The visionary legend H.G. Wells was famously known as the “Father of Science Fiction” due to the immense impact he left on the genre by pioneering a number of key traits and the futurist nature of his works, which were at least a century ahead of their time. A significant amount of his works have been adopted in various media forms, but perhaps none as extensively as his seminal work War of the Worlds, a tale that recounts the clash between humanity and extraterrestrials from Mars and is one of the earliest specimens of alien invasion-related stories. Being very influential in the creation of lots of classic sci-fi content and adapted into a number of movies, series, telenovelas, dramas, and even musicals for a century, the story itself has become overexploited to the extent that it has given rise to many poor adaptations as well, and director Junaid Syed’s directorial debut is, unfortunately, one such example. While being a VFX expert, Junaid had managed to pull off a convincing visual threat of a Martian invasion even on a shoestring budget, but the characterization and poor screenplay have failed to elevate the stakes.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘War Of The Worlds: The Attack’?
As the movie begins, the camera tracks and zooms into Mars, from where fragments of some sort are seen being launched toward Earth. A voiceover is heard in the background, which reworks the opening line of the famous novel the movie is an adaptation of, which states that unbeknownst to humanity, they were being keenly observed and scrutinized by an intelligence far greater, which drew up their plans to attack eventually.
Set on present-day Earth; the story revolves around three UCL astronomy graduate teenagers, Herb, Oggy, and Hannah, who, after learning of the possibility of a meteorite originating on Mars falling in the nearby vicinity of Woking, England, have decided to go exploring at night on their bicycles. Herb has a liberal perspective about the possibility of the existence of the extraterrestrial life and has a passion for exploring the unknown, something he inherited from his deceased father; therefore, he also believes that their department head, Professor Stint, is right about propounding the possibility of the existence of life on the Mars related to the odd-looking meteorite falling down on Earth. As a homage to the author of the source, the character has been named Herbert Wells. The more skeptical and irritable of the trio, Oggy, considers those opinions to be crackpot theories, good for silly conversations but not to be taken seriously. Hannah is the more pragmatic of the bunch, often acting as a mediator to sort out the disagreements between her other two buddies.
Venturing too deep into the wilderness at night, the trio loses navigation as the GPS loses signal, and taking Herb’s suggestion; they decide to stay at his place nearby. The next morning, Herb’s mother, Ellie, heads to Leatherhead to meet his uncle and informs the trio about the meteorite landing that happened earlier. Herb, Hannah, and Oggy rush off to the spot before much of their observation gets ruined by an overenthusiastic crowd. Reaching the spot, the trio moves closer to what seems to be a space pod, or as it is referred to later, ‘Cylinder,’ avoiding the detection of the authorities nearby.
What Did The Teenagers Find In The ‘Cylinders’?
As the friends approach the space pod, it opens, and inside, a tentacled creature is seen surrounded by darkness. Hannah senses danger and suggests leaving the place at once, but Herb falls into a momentary trance as the creature starts emitting a mysterious black smog. Getting startled by his friends calling him, Herb shakes off his dazed state and joins them.
An officer catches the trio snooping around and presents them to the senior professor of their department, Dr. Stint. Herb warns the professor about the possible nature of the extraterrestrial creatures that have appeared there. As the professor decides to proceed with the investigation, the space pod opens, and a giant three-legged bionic construct later referred to as a ‘Tripod,” emerges from inside. No sooner does the shock of seeing an alien formation wane than the construct starts moving forward and incinerates most of the present population using its heat beam. The trio somehow escapes the horrendous situation and heads back to Herb’s home at Maybury Hill.
Who Is Baxter? How Did He Help The Team?
At home, seeing the televised updates, they get to know that multiple “cylinders” have landed across the country and Martians are wreaking havoc in the surrounding areas. The network access also gets compromised in the meantime, and communication with the outside world becomes impossible.
A soldier named Ben Baxter, whose entire troop has been decimated by the Martian invasion comes across the house and requests shelter. The trio provides Baxter with essential amenities, and using Herb’s walkie-talkie, they reach out to the only surviving military outpost in the nearest vicinity. Worried for his mother, Herb wishes to check up on her by traveling to Leatherhead but gets informed that a Tripod is causing destruction in a nearby location of the town. They are advised to reach the military outpost first to access the relatively safer riverway to London, as that’s where the survivors are being sent across all the vicinities.
Against their initial wishes to stay put at the house, the team, accompanied by Baxter, moves towards Weybridge, the surviving military outpost. As the Martians are detecting the heat signatures from vehicle exhausts, the bicycles the trio used come in handy. As a form of gratitude, Baxter offers them a separate boat to venture towards London at the military outpost. Just as the team is about to row its way out, a Tripod appears in the distance and begins annihilating the area. After a brief struggle, heavy firing from a number of combat aircraft manages to destroy it completely. Survivors are ecstatic after this small victory, which turns out to be short-lived as four other Tripods appear from behind and lay waste to the entire military outpost. The trio runs off into the wilderness and gets separated from Baxter.
Who Is The Curator? What Does He Want From The Trio?
During the rush, Hannah falls down and momentarily loses consciousness. The trio restarts their journey after she wakes up at night. They stick to the previous plan and row down the stream to reach London, but as the cold catches up to them, Oggy suggests they stop for the night and take shelter.
As they venture into the woods to look for shelter, they come across a Curate sitting alone in the wilderness. As they converse with him, it becomes clear that the God-obsessed man of faith is a doomsayer and somewhat senile, as he starts blaming the sins of the youth for the upcoming extinction of humanity in the form of God’s retribution. However, eventually, the curator directs them to a nearby house where they can find food and shelter and starts following them thereafter.
At the house, they find a stash of food and supplies, which makes it seem like the residents were planning to flee but perhaps couldn’t make it back home in time. The curator gets into an argument with Oggy regarding the distribution of the food supplies and threatens their lives by pointing a knife at them. The Curate forces them to stay at the place and reveals a disgusting, lecherous plan of his to repopulate humanity using Hannah. However, as his ramblings gradually start becoming incomprehensible, Herb questions him about his past and gets to know the Curate had lost his family earlier, and even his son, who was his last semblance of hope, passed away during the Martian invasion. Mentally completely broken, the curator lost touch with humanity.
As the curator falls asleep at night, the trio decides to flee from the house but gets caught in the midst of doing so. All of a sudden, a tripod appears and extends its tentacles through the window. As the teens rush outside, utilizing the distraction, the curator is taken inside the Tripod as the tentacles grasp him. While through the character Baxter, the survivor’s guilt and trauma of helplessness were shown in the face of an insurmountable threat like the Martians; the Curate represents the mental affliction caused by such a situation, which can tear down one’s intellectual capabilities.
Was The Martian Threat Nullified At The End?
As the teens spend the next day in a dilapidated township, they manage to communicate with Baxter once again using Herb’s walkie-talkie. They arrive at the rendezvous location, where Baxter is seen to have set up camp on his own.
Faced with the hopeless situation of being almost in a post-apocalyptic scenario, the group considers their future. While Baxter is of the opinion that they should spend the rest of their lives in hiding, staying inside sewers away from the Martian gaze, Herb argues that they should look for ways to counter the attack of the Martians and head to London. At last, despite Oggy’s repeated protests, the group decides to move and reach the devastated capital city. Hannah and Herb decide to scout the Martian Tripods to look for weak spots, and Oggy stays with Baxter, looking over the duo.
Herb and Hannah see one of the Martian cylinders nesting across a field and feeding the spores they hatch with captured humans’ evaporated essence. On the other hand, Oggy gets captured by one of the Tripods, and Baxter chases after it to rescue him. As Baxter manages to get the Tripod’s attention, it latches its tentacles on him too and brings him close to its frontal orifice, and Baxter sacrifices his life by detonating the grenades he had with him, saving Oggy’s life in the process as the Tripod breaks down.
Hannah and Herb return, and they get chased by another Tripod for a while. Herb suggests entering the sewer system for safety. The team is demoralized after witnessing Baxter’s death, and both Herb and Oggy react to it differently, leading to a nonsensical quarrel. Hannah somehow manages to calm them down as they spend the night in the sewers. Hannah wonders what the future might hold for them, if they have any to begin with, while Herb shares his concern for his mother’s survival.
The next morning, the chaotic sounds of the surface seemed to have stopped, and the team decided to take a look by going outside. After going through the woods a bit, they find the Martian organisms to be lying dead, and soon after that, Dr. Stint arrives at the scene escorted by military personnel. To clarify the utter confusion the teens have found themselves in, Prof. Stint states the reason why the Martians were eventually defeated. It is revealed that while all the human armament turned out to be ineffectual in countering the destructive and technologically superior Martians, Mother Nature herself sought out a remedy, as the Martians were infected with microbes and bacterial lifeforms and succumbed to them, as they had no resistance to the ailments that were alien in nature to them. Human egocentrism gets a deserving reality check, as viewers might wonder if we could face the same fate if millennia-old lifeforms frozen in the permafrost awaken and infect us, as the way we have aggravated global warming makes the chance of something like that happening more likely.
To Herb’s relief, his mother communicates with Dr. Stint, states that she is alright and heading toward home, and asks the trio to move there as well. As the movie ends, viewers see that unbeknownst to any of them, one of the spores has hatched, and a certain living organism is creeping outside. The open-ended conclusion makes viewers wonder whether the Martians have managed to adapt to Earth’s microbial forms after all, given the fact that the spores were fed with human essence. The answer to that can be clarified in a possible sequel installment, which the ending of the movie heavily teases.