No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that the most faithful adaption of the H G wells story would be a rock opera. No one could have dreamed that such a rock opera would be awesome Few men even considered such an outlandish notion of such an adaption. But across the gulf of space, musical talents immeasurably superior to ours viewed such a notion with challenge, and slowly and surely, they wrote their music to wow us.
The War of the Worlds Rock Opera by Jeff Wayne is a musical adaptation of H G Well’s science fiction classic. It’s a most unusual adaption and frankly bizarre when you think about it. You have a story about how the major super power of the world, thought of as unstoppable by some of its residents,is completely obliterated by an advanced alien race, and then the tale of the survivor hiding from the aliens and the fall of the Martians ( it’s basically 100 years old now, if you don’t know the story of how the Martians died, maybe you’re from Mars?) This is considered a dark story ,especially given what the aliens do, and yet, here we have it turned into a musical, and a really good one, the choice of progressive and symphonic rock works great giving the Martians this unearthly feeling.
When I did this review, previously all I had done is listen to various tracks from the musical (mainly Eve of War, oh I can play that over and over) but in both versions, as a few years ago a new version was released which featured Liam Neeson as the narrator (which made me constantly think of him doing the line from Taken to the Martians, which kind of ruins the menace a little in favour of a laugh). But I can honestly say that either is a good listen so I can’t recommend one over the other.
The story is told by a narrator and song, the narrator not singing yet still communicating to us during the songs, and some of the lines repeated in the song like during the Eve of War when the famous line is used “the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he said” leading into song ” but still, they come“. The mixture of a narrator and song actually works surprisingly well, another testimony to how well they did this.
I think one of the most interesting things about this musical, is despite numerous adaptions, this is the most faithful to the book. While the movies change the setting to the United States of America and it was moved to the modern age. However the rock opera is set during the British Empire much like the book, it has some minor changes but nothing compared to other adaptations (no really the rock opera is more faithful to the book than even the Spielberg movie, and not just by the change in setting). In this version a few of the Tripods are actually taken down by Earth weapons, but it’s nothing compared to how much they destroy, it’s about a whole artillery regiment consolidating fire to take one down, and then they fire back. With the other adaptions they made the Martians are utterly unstoppable so seeing them actually take out one or two Tripods with conventional weapons was a bit of surprise.
I can indeed recommend this to people. If you are a fan of the book (or movies, or infamous radio broadcast) you will love this take on it seeing major parts of the books told through song, and for those that only know of the book (because I find it hard to believe that anyone reading this doesn’t at least know of the tale how the Martians are taken out by bacteria) will find the music entertaining and enjoyable (as said I listened to the Eve of War over and over some times). I personally find this my favourite adaption of the classic story, though it does diminish a little from the chilling terror of the Martians as you get up and boogie to the music.