War of the Worlds (Open Movie SPOILERS)

In War of the Worlds: How vulnerable would space aliens be to terrestrial germs?, Cecil suggests “surely they could have invented a more effective way to save the human race.”

Of course, the movie is only paying homage to the original text (much like Cheaper by the Dozen had 12 kids), but Cecil is right. We should be able to come up with more effective ways. I’m thinking Rubik’s Cube

RM, I’ve edited the title. While I can’t imagine a reader of this forum being unaware of HG Wells ending to his book, there are some who are not sure whether the movie remains true to that or changes it. My son, for instance, was going to see the movie this weekend and has scrupulously avoided reading anything about it, so doesn’t know whether Spielberg was more creative than Wells.

Hence, I’ve added a spoiler warning.

mea culpa. Thank you, Dex, I haven’t seen the movie myself, so I hadn’t thought about it. Cecil put an editorial spoiler warning in the reader’s question.

Cecil seems to think bacteria is a better alternative. But what about mold? That would be topical. Or maybe the aliens blast open an old schoolhouse full of children and they get instant mesothelioma from asbestos?

An advanced race of space travellers would have eliminated many dangers to itself. Having done this long ago, they might now lack natural resistance. (I understand that smallpox is an example of this.)

I think we need to combine this with teenagers, who after all are the greatest danger to the human race. :eek:
So let’s make our invading aliens sensitive to the transmissions of text messaging + mobile phone calls!
Or perhaps a particularly obnoxious ringtone could aurally agitate aliens awfully (autopsy automatically 'appens).

Something I noticed is that Speilberg changed something of the original movie that made the new one less credible. In the original story, and the earlier movie, didn’t the alien ships just swoop down out of the heavens and start kicking butt? In the new one, those tripod things rise up out of the ground. This made for some neat special effects, but I immediately lost some of my suspense of disbelief, because my skeptical nature kicked into full gear: these things would have had to be there for decades, centuries in some cases, and we didn’t stumble upon any of them already?

Then at the end, they want us to believe that an advanced alien race studied us for hundreds of years, and just now came upon bacteria? At least in the original, the aliens were understandably ignorant of them. No excuse for these guys.

Before seeing the movie, my wife commented how she heard a radio host say that the ending was a surprise that they couldn’t say anything about or it would spoil it. I thought “well, I guess it can’t be germs, because everyone on the planet surely knows germs killed the aliens in the original.” So I myself was surprised by the ending.

So Son of Dex should be surprised? :slight_smile:

But, here’s a question: are viruses considered germs?

I think “germ” is considered synonymous with “pathogen”, and “pathogen” means “any small icky thing that causes transmissable disease”. So by that standard, viruses and indeed even prions (which are even further from being alive than are viruses) would be considered germs.

Ah, yes, but therein lies the true reason for the death of the aliens: The fuel sources for those tripods weren’t stored in OSHA-approved containers for all that time; there were leaks in the containment and by the time the pilots arrived, an extremely hazardous condition existed inside the tripods. You see, it wasn’t the terrestrial microbes that killed the aliens; it was their own folly!

1.) IIRC, in Wells’ chain of reasoning, the Martians had eliminated dangerous micro-organisms and viruses from their environment, and had basically forgotten about their possibility because it was so far from their unconscious expectations. It’s not that they weren’t smart enough to account for germs, but that they’d effectively forgotten about them. Germs were “the butler did it” of the interplanetary murder mystery.
2.) whenever anyone brings up the issue of deadly germs, someone else invariably says that a successful germ doesn’t kill its host. But in this case, we have the unstable situation where the germ’s met a new host and no equilibrium has been reached yet. If the germ is viable in its host, there’s no reason it can’t keep on killin’ until the hosts develop an immunity. Maybe the germ will prove unsuccessful and kill off all its hosts. But we won’t know that until they’re all dead, will we?

3.) If you raise the issue of micro-organism pests being adapted to their hosts, I’d suggest that there’s no reason that a non-picky-eater germ couldn’t completely overrun a host with no effective defenses, but which was perfectly delicious to the beasties. Imagine a bacteria culture in agar medium in a petri dish.

If we look at the analogy Wells employs – the conquerors unknowingly employing pathogens for victory – shouldn’t we (the human race) be the ones to succumb to the diseases of the invaders (the aliens)?

I haven’t seen the remake (I was very excited but heard so much hoo-haa that I decided I could wait until it’s on the little screen) but I do agree that a better ending should have at least been considered. (Bear in mind that if Spielberg had changed the ending there’s a high likelihood that we’d all be moaning about why Hollywood always wants to improve on something that was good to begin with.) Perhaps introducing the invaders to crack cocaine and Twix cookie bars could have thrown them off their imperialist path. Perhaps.

Oh – and as this is my first post, let me get this out of my system: :slight_smile: :rolleyes: :dubious: :wink: :smack: :stuck_out_tongue: :wally :smiley: :confused: :o :eek: :frowning: :mad:

What CalMeacham said. In the original book, the Martians didn’t die of any one disease so much as they rotted alive. (Although that still presumes the Martians were made of something that terrestrial bacteria or molds could digest).

No, the analogy is to European explorers trying to conquer Africa and dying of malaria and sleeping sickness. :wink:

regarding these comments in both the question and answer:

I’d just like to say… HELLO! WE’RE STILL HERE, PEOPLE!

CalMeacham is spot on. At least in the original version, the Martians had wiped out all bacteria/viruses many generations ago. Coupled with the desperate attempt to leave their dying planet, this isn’t too hard to believe in my estimation.

Of course, since they killed all their bacteria, we didn’t get wiped out either.

The movie hinted at a natural combined terrestrial defense (birds/bacteria/humans) against the aliens. That suggests that the terrestrial ecosystem did not evolve on Earth – it also has extraterrestrial origins, and is evolved to fend off alien attacks.

So it isn’t like Europeans vs. Africans, it is more like a predatory bird accidentally eating an unfamiliar variety of poisonous frog.

Human beings only play a role in the terrestrial ecosystem, like a specialized tissue; every organism in the terrestrial ecosystem is important for survival in the Galactic ecosystem. Eventually humans will develop into a sort of reproductive organ by developing space travel like the aliens.

As Cal and Lumpy stated earlier, in the book Welles attributes the main part in the demise of the Martians to the microorganisms that cause decompositiob, rather than a specific disease pathogen – the decay microbes are indeed mostly bacteria and molds/fungi.

The microbes are key to keeping Wells’ spirit in the work. From the beginning of the book, where the intellects vast and cold and unsympathetic behold man much as man does the “infusoria” that swim in a droplet under the microscope, to the end in which the invaders are vanquished by “the smallest and humblest in creation” it’s all about we being put in our place, knocked off from our security in our empire over matter, and being reminded that we can be laid low by those greater, and by those lesser, and everyone is just rotting flesh in the end. The protagonist ends the book a very shaken up man.

Not necessarily extraterrestrial origins, as such. It would be Gaia having an immune system that contains all these elements, and which antibodies could have developed through prior exposure to alien arrivals – i.e. like our bodies’ reactions to vaccines.

Well’s aim was to draw European attention to the deliberate policy of genocide being practised by Britain in Tasmania. He was not attempting to draw attention to the ravages caused by “european” germs on native races. The Tasmanians were nearly completely wiped out by the white settlers and socialist Wells was appalled. “War of the Worlds” aimed at alerting the British to what their empire was capable of. In the novel, the Tasmanians were replaced by the English and the Martians were the European conquerors. Wells couldn’t bring himself to have the Martians win ie defeat the world’s mightiest empire, so he allowed the conquerors to be eventually destroyed by means outside man’s control - Wells knew quite well this was a cop out.

Unfortunately, the genocidal episodes of the 20th and 21st centuries has pushed the Tasmanian episode back into the veil of long dead history and the “War of the Worlds” is now just a good basis for SF movies - some good, most bad.

Good point. I’ve sometimes tried to imagine how the novel might have proceeded without the microbial deus ex machina: the Martians in control of the Earth, with humans hiding in the wilderness or underground (as in the Artilleryman’s fantasy). Perhaps the Martians would maintain herds of us as food animals.

Okay, that’s a little depressing, although I can also imagine a resistance that would turn the Martians’ own weapons against them, wipe them out, learn from their technology and go to Mars and lay waste to their whole miserable effin’ red planet! Thanks, I feel better.

Ever read “Of Men and Monsters”, by William Tenn?

I must say that the spoiler doesn’t work very well. The title of Uncle Cece’s article is “War of the Worlds: How vulnerable would space aliens be to terrestrial germs?” Then he comments that there is a “spoiler warning” despite the ending of the movie has already been given away in the column’s title. This is akin to if, back in the 1970s, you were to have put a spoiler warning in an article entitled “Planet of the Apes: How likely is it that an advanced race of apes could conquer the Earth?” Sorry, just had to vent.

That’s pretty much exactly what I was going to say (but not as elegantly) after reading Cecil’s column. Wells’s germs ending may not work scientifically, but it totally works thematically and would’ve been foolish to change. The overall theme is “don’t get too cocky, humanity!” We could be defeated in less than a week by a superior alien race, and they in turn could be defeated by the smallest of organisms. Our strongest weapons aren’t tanks or nukes, but balance and equilibrium.

And of course, Spielberg teaches us that our most vulnerable parts are our hearts, which could be quickly defeated by a clear-eyed girl who’s wise beyond her years.