wotwg-2In 1899, the Earth was attacked by ruthless invaders from the planet Mars. H.G. Wells’ Martians, with their massive Tripod battle machines, laid waste to the planet, but the invaders ultimately fell prey to Earth’s bacteria. Fifteen years later, humans have rebuilt their shattered world, in large part by using captured Martian technology. Now equipped with their own steam-powered Tripod battle machines, an international force has become mankind’s first line of defense against the return of the rapacious Martian invaders. Based in a massive fortress at the south end of Manhattan, the young warriors train under the leadership of Secretary of War, Theodore Roosevelt, and the grim General Kushnirov. When the Martian invaders return on the eve of World War I, the various countries must forget their differences and work to defeat the enemy.

A re-imagined steampunk version of 1914 New York is just one of the charms of the 3D epic War of the Worlds: Goliath that was directed by Joe Pearson and written by David Abramowitz. I spoke to the pair recently by phone.

wotwg-posterDanny Miller: I can only imagine how long it takes to make something of this scale. How long have you been working on this project?

Joe Pearson: Believe it or not, I first conceptualized War of the Worlds: Goliath in 1997. I was working on Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys back then and my crew had some down time so I wrote the initial treatment and character bios and had my team do some initial design work. We pitched it to the studios and they said, “This is kind of old-fashioned, we don’t think kids are going to get it.” And I thought, “Isn’t Star Wars kind of old-fashioned?” It actually took us until 2006 to get investors — we partnered with some great people in Malaysia. And then we worked on the film — largely in Malaysia and Korea — from 2007 through 2012! The whole process was about as long as World War I!

David Abramowitz: Oh, much longer, actually! The deal-making process in the world of independent film would make the Ottoman Empire and Byzantine world seem pretty simple by comparison. But the film is finally  here!

Do you think of it as a sequel to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds?

Joe: In a very loose kind of way! The story and the look of the film were dictated by our decision to place most of the action in 1914. As you know, the invasion in the novel took place at the end of the 19th century. We thought that 1914 was such a crucial year in world history — the end of an age of innocence and the beginning of such a massive global conflict. It seemed like just enough time that the world could have gotten itself up and running again after the initial alien invasion so we decided to set our story during this pivotal time.

I love the message in the film that even with all those international crises looming, everyone comes together to fight this menace from another world. Maybe we just need Martians to target the Ukraine and other trouble spots we’re facing today!

David: Nothing brings people together faster than a common enemy. That would be good!

I thought it was interesting how you had these characters from different countries working together to defeat the Martians despite the pressures they were getting from their own governments. One of my favorite movie lines of the year so far is when the German character shouts, “Deutschland can kiss my ass!”

(Laughs.) Thank you, we enjoyed that one!

Which made me think about your intended audience for this kind of animated feature. Obviously lines like that would not have passed muster in a Disney movie!

Joe: Right. Originally we were getting a lot of support from Heavy Metal magazine. We were going to make it as a true R-rated film. We wanted to tap into that audience with some edgier material than you usually see in a film like this even though that focus changed a little as time passed. We do have footage of a very graphic and sensitive sex scene that we ended up cutting from the film!

Oh, too bad! I guess that’s something for the DVD extras!

Definitely. Animé sex can be very startling! (Laughs.) We also had a lot more bad language. We had to record a softer version for release in Malaysia. One of my favorite scenes in the film — I don’t think it’s ever been seen in an animated feature before — is when one of the characters actually flips the bird to the tripod and there’s a reverse-angle shot with his finger up proudly.

Not something you’d see the Little Mermaid doing! But speaking of Disney films, I have to compliment you on the gorgeous, lush score.

That was written by Luka Kuncevic, a young composer from the Czech Republic. I think he’s as good as any film composer working today.


How did you find your voice talent?

David: I was the show runner of the Highlander TV series for six years. Many of the people in our cast are from that show: Peter Wingfield who plays Eric, Adrian Paul, Elizabeth Gracen, Jim Byrnes who plays Teddy Roosevelt. We had a rollicking good time! There was one day where we had to record the lovemaking scene with Peter and Elizabeth. They were in the same room grunting and groaning and they couldn’t even look at each other! It was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen — they were both acting wonderfully but blushing like hell. That voiceover session could have made a hooker blush!

The way the film ends it seems like you’re really set up for a sequel.

From your mouth to God’s ears! In this business you live on hope!

Joe: We love the world we created here and we’re very interested in building a franchise. It would be fantastic to do a sequel and to be able to use all the knowledge we learned the hard way on this film.


War of the Worlds: Goliath opens on March 7, 2014, in select cities (in both 3D and 2D versions) and will be available on DVD/Blu-ray on April 1.