It’s been twenty years after the Pesky Aliens vs Planet Earth war and, after we won with a computer virus to bring them down, we used their alien tech to enhance and bolster our own resources creating super-weapons and planes. We also created the Earth Space Defense (ESD), as an early warning system. . . y’know, just in case they might return. But signs lately have been popping up, like ex-President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) being plagued by strange alien visions and scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) in Africa who’s discovered an old alien ship that switched back on… and sent out a distress signal! Uh-oh!
Just when things were going swell, an alien ship appears out of nowhere at the Moon Base and is promptly destroyed, because we always blow things up we don’t understand. Anyway, bits of it are salvaged and sent to Area 51 where kooky Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) awakes after a 20 year coma. Things get worse when a quarter-planet wide “harvester” mother ship arrives, annihilates part of the globe, causes untold millions of deaths (London and Singapore are goners), then parks itself on Earth and starts to drill down to our core. Not a good thing.
Meanwhile, Dr. Okun opens up that Moon salvaged alien wreck and out rolls a large white alien ball that (are you ready for this?) speaks English and says that it’s the last of an alien civilization that the harvester aliens have been killing off all over the galaxy! Does Dr. Who know about this? Furthermore, the sphere possess special alien tech info that can destroy all the bad aliens and will give it to us, IF it will protect the sphere. Sounds fair, right? Well, that harvester alien ship has a Godzilla-sized queen that has other ideas and launches an attack on Area 51 to get that sphere. In all this silliness, you have some other storylines spinning around for no particular reason, other than to fill time.
You have the intrepid Capt. Dylan Hiller (Jesse Usher), son of the late Capt. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) who has a grudge with hot-shot/ego-driven pilot Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) who has the hots for lovely pilot Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), the ex-Presidents daughter. Then there’s David’s goofy father, Julius (Judd Hirsch) who, after miraculously surviving a boating accident, hooks up with a bunch of recently orphaned children. And rounding out the action is vengeful African warlord Dikembe Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) and his twin machetes that he uses to take out aliens with. Nice!
The ending major battle comes as a whirlwind of laughable moments where any sense of logic, psychics, or common sense are thrown completely away. The movie even concludes with us being allies with the sphere and possibly intergalactic space warriors! Do the Avengers know about this? At least with the first movie, director Roland Emmerich (who also directed this mess) had some semblance of reality and logic that could make sense. Here, he and the FIVE screenwriters credited decided to throw that all away and go full ‘comic book story’ with ridiculous scenarios, dumb throw-away moments, plot holes the size of meteors, and illogical scenes that only a 10-year-old would think of.
With the exception of Spiner, the acting is lacking any heart or conviction. Either they’re a cartoon character or deadly serious spouting mundane lines that fall flat. Even Goldblum looks lost while Hirsch just wants to take a nap. And don’t get me started on that terrible dialogue! So lazy, clichéd, and dull to listen to. I can see why Smith chose to sit this one out! The only enjoyable moments are the clever SPFX and Spiner’s scenery-chewing antics. But the worst part? There are at least four MORE sequels planned! Yikes!!
Giant alien warships that come here and get defeated by a virus? Got it! Although based on H.G. Wells Victorian-era novel, this excellent adaptation has yet to be bested by Hollywood, even though Steven Spielberg gave it a try in 2005 and failed. Yet, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater live radio show managed to scare an entire country into thinking we were being invaded by Martians in 1938, so there’s that.
With a sinister opening narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, we learn about those nasty Martians and their plans to take over and colonize Earth, just as soon as they wipe us all out. They arrive one night in the form of innocent meteorites, crashing down in different places all over the world. Here, in Linda Rosa, California, Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) goes to investigate and meets pretty Sylvia VanBuren (Ann Robinson) and her uncle, Pastor Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin). But they’re in a shock when the meteor opens up and SURPRISE! A Martian war machine pops out!
Massive in size and sporting a tentacle-like arm on top, these killing craft emit deadly heat-rays and energy pulses that wipe out anything in their path. Protected by an ‘energy blister” surrounding them, they are unstoppable by any missiles, guns, or bombs. Clayton and Sylvia escape the carnage and hide out in an abandoned farm house where they begin to develop romantic feelings for each other. But any nooky will have to wait as the farmhouse is visited by another Martin ship. They encounter and dismember an probing “electronic eye” from the Martian machine and collect a blood sample from a wounded Martian creature, and manage to sneak away.
Trying to find a Martian weakness, Clayton looks for it in their blood, but it proves fruitless. The Army tries a nuclear strike, but that fails miserably. Finally, with looters everywhere, chaos in the streets, and the warships on their way to L.A. to obliterate us, Clayton and Sylvia give up and take refuge in a church to pray… unti… CRASH! A warship smashes into a building outside with a dying Martian crawling out. WTH?
Looks like the germs in our air (that we have become immune to) became the virus that kills Martians! Yay!! A terrific movie that had a winning team: a cracker-jack script by Barre Lyndon, SPFX by master puppeteer George Pal, and great direction by Byron Haskin. You couldn’t go wrong here. Even the sound effects are chilling! Then you had the outstanding cast of Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, and Les Tremayne playing it very real, even though it could have gone the other way. Even the name “Clayton Forrester” was given homage as a character for TV’s Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Other remakes have come and gone, but none have come close to this gem. Spielberg tried with a big budget SPFX blockbuster with Tom Cruise, but it was just too silly, SyFy Channel had TWO versions (one being a sequel) both with C.Thomas Howell, and they both were horrible and, of course, knock-off’s and look-alike’s. Independence Day, anyone?