One day, whilst browsing Netflix, I came across an obscure movie whose premise sounded so crazy and unusual that I decided I just had to give it a try. Something about Teddy Roosevelt and Nikola Tesla battling Martians in the First World War.
An anime from Malaysia (of all places), Goliath is actually meant to be a sequel to the events of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The year is 1914, and as the whole world stands on the brink of war following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Martians decide it’s the perfect opportunity to take a second crack at Earth. The Martians have developed an immunity to Earth’s microorganisms, and their technology has improved. This time, they mean to finish the job.
But Earth is not unprepared. In the years following the first Martian invasion, humanity has succeeded in adapting alien technology for its own use, and ARES — an international organization devoted to the defense of Earth — is ready to meet this new threat.
The Netflix description was actually a bit misleading. While Teddy Roosevelt and Nikola Tesla both make appearances, the focus is on the crew of the ARES tripod Goliath, hence the title. The crew is a reflection of ARES itself, a multinational assortment showcasing the full breadth of humanity: an English orphan, a reformed Irish terrorist, an Indian prince, a family man from Canada, and the daughter of an American railroad tycoon.
I came into this movie expecting a fairly mindless romp, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by the strength of the characters. Considering the size of the cast, the relative shortness of the movie, and the abundance of action sequences, all the characters feel pretty well-developed, and I quickly came to care quite strongly about all of them. Simply put, this movie has heart.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the message of human unity that War of the Worlds: Goliath puts front and center. It’s a simple message, but no less meaningful for that: We are all human. We must put aside our differences, and work together.
The movie begins with the world about to tear itself apart, but people of good conscience — particularly the Goliath crew — refuse to let pettiness, greed, and prejudice destroy them. They choose to stand together.
I love stories like that.
That said, this is of course still an action movie first and foremost, and there is no shortage of pew pew. From aerial dogfights, to pitched tripod battles, to apocalyptic struggles in the streets of Manhattan, to an Indian guy shanking a Martian, to Teddy Roosevelt single-handledly facing down an entire squadron of alien attack fighters, it’s got it all.
Fun as it is, War of the Worlds: Goliath does still have its problems. Strong characters and message aside, the story is very basic, lacking any significant complexity, twists, or depth. The ending lacks anything resembling a clear or satisfying resolution, and there’s very little coherence to the plot — it mostly just careens from one idea that sounded cool to the next.
But most of the time it’s so fun you’re not likely to care.
Overall rating: 7.9/10 It’s like Pacific Rim with better characters.