'War of the Worlds' Episode 1 Review: Focused, fast-paced beginning shows promise in fresh take on classic
The article contains major spoilers for 'War of the Worlds' Season 1 Episode 1
Compelling. EPIX's re-imagined version of the H.G. Wells classic doesn't take its foot off the pedal since the opening minute. There have been enough adaptations of the cult story and irrespective of platforms, the intergalactic threat saga never gets old. Tom Cruise wading his way through, weaving in and out of the city, eluding death rays in Spielberg's hit 2005 part-thriller, part-horror flick of the same name, and the three-part BBC miniseries 'The War of the Worlds', an Edwardian period adaptation were solid examples of why this storyline could be borrowed time and again. The only challenge is to make it a notch better than the predecessors.
There's no ultimate crescendo in EPIX's 'War of the Worlds'. Episode 1 firmly establishes that threat is imminent and tries to capture the raw fear and gripping horror. It almost succeeds. Set in present-day France and England, it fast-tracks its way to showcasing a near dystopian world.
What works for now is the fact that the series ropes in multiple families to create a pattern. There's enough backdrop about these characters and they're thrust into danger almost immediately. Astronomer Catherine Durand (Léa Drucker) is the first to make note of queer transmissions. They're so cutting edge that it's abnormal, and all the while, there's that feeling something's amiss. Her descriptions and notes of the signal plunge government officials into worry and even as the try and work out the situation, the invaders blast through the stratosphere.
Bill Ward's Gabriel Byrne is a neuroscientist. Noticing the abnormal pulses emanating from the "spherical, metallic, non-porous" objects, he figures out the aliens' plan of attack. And while he understands the hysteria that's unfurling around him, he rushes to save his estranged wife (Elizabeth McGovern). Sarah Gresham (Natashas Little) is blitzing through the crowded and panic-stricken streets to save her teen kids, played by Ty Tennant and Daisy Edgar-Jones. The latter is blind, but her heightened senses give the family the first indication of the imminent danger.
Between the character-building and the impending invasion are some modern-day references. Ross 128 b, confirmed Earth-sized exoplanet at a distance of about 11 light-years from Earth, gets a passing reference. The ATEL (The Astronomer's Telegram) and ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) are shown to play pivotal roles in determining the purpose and specs of the new arrivals.
'War of the Worlds' is focused. cleverly-made and is thoroughly full of suspense. For those who hoped for flying saucers, 'Independence Day'-ish scrimmages, emotional and adrenaline-pumping speeches, the slick series makes sure it's past all the man vs aliens plotline. This attack could be a possibility and it necessarily doesn't have to come from Mars.
Having a star-studded cast and a great crew adds to the list of reasons to watch the sci-fi drama, but all along there is one challenge that comes with a hugely intriguing pilot— consistency. Hopefully, it wouldn't mar the promise the series has brought.
'War of the Worlds' airs Sundays 9 pm ET on Epix.