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Bonded by a common fascination

Gautaman Bhaskaran

Steven Spielberg says that his version of H. G. Wells's `The War of the Worlds,' deals with human emotions.



ATTACK BY THE ALIENS: Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

In some ways, H. G. Wells and Steven Spielberg are similar. Both show a fascination for what they perceive as science. While Wells looked far into the future of mankind and wrote brilliant novels, Spielberg makes movies that deal with the unknown and the unbelievable.

Spielberg's "E.T" (Extra Terrestrial), "Jurassic Park" and "Jaws," for instance, provoked one into deeper thoughts of life beyond what one is capable of rationalising. It has been said that when Spielberg was a little boy his father woke him up one night, put him in the car and drove to a field to witness a beautiful shower of meteor.

This cosmic phenomenon enthralled him, perhaps paving the way for his later foray into science fiction cinema. It is this Spielberg and Wells who have now come together to give one "War of the Worlds," a film that Spielberg made out of Wells's novel by the same name written just two years before 1900 dawned.

Wells spins his work around a Martian invasion of earth. Spielberg had to alter that part: as one knows that there is no life on this fiery red planet.

One will never know what actually drove Wells to conceptualise alien beings in "The War of the Worlds," but several historical events inspired Wells to write this book. The unification and militarisation of Germany resulted in a series of writings, often a mix of fictional and documentary styles, which freely predicted war in Europe. George Chesney's, "The Battle of Dorking" (1871) was the most significant work.

Earthlings vs Martians

Wells borrowed the basic idea of conflict from these works to pen a story of war between Earthlings and Martians, and he set it in England, in places familiar to his readers. Four decades later in 1938, Orson Wells broadcast the novel over radio creating a virtual state of panic. One does not know whether the 1953 movie version by George Pal caused similar fear. Probably not, because the emphasis here was on romance. In it, the invading Martians, who cannot be defeated even by an atom bomb, are in retreat from the earth's bacterial germs, ``the humblest things that God in his wisdom has put upon this earth,'' in the words of Wells.

In a longish trailer of Spielberg's version, shown in Chennai recently, the director describes his latest film as one that deals with the psychology and sociology of human emotions. Tom Cruise stars here as Ray Ferrier, a divorced dockworker who finds himself not just playing father to his two children but their very saviour in the face of an extraordinary attack near their home. The movie opens on July 1.

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