Opinion seems sharply divided regarding this movie. If you read the Pendragon website then you would be forgiven for thinking that this film was a modern classic, whereas everyone else just thinks that it is total pants. Who is right? Well, they both are, in various ways.
The movie presentation has been "antiqued" -' scratchy titles, slightly jumping filming and a faux "colourization" (using both colour filters and video -'enhanced colours) try to make the film seem like it was made around the period it was set (but I'm not sure that movie footage necessarily existed then.)
To try and describe the general production "feel" of this movie to a British audience I would have to liken it to some of the budget studio based sci-fi series of the seventies, such as The Tomorrow People and Blakes 7. Extensive use of CGI has been made, but sadly the quality of the imagery ranges from passable to laughable. There appear to have been two principle filming locations -' a Seattle city street (it looks like one of those "old style" modern shopping malls) and a number of anonymous fields which were dressed with an assortment of CGI houses to represent various towns in the south east of England. The style of the houses created do seem a bit variable, ranging from what look like modern semi detached houses to strange, brick built Tudor styled dwellings. Sadly, the matting in this movie appears to be "tepid" or "luke warm" at best, with people's heads changing colour or disappearing, etc.
The special effect stand out, if only for the wrong reasons. The aliens themselves make a relatively early appearance in the story -' In most adaptations you have to wait until around the mid point before seeing them leave their craft, but in this movie they actual emerge early on. Judging by its appearance, I imagine that one of the Pacman ghosts managed to escape the computer screen and holed up in a pig sty until many years later, when the producers of this movie found it and offered it a job as a Martian. The tripods, despite being hundreds of feet high, seem to move around like six inch models and show no signs of the inertial that would be experienced by such large structures. Rather than thundering around like the gargantuan death machines that they are supposed to be, the tripod's footsteps sound a bit like someone pulling a slightly undersized wet cork out of a wine bottle.
The "Death Ray" looks a bit like a cross between a diabolo and a gyroscope on a stick, and the ray it produces looks to be no more deadly than a child's torch. This makes the spontaneous combustion of its victims seem somewhat over the top, but nothing compared to what is to follow when their burning, writhing bodies are reduced to writhing skeletons. How these skeletons manage to writhe is beyond me -' I could be generous and assume that the ray mere reduces the victims bodily tissues transparent, but I would have to be feeling extremely generous to assume that. Later on victims appear just to explode. The CGI rendering of Big Ben makes it look like something out of "Grand Theft Auto 400 -' race through Balham", whilst the clock appears to show the time as being three o'clock regardless of when the scene is supposed to be set. At one point Big Ben appears to be a stand alone structure rather than merely clock tower of a much larger building. The "Day for night" footage will have viewers rolling in the aisle -' scenes shot in broad daylight with a strip of dark, starry sky clumsily pasted on top are not going to fool anyone. Sadly, the worst piece of footage is saved for the end, with the "Thunderchild" torpedo ram attempting to take on one of the Martian craft. I can forgive the slightly unconvincing appearance of the Thunderchild, the guns (which look for all the world like "Victorian" AA guns) firing at the aliens despite being unmanned and the Union flag flying into the wind (even if the Navy don't actually fly this flag). What I can't forgive, however, is the sea -' basically, someone flew a plane over the surface of the sea and shot some stock footage. CGI ships were merely layered on top of this, the result being that the sea appeared to be rapidly moving sideways even thought the ships were not.
The quality of acting fluctuates wildly, as do the "British" accents -' one character manages a complete tour of UK regional accents in one sentence, including faux Cockney, Scottish and Irish. By and large, though, the accents are bearable, only occasionally dipping to "Lawks and Lummy, Mary Poppins!" on the Van Dyke scale of British accents. Anthony Piana, who plays the hero and his brother, does seem to make an effort even if he does occasionally look like a cut-price Freddie Mercury.
On a more positive note, the music is absolutely superb and could easily grace your average blockbuster movie.
This film has many faults, most of which (in my opinion) can be forgiven; the remainder, however, smack of poor quality. The principle problem is the lack of attention to detail - It wouldn't have cost any more to get stuff right, so why didn't they?
This film will go on to inspire a legion of budding film makers, and for that alone it deserves praise. Lets face it, you are not going to be able to compete with Spielberg's version armed with a camcorder, a PC video editing suite, a group of enthusiastic friends and some CGI freeware, but you might just make something that is of a similar calibre as or even slightly better than this film - it is an attainable goal, and as such will serve to encourage a whole new generation of film makers.
Review by Paul-b-1 from the Internet Movie Database.