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The War Of The Worlds: The New Generation - Alive On Stage! (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/04/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

The stage show of Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds has its share of impressive and spectacular moments, but you're constantly reminded of the remove and the overall experience doesn't really translate to the cinema screen.

What's it all about?
Directed by Nick Morris, The War of the Worlds – Alive On Stage! is a filmed performance of Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds stage show, based on Wayne's 1978 double concept album that was inspired by HG Wells' classic novel about a Martian invasion. Using a combination of a 45 piece orchestra (directed by Wayne himself, on stage), a giant projection screen, some flashy pyrotechnic effects, various actors and a holographic Liam Neeson (as journalist and Wells stand-in George Herbert), the show tells the story of the Martian invasion and near-conquering of Earth, with the narrating journalist encountering various characters (Jason Donovan as a priest, the Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson as an artilleryman) along the way.

The Good
Filmed at London's O2 Arena, the visual elements of the stage show are undeniably impressive, with all manner of pyrotechnics and giant alien machines on display. The music, on the other hand, is very much of its time, so if you're not already familiar with the material, your enjoyment is largely going to depend on your tolerance for 1970s prog rock.

There is, admittedly, a certain amount of curiosity value in the show's inclusion of a holographic Liam Neeson; on the one hand, it's a nod to Richard Burton, who played the journalist on the album and appeared in back projection in the original production, but on the other it's weirdly distracting, especially as the journalist's ‘sung thoughts’ are performed by Marti Pellow (who looks ridiculously pleased with himself throughout) - were they unable to find an actor with both sufficient gravitas and a decent singing voice?

The Bad
Ultimately, the film doesn't really convey the experience of attending the stage show, since you're constantly reminded of the remove. That said, the one thing you do get with the film version that's absent from the stage version is close-ups of the actors, though whether that's adequate compensation is another matter, as the actors are, after all, doing big stage-projection acting, not intimate close-up acting, and it shows.

Worth seeing?
Despite a handful of impressive moments, it's hard to see The War of the Worlds - Alive On Stage! appealing to anyone who isn't already a fan of the stage show/concept album. That said, if you were desperate to see it on stage and you missed it, this is the next best thing.

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Content updated: 21/08/2018 06:39

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