War of the Worlds (2019) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

This big-budget lavish three-part miniseries throws H.G. Wells' famous story into a new light, when on the cusp of the Edwardian era, a peril falls from the skies into the heart of the British countryside.

Newly returned from abroad, George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Thomlinson) are scandalizing the local community, since despite living together, they are unmarried. George has been trying to obtain a divorce from his wife, who refuses in order to punish him for his scandalous behavior. The adulterous relationship has thrown his job into peril, since as a newspaper writer, he's noticed his editor giving away his bylines. When he complains, the man says the instructions come from "higher up men, with opinions." And his brother Frederick (Rupert Graves) at the admiralty won't have anything to do with him.

Then, a meteorite crashes into the ground a few miles away from their home. Or at least, what they think is a space rock. He, Amy, and their scientist friend Ogilvy (Robert Carlyle) scurry over there to dig out, get some pictures of it, and scoop all the newspapers. But the meteorite is not what it seems, and soon, it and other "machines" like it will unleash hell on earth.

I haven't read the original story or seen any other adaptation of it, but Wells' sci-fi social commentary takes a blunter turn here, when George and Frederick have an argument about whether this invasion is just like British colonization. These creatures come at them with advanced alien technology they cannot fight off, just as they went into places in the world with bullets that bows and arrows cannot deflect. That is the most "obvious" portion of the script, just in case the audience didn't think of it themselves. That aside, it's enjoyable to see a sci-fi story play out against a period backdrop. And as such, it's not your typical "bonnet drama." The public reactions to Amy and George are accurate for the period, and each comes to ponder, later on, whether they made mistakes that cost the other people involved dearly. Amy in particular wonders if someone might have lived, if George had not been with her instead.

The story flashes back and forth between "then" and "now" (years later, after the invasion has succeeded) which I didn't like at first, since it seemed to lessen the tension. But the slow reveal of what happened and how is done well, even if the scenes "later" are less interesting than the invasion itself. The production design is terrific, as is the CGI animation of these monstrous, terrifying machines. But the plot does suffer a little bit from not knowing the motivation of the aliens -- why are they here, to colonize Earth? To harvest it? There is also a high body count and many deaths of main and/or supporting characters, so it's not for the squeamish. I can't say it'll become an annual traditional viewing at my house, but it was worth seeing at least once.

Sexual Content
None, other than an adulterous couple living together. Amy takes to calling them "married" and George her "husband" to save face. A man says other people spread rumors about him, because he lives alone and dresses well (implying they think he's a homosexual).
 
Language:
One abuse of Christ's name. A man tells another man "sod that" after being fired. Several British profanities.
 
Violence:
People burst into flames and disintegrate, are stabbed through the extremities, and fed off of (off-screen). Mass deaths, dead bodies, destruction, buildings toppling and blowing up; various main characters die.

Other:
Characters lie to avoid sticky situations. An atheist denounces God's existence and is happy to prove that the churches "sacred ground" is SPOILER due to the decomposition of human bodies being toxic to the aliens. One man moralizes at another, about how the aliens invading is not so different from British colonization.