a disclaimer at the start of the broadcast assuring that the show was entirely fictional, many listeners only tuned in midway through the broadcast and were shocked by the level of realism in the show, believing thatt what they were hearing was actual news coverage of an alien attack. This led to some reports of panic and hysteria in different parts of the country and a public outcry against Welles and the CBS network following the broadcast, but it was also the highlight of Orson Welles' career and secured his fame as a dramatist.
A cinematic modern retelling of War of the Worlds directed by Steven Spielberg. In this film, Tom Cruise stars as Ray Ferrier, a blue-collar American struggling to keep his family safe as the world comes to an end around them. Rather than come from Mars, Spielberg states that his Invaders originate from an unknown dark corner of the universe and had buried their Tripod war machines on Earth centuries ago. They arrive on Earth by riding lightning straight into the ground and into the Tripods which then rise up from beneath and carve a path of destruction everywhere they go.
The Tripods in Spielberg's film have a much more bio-mechanical nature to them, with slender flexible legs that allow the machines to crouch and crawl as well as stride. Also, the red weed is speculated to have been purposefully brought by the aliens who use human blood to fertilise it.
War of the Worlds: Goliath
An animated film produced in 2012 that serves as a sequel to H.G. Wells' original story. Having survived the Martians' original invasion, humanity has scavenged the invaders' leftover technology and achieved a steampunk style of industry. Set in 1914, history seems to be unfolding as it would have done without the Martians as the events that triggered World War One take their course. However, as feared, the Martians return and launch a new invasion, this time having developed an immunity to Earth's bacteria. A new military organisation called ARES, made up of the finest soldiers from the world's strongest armies, has built its own series of advanced war machines created by reverse-engineering Martian technology. With their own tripod machines and other advanced weaponry, mankind has evened the playing field and stands a proper fighting chance against the Martians. ARES successfully repels a Martian attack on the US, and Theodore Roosevelt warns that one day mankind will take the fight to Mars itself.