The Great Martian War 1913–1917 is a 2013 Canadian/UK made-for-television science fiction docudrama film, produced by Michael Kot, Steve Maher, and Mike Slee, and also directed by Mike Slee, that unfolds in the style of an episode from the History TV Channel.
The film is, as presented, an alternative history of World War I in which Europe and its allies, and eventually America, fight Martian invaders instead of Germany and its allies. Europe is on tenterhooks in the 2nd decade of the 20th century. Everyone is expecting war between the European powers. Then Germany issues an urgent plea for help that changes the reason for that war. Many references to real events of The Great War are woven into the film’s fictional narrative. They include parallels to the conflict’s mass battles and defeats, as men are thrown against the war machines on the Western front, the Christmas truce, and the Angel of Mons, and America’s isolationism and late entry. There’s even a surprising twist on the worldwide “Spanish” flu epidemic that killed more people than the conflict itself.
The film is based on the 1897 science fiction novel The War of the Worlds, by English author H.G. Wells, and includes both new and digitally altered film footage shot during the War to End All Wars to establish the scope of the interplanetary conflict. The film’s original UK broadcast on 08 December 2013 happened during the first year of the World War I centennial; the film’s 2014 US cable TV broadcast during the second year followed almost nine months later.
Combining period archive materials with state-of-the-art special effects, The Great Martian War 1913–1917 features “previously recorded” interviews with now ageing or dead war veterans while looking back at the entire sweep of the interplanetary conflict. The war begins in the depths of Germany’s Bohemian Forest, following a massive explosion and shock wave that is felt by the rest of Europe. Elements of the German army are sent to investigate and are wiped out. The German government makes a panicked appeal for military assistance in fighting what turns out to be a powerful, non-human invading force thought to be from Mars.
As the conflict unfolds, the film showcases the devastation of Western Europe, where a rag-tag human alliance digs in against monstrous Martian fighting machines, unaware that deep flaws exist in their military leadership’s central battle strategy. Across the Atlantic, the film outlines the political battle for the White House as president Woodrow Wilson struggles to maintain US neutrality, all the while sending aid to the beleaguered European alliance. From the skies over central London, where biplanes battle a towering alien tripod, to the war’s catastrophic final act, the Allies, now standing on the brink of total defeat by the alien invaders, must decide if launching an untested and potentially devastating secret weapon is worth risking the lives of millions and causing a global pandemic.
Exploring the war’s events are modern historians with opposing views about the conflict’s many controversies. They most especially disagree on an incendiary new discovery by one of them centred around the uncrackable “Martian Code”, a vast century old cache of alien documents seized following the conclusion of the war. These documents now appear to contain the direst of warnings that the war may only be paused, with its second act now unfolding in a way no one can anticipate.
The War of the Worlds Film, TV Series & Documentaries
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Production & Filming Details
- Director: Mike Slee.
- Producers: Michael Kot, Steve Maher, and Mike Slee.
- Narrator: Mark Strong.
- Writers: Steve Maher and Stephen Sarossy.
- Cinematography: Christopher Romeike.
- Network: History Channel.
- Release Date: 08 December 2013.
- Running Time: 120 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.