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In the latest adaption of War Of The Worlds, Ray and his daughter are captured by a Tripod. There is a scene where the tentacle comes down to take someone back into the Tripod and we are given a glimpse of the underside of the pod.

There is something written on the pods in what seems to be the alien's language.

This is the scene:

And this is a still of the letters:

Still of a closeup of the tripod with the alien letters circled on the underside to highlight them

Obviously a lot of the letters are blocked from view, and the letters could possibly be just made up by the directors (what I mean is, they possibly did not use some sort of ancient writing style that actually exists).

Has there been any documentation in (unlikely) or out of universe as to what was written on the pods?

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  • 11
    "Do not walk outside this area"
    – motoDrizzt
    Apr 15, 2017 at 10:23
  • 20
    Probably "No Step"
    – Valorum
    Apr 15, 2017 at 11:43
  • 11
    "THIS SIDE OUT"
    – Joe L.
    Apr 15, 2017 at 12:38
  • 9
    "If you can read this you are too close" Apr 15, 2017 at 13:42
  • 17
    "Anti-vax and proud of it!"
    – Kenster
    Jun 27, 2017 at 12:02

2 Answers 2

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Production Designer Rick Carter (the individual with overall responsibility for the the film's "visual look") was kind enough to respond to my query on the subject. I'm sure he won't mind me sharing his response.

Q. Does this script have any specific meaning or were the symbols simply selected as 'weird alien looking stuff' to put on the wall?

RC: Just weird stuff as I recall...

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  • I've reached out to other members of the production team via twitter and email. I'll update if any more of them come back
    – Valorum
    Feb 18, 2019 at 21:28
  • 1
    @Joachim - Bellisario's Maxim. Films are made by people on a tight budget, with limited time and who need to get the shot in the can and moved onto the next thing. Not everything can afford to be Star Wars.
    – Valorum
    Apr 8, 2022 at 15:49
  • 3
    @Joachim - Because what you lovingly refer to as backstory costs time, effort and money. Paying a linguist to come up with a new language sounds great, but it costs a bundle and it adds a layer of complexity that's completely unneeded for a split-second shot that's just there to remind the audience that you're looking at an alien ship; businessinsider.com/…
    – Valorum
    Apr 8, 2022 at 17:22
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    @Joachim - I picked Arrival as an example of a film that is enhanced by them spending (by my estimate about $100,000) on developing a written language for the film, because it's used throughout and can be parlayed into marketing and hype. By comparison these symbols (in WotW) serve a single purpose. In this shot, they're there to remind people that it's an alien ship so they don't get confused when they look up from their popcorn and wonder where we are now.
    – Valorum
    Apr 8, 2022 at 17:35
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    @Joachim - What's to justify. It serves its purpose and cost nothing. That sounds like an ideal trade-off between functionality and art
    – Valorum
    Apr 8, 2022 at 17:49
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Perhaps it's the aliens' equivalent of "nose art" -- essentially meaningless except to the pilot.

B-29 1945 showing the nose art of a man in a circle with "The Great Artist" written above it

However, the just weird stuff explanation is best. Spielberg wanted his aliens to be mysterious and inexplicable. H. G. Wells' Martians were seen as untenable to 21st-century filmgoers, consequently, these aliens come from somewhere so distant that we can have no foreknowledge of conditions there, the aliens' technology, or even their motivation for attacking us. Spielberg didn't waste production time concocting a back-story. He wanted designs for the aliens themselves and their fighting machines -- how they moved, how they sounded -- with lots of detail so that every shot remained visually interesting but with little or no explanation of what those details represent.

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  • Interesting about the "inexplicable" idea, because the choices they made about the behavior and appearance of the individual aliens (in the team which entered the basement) make them seem not dissimilar to us -- their interest in the bicycle and the photos of humans makes sympathetic and not particularly threatening.
    – releseabe
    Apr 17, 2022 at 8:59
  • Regarding the alien EVA team, their interest in the bicycle may be an homage to the original material. In the epilog of H.G. Wells' novel, terrestrial research into the machines left by the Martians revealed that their technology displayed no reliance on the concept of the wheel. May 13, 2022 at 4:46
  • but unlike the novel, the aliens seemed completely unthreatening. wells was simplistic -- if they electric motors they wheels. they must have had gears.
    – releseabe
    May 13, 2022 at 6:49

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