Review: WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH, A Good Old Animated Steampunk Sci-fi Romp!
War of the Worlds: Goliath takes place 15 years after the first arrival of Martians. In the city of Leeds, England, a young Eric watches his parents get disintegrated by a Martian tripod. As H.G. Wells' story goes the Martians eventually fall to the tiniest of foes: bacteria. Goliath catches up with Eric in New York. The year is 1914.
Eric is a member of A.R.E.S. the Alien Resistance Earth Squadron. It is an international defense force that has been preparing for another Martian invasion because as Wells' story goes their world is dying and they need a new planet to live on. A.R.E.S. prepares for this invasion by building better weapons and adopting left over Martian technology. It is led by none other that Teddy "Carry A Big Stick" Roosevelt. Other historical figures making appearances in Goliath are Nikola Tesla and Manfred von Richthofen. In the 15 years since the first invasion solar orbits have brought Mars the closest it will ever be and signs indicate that another invasion is imminent. Eric and his team prepare to defend Earth at any cost.
Thematically, think of Goliath as somewhere between your after school cartoons and Heavy Metal (the Adult Swim of the early 80s). One of director Joe Pearson's favorite shots is the disintegration of anyone shot by the Martians heat rays. His time spent with Kevin Eastman at Heavy Metal Entertainment and his own recommendation of Heavy Metal as an essential SF cartoon (among others mentioned in my interview with him) has to be an influence to this. And though these meltings will be as graphic as Goliath gets there is no shortage of action and violence. Goliath ends with an impressive and lengthy final battle back at the London headquarters.
From the word "Martians!" there is plenty of action throughout the bulk of the film. And that is not the only heat on the screen. There is even an alluded - cough, cough- rendezvous between a couple of the characters. Off camera of course. So though you may think from the character design that this is a kids SF animated movie it clearly is not.
For an off-shore production in a country (Malaysia) not well known for its animation output and with a modest budget, the blending of hand drawn and computer generated animation is seamless. And though the character design is what I am going to dub the 'Bro, Do You Even Lift?' variety (Seriously. Even Teddy is built like a brick shithouse) the rest of the production design is pretty cool. If steampunk purists have any issue with any of the tech in the film that is between them and Pearson. I for one like the mech designs and the fusion of hi and lo tech. In my ignorance about steampunk I am satisfied with the results on screen.
As far as story goes Goliath is a straightforward sci fi steampunk adventure. Honestly, it does feel episodic; as if it were only part of a greater story. Goliath does end deliberately open ended. And sharing questions with the director, Joe Pearson, via e-mail I understand now that Pearson has a lot more story to tell, and if Goliath is successful he may be able to tell more stories from this retro-history universe he has created. Otherwise, themes of sacrifice, rising to the challenge, forsaking nationalistic ties for the greater good of humanity (remember that in 1914 the World was about to enter its own Great War) permeate throughout the story.
In the end War of the Worlds: Goliath is simply a good old, rip-roaring, steampunk sci-fi action film. Like all those good old, rip-roaring, steampunk sci-fi action films before it? Exactly. By going back to the era from which the source material was written and adding some flash with futuristic sci fi elements Pearson has created an unique take on the War of the Worlds story. Here is hoping that he is able to bring us more of his vision and story.