Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring C. Thomas Howell, Christopher Reid, Kim Little, Fred Griffith, Jonathan Levit
Directed by C. Thomas Howell
I originally had no intention of watching or reviewing The Asylum’s sequel to their first ever mockbuster, but then Johnny Butane had to go and list War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave in this week’s DVD new releases even though it really isn’t horror related. I’m convinced this had to be some sort of April Fool’s rib on yours truly; his way of throwing down the gauntlet and daring me to review another Asylum film in hopes of another mental meltdown. I envision Mr. Butane sitting at his computer, rubbing his hands together and hoping my watching this would lead to another tirade along the lines of my audio review of The Asylum’s Monster. Oh, how I loathed that film. Here I was enjoying a lovely two-month sabbatical away from Asylum films until … to quote the most famous line from The Godfather Part III, “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.”
For those unfamiliar with 2005’s H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, this was the mockbuster that started The Asylum’s mockbuster mentality. Designed to coincide with the theatrical release of Spielberg’s version, The Asylum’s was also a modernized adaptation of Wells’ classic novel, and who better to star in such a film than Soul Man himself, C. Thomas Howell? Howell is back again as alien battling scientist George Herbert, and this time He got to direct the film, too.
If you know anything about the tale that is War of the Worlds – I’m assuming you do – then you already know how and why the aliens lost. The Next Wave picks up two years later with the failed invasion having left the world in total shambles. Given the amount of desolation, lack of resources, and few people to be seen, I began wondering if I wasn’t actually watching I Am Omega 2 instead. Things are so bad that when George’s young son Alex gives him a birthday present, it turns out to be canned food because, apparently, canned food is no longer that easy to come by.
Yet, despite the world having been reduced to a bombed out wreck and civilization having been set back considerably, the “Free Forces” military and scientific regime, whose base looks very much like an old abandoned factory, has been outfitting F-22 fighter planes with leftover alien technology, making them capable of space travel and firing laser beams. They can do that, but canned food is scarce, gasoline even scarcer and telecommunications are practically non-existent?
The Martians are plotting a second attack. Alex gets captured by them; and George, ever the determined father, gets himself captured, braving being covered in rubbery smegma and trying to keep from getting turned into a living juice box in hopes of rescuing his boy. All the while, our new and alien improved Air Force flies off to outer space for a showdown with the alien mothership. This will lead to some Independence Day style aerial and even outer space dogfighting that left me with a strange urge to play Xevious.
Early in there are about ten non-stop minutes of technobabble about the aliens and their technology – enough to make your head spin. The longer it goes on, the screenwriters will even work in talk of computer codes, biomechanics, the mesosphere, wormholes, time jumping, and some sort of a mutant virus. Things even take a little foray into The Matrix territory before it’s over. There’s enough scientific mumbo jumbo crammed into one movie to make your head spin.
But for all the ideas the script has, it’s overwritten in terms of scientific explanations, underwritten in terms of narrative – quite disjointed, and the dialogue is of the tin ear variety. Editing that smacked of a last minute rush job also did the movie no favors. Too often this film felt like it was buying its time, like it didn’t have enough story to fill 90 minutes and there wasn’t enough budget to fill that extra time with fancy special effects work.
This time the alien threat isn’t terribly threatening either. The aliens end up feeling less like a malevolent force and more like a storytelling means to an end. The focus is almost exclusively on the human characters, all well and good as long as they’re people you feel anything for. They’re not. Most don’t even feel like real people. You’ve got C. Thomas Howell making the face of an angry confused old man more often than I bet even he realizes and an allegedly brainy female scientist played by an actress who thought it would be a good idea to do so with a bad Dolly Parton twang in her voice that made every word out of her mouth sound phony.
George’s quest to save his son will have him meet up with Christopher Reid. Remember the hip-hop duo Kid’n’Play that starred in the House Party flicks? Christopher Reid was “Kid”; his high flat top hairdo is long gone and his latest house party is being held at The Asylum. Being black, even light-skinned black, Reid is reduced to yelling “shit” a lot and hamming it up like Will Smith’s cowardly brother. It’s not so much a bad performance as it is a badly written stereotype of a character.
Though uneven, most of the CGI is surprisingly above average for an Asylum production. Unfortunately, the low budget only allows for the f/x in brief spurts and without much by way of variety. I got the sense that the majority of the production cost went into the CGI work, leaving the rest of the production feeling impoverished.
War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave ended up feeling like a lesser 1950’s science fiction movie, the kind that was long on ambition but short on entertainment value, though not a complete waste of time. In other words, meh.
Alright, Mr. Butane, I accepted your challenge. But I’ll be damned if I’m reviewing the DVD extras!
2 out of 5
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