War of the Worlds: Goliath
As soon as I got home from this movie, I Googled the Los Angeles 3D Film Festival straight away. Y'see, these are the guys who named this movie their Best Animated 3D Feature Film, beating out nominees that included major Hollywood releases such as ParaNorman and Madagascar 3. From what I can tell from their website, their raison d'etre is, indeed, the 3D film medium, the promotion of such, and the defense against any intimation that it's just a fad whose time will pass. So I'm guessing here that their idea of "best", when it comes to giving out their awards (and I have not been able to find out who their judges were - if they had any), refers to the purely technical quality of their 3D effects. And since I didn't watch this movie in 3D, I guess I missed out on its international-award-winning qualities.
Because by every other standard of filmmaking, War of the Worlds: Goliath suuuucks.
In 1899, the Martians attacked Earth - but were defeated by infections from the bacteria in our air. Fifteen years later, our technology has improved by leaps and bounds due to reverse-engineering the Martian war machines. As a child, Eric Wells (Peter Wingfield) witnessed the death of his parents during the first invasion; now he is a Captain in the A.R.E.S. (Allied Resistance Earth Squadrons) multinational force formed to combat the extraterrestrial threat, led by Secretary of War Theodore Roosevelt (Jim Byrnes) and General Kushnirov (Rob Middleton). He and his crew - comprising Jennifer Carter (Elizabeth Gracen), Patrick O'Brien (Adrian Paul), Shah (Tony Eusoff) and Abraham Douglas (Beau Billingsley) - receive command of the Goliath, their latest and most advanced battle tripod. But it comes not a moment too soon - because the Martians have returned, this time stronger than ever.
Yes, this is indeed a made-in-Malaysia film, because it's production company Tripod Films is a homegrown outfit. This despite the fact that its director (Joe Pearson), screenwriter (David Abramowitz), executive producer (Kevin Eastman) and majority of the voice cast (a bunch of former cast members of that '90s Highlander TV show) are all, um, "import players". Not that hiring import players is a bad thing, had it actually produced a good movie. But Joe Pearson is an animation director of much experience but little distinction; David Abramowitz is known only for the aforementioned Highlander TV series, several episodes of MacGyver and V from the '80s, and a direct-to-video Highlander anime spinoff movie; and Kevin Eastman is a co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it appears his name is attached to this solely because he holds the film rights for the Heavy Metal comic magazine, and this movie is based on one of the comic storylines. Not that I want to get nasty on these gentlemen, or imply that they are incapable of producing good work. But the fact is, they did terrible work here.
I had misgivings the moment I laid eyes on that poster. Look at those character designs. Do they look any better than a cheapo '90s Saturday morning cartoon? Oh, I thought, maybe they'll look better in motion, maybe the animation could be good. But it isn't. And it isn't even just the technical quality that's lacking; everything about the animation is lame and uninspired. From the way the characters move, to the palette of about 4 or 5 emotions each character's face is limited to, to the boring and unimaginative - and interminable - action scenes, to the fact that every male character has broader shoulders than a WWE wrestler. This is TV-quality animation; worse, it's TV-quality animation from at least 15 years ago. Charging cinema ticket prices (and 3D cinema ticket prices at that) for this is criminal.
Okay, there are the 3D-animated mechs, airships, WW1-era triplanes and Martian walkers - and the animation on these is jerky and cheap too. Which I could forgive if their designs were more imaginative, or even more true to the steampunk aesthetic that the movie is being advertised on. Considering the time period - and considering the fact that none of these vehicles appear to be running on steam - it's closer to dieselpunk, and this distinction is actually important to the fans you're advertising your movie to. Worst of all, the designs are dull. Every mech is a similar-looking, three-legged, boxy mass of guns that doesn't even look like a credible piece of early-20th-century technology.
And the storyline, the dialogue... good God, is Abramowitz really an experienced and produced Hollywood screenwriter? Was Highlander ever this bad? (I only watched a few episodes; I know the show has its fans, but I was never one.) Or did he just half-ass this screenplay? I think he half-assed this screenplay. The plot is slapdash, the characterisation is nonexistent, and the dialogue sounds like an extremely rushed first draft that Abramowitz never bothered to turn into a second draft. Even the character names are dull; they might as well have names like Girly McFemale and Paddy O'Stereotype. Like the animation quality, it's all lame and uninspired. The voice actors certainly can't do a damn thing with the dialogue - not even geek-cred luminaries like Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck) and Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural), both wasted in extremely minor roles. Adrian Paul sounds positively bored out of his skull reading his lines.
Oh, there's a Malaysian character in here. Shah is actually Raja Iskandar Shah, a Malay prince exiled from his royal court for joining A.R.E.S., and he's played by our very own Tony Eusoff. And at one point, he kills a Martian with a keris. Yay, Malaysia Boleh! (He also delivers one laughable line of Malay dialogue that I bet my right pinky will get cut out of international releases.) So with this ridiculous attempt at pandering to the homebase, are we supposed to be proud of this movie? No. There is nothing to be proud of - not even your meaningless award from an inconsequential film festival. Sorry guys; your movie sucks. It will satisfy no one other than 7-year-old children of harried parents rummaging through discount DVD bins looking for something to keep the little brats quiet for 82 minutes.
NEXT REVIEW: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 2
Expectations: well, it's finally over