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Theodore Roosevelt would no doubt have been thrilled at the idea of seeing himself portrayed as a big-screen action hero, and the sight of him merrily blasting away Martians while yelling “Bully!” is the most fun element of War of the Worlds: Goliath, a wholly unnecessary animated sequel to the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic.
Director and “creator” Joe Pearson’s film is set in 1914, fifteen years after the initial Martian invasion was so conveniently halted due to their susceptibility to bacteria. Having solved that glitch, the aliens now return in full force, prompting the formation of the international Allied Resistance Earth Squadrons, A.R.E.S. for short, commanded by a fearsome Russian general and Teddy himself.
Scientist Nikola Tesla and Capt. Mandred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, are also amusingly part of the team, whose squad leader Eric Wells (get it?) has a personal stake in the action since his parents were unceremoniously incinerated by the Martians during the previous invasion.
Featuring little more depth than a typical Saturday morning cartoon, the film is mainly notable for its striking, steampunk-infused evocation of early 20th century New York and profusion of extremely violent action sequences involving the Martian invaders and the giant human-designed tripods whose design was pilfered from the alien forces previously left behind.
Other than the real-life historical figures involved, the characterizations are strictly perfunctory, with the A.R.E.S. crew featuring a polyglot mixture of stock character warriors who, judging by their behemoth physical proportions, have clearly spent much time at an animated gym. The voice performances, featuring contributions from such known thesps as Adam Baldwin and Adrian Paul, are similarly bland.
While the screenplay by David Abramowitz has some imaginative touches, such as that pesky war brewing in Europe having to be temporarily put on hold, the proceedings quickly degenerate into deafening video game-style fiery mayhem featuring endless explosions and depictions of human combatants melted into anguished looking skeletons.
The animation, courtesy of a Malaysian studio, is serviceable but inconsistent, and might look more impressive in the 3D version being screened in limited theaters.
Opens March 7 (Anderson Digital)
Production: Tripod Entertainment
Cast: Adrian Paul, Adam Baldwin, Peter Wingfield, Mark Sheppard, Elizabeth Gracen, Jim Byrnes, Beau Billingslea, Matt Letscher, James Arnold Taylor
Director: Joe Pearson
Screenwriters: David Abramowitz
Producers: Leon Tan, Joe Pearson, David Abramowitz, Mike Bloemendal
Executive producer: Kevin Eastman
Editors: Anne Foenander, Toby Risk
Production designers: Spencer Ooi, Chia Wei Seong, Tiok Ngee Seong
Composer: Cluka Kuncevic
Rated PG-13, 85 min.
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