Europe got them first, but now “they,” whoever they may be, are here in the USA.
War of the Worlds, Howard Overman’s retelling of the classic Wells story, began its series run on EPIX Sunday night.
“Retelling” is not really an accurate description. Overman has taken the bones of the story and redressed them with a modern sensibility, compelling technology, complex cityscapes and majestic mountains, and a wide array of human beings to make the menace reverberate for the viewer. The direction (Gilles Coulier in these first episodes) and the music (eerie and memorable, by David Martijn) set the unsettling tone and put us on the edge of our seats.
And then the actors bring the story home.
Gabriel Byrne is Bill Ward, neuroscientist and teacher, who quickly discerns the nature of the threat and drags his ex-wife, played by Elizabeth McGovern, to at least temporary safety in a shell-shocked London. Léa Drucker is Catherine Durand, an astrophysicist working at the IRAM Observatory in the French Alps. She discovers the original signal and gets the story rolling. Daisy Edgar-Jones is a young woman whose disability might make her more susceptible to the alien danger–she knows something is happening before anyone else can really guess. These characters form the core of the story, but there are others who are also compelling. Taken together, we see disaster strike through a variety of experiences and personalities. How will they all fare? We must “stay tuned.”
Below are early USA reviews and some cropped screencaps from Episode 1. I have TRIED not to spoil anything for you, but beware!
War of the Worlds: Stream It or Skip It?
The first episode does a good job of situating us with the main characters we’re going to follow. The only one we don’t know a ton about is Machar; we don’t know where he’s from and why he ended up in that tanker. But the rest of the stories have a definite direction: Catherine will try to figure out where her sister is while trying to discover just what these extraterrestrials are after; Bill will attempt to reconcile with Helen while hiding the fact that he did harm to her current boyfriend; Jonathan will try to get back to his family, who will likely be living underground for awhile. We may get to see some other stories along the way, but we’ve got a few interesting ones to follow already.
Of course, having pros like Byrne, McGovern and Drucker on board in major roles helps things; they all bring gravity to their roles that will make it more enjoyable to follow them going forward. We know that they all have flaws (especially Byrne’s character) and that these flaws will come to the fore as the survivors learn their new world and figure out what these invaders want…
Our Call: STREAM IT. This miniseries isn’t quite the War Of The Worlds you’re familiar with, but it does seem to be looking like a fine apocalyptic survival story that at least has an ending, unlike some others that we’ve been watching on other cable channels for the past ten years.
The Sci-Fi Classic Gets the ‘Walking Dead’ Treatment on Epix
…The premiere episode is a must-watch for the sheer panic-attack hysteria of the invasion itself. It’s a rapid-cut, sweat-inducing freakout on a large scale pulled off to perfection by director Gilles Coulier. From that point on, War of the Worlds’ horror elements are much smaller, but equally effective…
Overall, this take on War of the Worlds isn’t the most heart-pumping but it does take the material to places it’s never been. That “war” between worlds has always been more like a slaughter. Overman’s version of the story is less about fighting back against an enemy than it is just trying to salvage something worth saving from the wreckage.
War Of The Worlds gives a quietly compelling makeover to the iconic invasion story
But like any slow burn, Worlds reveals its charms over time, once the audience has shed any expectation of Overman following Wells’ blueprint. The performances are uniformly great, with Byrne lending his patrician presence to Bill, a messy, stubborn character who would easily become abrasive in the hands of a lesser actor. Bayo Gbadamosi also stands out as Kariem, an African immigrant who becomes a reluctant hero and finds it easier to fit into the world at the end of its lifecycle.
The series also boasts smart direction from Gilles Coulier, who directs the first four episodes, and Richard Clark, who helms the last four. Coulier’s sure hand is especially helpful early on, when the story flits between the characters’ introductions while spelling out the threat they face.
So! Now we wait for Episode 2! surprised