Last night our family watched Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film adaptation of ‘War Of The Worlds.’ My husband and daughter had seen it before, but it was new to me. I remembered reading the book when I was twelve and newly excited by Science Fiction and therefore was anxious to see how Mr. Spielberg had handled the material. I found myself incredibly bored approximately thirty minutes into the movie, after hearing Dakota Fanning scream for the millionth time as Tom Cruise declared for the ten millionth time that in one way or another he knew what he was doing. I know this is a rather tardy critique of a movie released a good three years ago, but bear with me. Absolutely nothing in the movie resembled the book, creative licence notwithstanding. I somehow doubt, although I’m taking assumption to the furthest degree here, that H.G. Wells intended his story to be told this way: completely devoid of imagination, heavy on the special effects and totally removed from the core story. Even the characters were new, not a creation of the original author of the book! After we had martyred ourselves on the bad movie altar, my husband and I began to discuss other adaptations of this book and naturally this led to the most famous of all, Orson Wells CBS radio broadcast on ‘Mercury Theatre On The Air’. You can listen to the original broadcast here: Orson Wells War Of The Worlds
Although Orson Wells minimally altered the book to be read as actual news broadcasts, thus panicking a number of people who believed it to be authentic, he did an excellent job as an artist. He utilized the imagination of his audience to create in the reality of the audience an unreal world. He said the words, they created the rest. Amazing!
The essential gist of the chat with my husband Paul, was that the visuals have killed the imagination of a generation and all but annihilated some wonderful literature in the process. Typically, most people do not read the book anymore. Instead they rely on a film maker to do the imagining for them and thus render themselves creatively numb.
Several years ago when I was young, before MTV, we had radio. Unless you were dealing with a superstar band like The Beatles, or teen idols such as Donny Osmond or David Cassidy, your imagination is all you had to create a visage from the intonations of the voice. We have lost something with the avalanche of visual stimulation via video games, special effects blockbuster movies and virtual reality. We already had virtual reality back then, it came with the package called the human mind. Lately I’ve been noticing a pining for times past, not just within myself and friends, but also within the publishing industry itself. Very few writers want to do away with the print medium, and rightly so. It’s anathema to the art of writing itself to remove the tangible physcal result of so much love and labour: a book. It is exactly the same with the loss of personal visualization. We’re humans and we need to internalize experiences to give them meaning. Movies don’t do that. Words Do. Spoken aloud or read silently without the artificial influence of a movie screen. Scary stories told around a campfire just wouldn’t have the same impact if we took along a portable DVD player and screen and plunked it down amid the campers to watch ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’. People would cease to interact with each other or the story teller. You have to admit, there isn’t much connection going on between a human being and a television. Passive involvement is no involvement. However, there is hope for old war horses like myself. Lately I’ve been finding myself more and more drawn to the idea of books on CD or a newly acquired addiction, short story radio broadcasts such as this: Short Story Radio
Sometimes, when I’m too tired to read, or just wanting to relive the comfort of the childhood bedtime story, I tune into this internet/radio experience and allow my inner creator to imagine my soul away down the path forged by the words of the writer.