Q: I read where Steven Spielberg's next movie will be a remake of "The War of the Worlds." Why? I thought that's what "Independence Day" was supposed to be.

Steve Adelson, Tucson

A: Director Orson Welles pulled one of America's legendary Halloween pranks on October 30, 1938, with his radio dramatization of H.G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds," convincing some panicked listeners that Martian invaders had actually landed in Grovers Mill, N.J. That unleashed a stream of sci-fi fixations, playing on humanity's subconscious fears that there are belligerent aliens who have nothing better to do than take over our hicky little planet. "The War of the Worlds" became a film in 1953 and has been remade countless times since, whether directly or derivatively.

So, too, shall Spielberg have his way with the story next summer, with a film starring Tom Cruise and promising to be a modern departure from the original(s). Meanwhile, a British studio has a much more faithful adaptation of Wells's original ready to beat Spielberg by a few months and made on a fraction of Spielberg's budget.

When it comes to redundancy -- aping beloved stories and reinterpreting iconic characters -- never underestimate the superegos of Hollywood, always convinced that they can improve on any novel, TV show or film. Adaptations, remakes and the dreaded "director's cut" versions are just the sort of self-affirming projects that propel certain myths that the movie industry clings to, which are: Newer is always better. An homage is never a sacrilege. And the most important one: Only I can make it perfect.

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