Writer, Director Joe Pearson Talks ‘War of the Worlds Goliath’

WOTW-G-630With a “historical fiction” twist on the theme of enemies uniting to defeat a common foe, the animated action film War of the Worlds Goliath (see the trailer here), which hits select theaters Friday, depicts the second invasion of Martians just as Earth is on the verge of World War II a century ago. In this universe, having nearly been destroyed by the first battles in 1899, Man has rebuilt his shattered world, in large part by utilizing captured Martian technology.

Fans of history will particularly like the way the film merges real-life characters like Theodore Roosevelt and the infamous Baron von Richtofen into the narrative, as well as features of architecture (check out the alternative New York City!) which imagine 1914 technology, advanced by the events of 15 years prior. A bulletin even announces the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria!

Writer and Director Joe Pearson took some time to talk to Wizard World about the production, hinting at some additional stories that could find their way into a sequel.

Wizard World: I like how you integrated bits of actual history into the narrative. So if the Martians invaded, we might not have had World War I, let alone World War II?

Joe Pearson: Thanks for the kind words. I think you are right about an alien invasion canceling out the wars between nations. WWI clearly would have not happened. When a superior enemy is at your doorstep: a HUNGRY, blood sucking enemy, bent on flattening your cities and using the survivors as food, you would unite. It’s the old adage of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, in spades.

I think that WWII would be pretty much out the window as well. But it would be great to do a 1939 follow-up movie and explore what the our alternate history world would be like at that point.

And actually in the first sequel to War of the Worlds: Goliath that I’ve (optimistically) plotted out, we do find out that some countries have made their own “deal with the devil” alliances with the invaders. This will have a devastating effect on the rest of humanity.

WW: Are you a fan of Orson Welles’ telling of HG Wells’ WOTW and did that have an influence in the way you framed the story?

JP: Oh yeah, I’m a big fan of Orson in general and thought his Halloween broadcast was brilliant. My father worked at Paramount at the time and often regaled me with the story of how he and a panicked Hollywood mob broke into the armory at the studio to arm up to fight the invaders. True or not it’s a great story.

But I have to say that the 1938 broadcast was not an influence on War of the Worlds: Goliath. Neither were the two later films by Paramount. No real influence at all.

War of the Worlds: Goliath is a wholly original effort.

WOTW-GWW: There is more conflict than just Martians vs. Earthlings here; you have Patrick dealing with Sean, Sgt. Douglas balancing the team and his family, and Lt. Carter fighting for respect to a degree. Why did you include those subplots?

JP: I’m glad you picked up on that. David and I wanted to create some compelling back stories for every one of the Goliath crew members and  I only wish we had more time to explore all of these great characters and their past. If we get to do a sequel, that’s one of the things I want to bring into the film. I’ve got big plans for Patrick, Abe and Jennifer and all the rest. We’ll learn a lot more about them and their families. The same for Roosevelt, Tesla, Richtofen and the others.

I’m currently working with a great young writer, Adam Whitlach, on an expanded novelization of the movie and we are bringing in a lot more backstory for all of our Goliath Squad and the other major characters in the film. It’s great to be able to flesh them all out some more.

WW: The story is told from one side; did you ever consider putting a face to the Martians?

JP: Absolutely. The Martians certainly have a reason for what they do—they’re fighting for survival for their species. That’s something I want to explore in sequels as well.

WW: What was the biggest challenge in setting the events in 1914 but with futuristic technologies?

JP: Getting the right mixture of old and new and trying make it all look like a natural integration was a real challenge.

Early on in the production, it became very clear that we needed to lock in on a set of rules and guides that would give a unified feeling to the building and mecha of the film. After some eary models of more whimsical, steampunk tripods were proposed I realized that we needed more advanced and powerful looking mecha to go one-on-one with the Martian Tripods. I settled on a fusion of 1914 tech with the more powerful deco design and tech of the early ’30′s and with the added “twist” of the advanced Martian technology. So our A.R.E.S. tripods, planes, zeppelins, battlecruisers, trains, uniforms and buildings all reflect this “1914 meets 1930 meets Star Wars” motif.

The giant zeppelin—The Leviathan, and the mainline battle tripod—The Goliath, really reflect this aesthetic. They are powerful and dangerous looking. Well armed and armored “murder machines.” They need to be to have any chance of holding their own against an advanced invader.

We were blessed by having a top notch design team on board for the duration of the production—Studio Climb from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, headed up by Spencer Ooi and Wei Siong. They were easily the best design team I’ve ever worked with. Studio Climb locked in very quickly and brilliantly to the unique look we were all aiming for. They gave the movie 100% all the way and gifted us with big feature film quality work at its best.

Thanks again for the interest and support. Now that we’re racing towards our release, it’s all up to the audience and their reaction to this truly independent film. We don’t have the big production and distribution and PR budgets of the Hollywood Studios. We are going to sink and swim based on our target audience’s response to War of the Worlds: Goliath and word of mouth. We know they’re out there. The fans of anime,comics, steampunk, SF, Wells, retro-history, battle movies and animaton are many. The Geek Nation is strong (I say this as a life-long reader of sci-fi and comics). If they connect with our film and support us then we promise to make more stories about Eric and his team  and their unique world.

The War is just beginning!