- Apr 2019
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century
GANGNES: Adaptations of The War of the Worlds have tended to modify their settings to match those of their main audience. To aid in establishing their time periods and locations, they open with a prologue that is similar to this one, but with several details changed to suit the adaptation.
The 1938 RADIO DRAMA (Orson Welles, Mercury Theatre on the Air)) begins: "We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood which by chance or design man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space. Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the great disillusionment."
The 1953 FILM ADAPTATION (Byron Haskin)) includes a bit of narration before the title that briefly discusses war technology from WWI and WWII, then begins: "No one would have believed, in the middle of the twentieth century, human affairs were being closely watched by a greater intelligence. Yet, across the gulf of space, on the planet Mars, intellects vast and unsympathetic regarded our Earth enviously, slowly and surely drawing their plans against us."
The 2005 FILM ADAPTATION (Steven Spielberg)) begins: "No one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century, that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied. Like the way a man with a microscope might scrutinize the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro about the globe, confident of our empire over this world. Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects, vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our plant with envious eyes. And slowly and surely, drew their plans against us."
Perhaps most interestingly, the opening lines were modified to fit a fictional setting: the DC Comics universe. The DC "Elseworlds" comic "SUPERMAN: WAR OF THE WORLDS") (1988) accommodates the existence of Krypton in this way: "No one would have believed, in the early decades of the twentieth century, that the Earth was being watched keenly and closely across the gulf of space by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own. One such older world was Mars, where minds that are to our mind as ours are to the beasts--intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic--regarded Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. Another such world, unknown alike to our earth and to the red planet... was the doomed sphere called Krypton." The narration goes on to link the fates of Earth, Mars, and Krypton to establish their similarities and draw them together under the Elseworlds Martian invasion.