So, I think we can all agree that all three versions of War of the Worlds were different. I thought that the book was the best version, but that could be because I believe in books. It could also have to do with the vivid imagery we get from Wells, or it could be because the narrator gave us a point of view that is unlike the other two things we watched and as much as I hated him, I respected him for apparently living through this catastrophe.
I do think it is worth mentioning, that all versions seem to be tailored to the time they were manufactured in. The book appealed to the English people and, perhaps, was intended to be a cautionary tale for those involved in the seemingly infinite British Empire. The radio broadcast was intended for entertainment value, the line “a person covered in a sheet and saying boo” supports that. It was broadcasted on Halloween in a time where television and films weren’t really a thing. Finally, the film could be interpreted in a number of ways, but I think that it feels extremely patriotic and kind of illogical in some aspects, however, this is 1950’s cinema and that is what they were going for in most films.
In all versions, though there was a certain uniqueness to them, there was a constant mystery involved and I think that it important. The film did this very well, especially for its time. The use of lighting in the movie helped along the mystery. By using the shadows instead of showing the actual Martian body, until it touched our damsel and she was saved of course, we are able to imagine what is there. When the heat ray is introduced, it is just this oscillating, glowing, metallic thing, but once the camera moves from an extreme-close up to a medium shot, to a master shot before it vaporizes the three men, we have no idea what it is. We are left in wonder. Just as we are assured that it is okay and we can all metaphorically square dance the night away, they have emitted radioactivity which is dangerous to humans. We cannot figure out how to defeat them and that is a mystery in and of itself.
So, I suppose the questions that remain are, is there a limitation to our fear and the mystery we experience with something new even though we know so many things already? In this age, would we still be frightened at the prospect of a Martian invasion, or would we be able to fend them off with what we have? And, if we can’t fend them off or defeat them, why not? Is there a limit to human intelligence?