Thursday, 22 December 2011

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet

Director: Fred Wilcox, 1956

Pros: surprisingly decent effects for the day, interesting alien culture, awesome robot, influential to later SF films and TV

Cons: slow paced, only 1 female character whose sole purpose is to be the romantic interest of the protagonist

A spaceship is sent from Earth to check-up on a scientific mission to Altair-4, which landed 20 years previously.  The sole surviving member is hostile to their arrival but eventually shows them the wonders of the highly advanced Krull civilization that once inhabited the system.  He also wants to keep his planet raised daughter away from them.  Meanwhile, a mysterious creature starts attacking the ship and its crew.

Given this was made in the 50s, the special effects look pretty good.  The laser beams are a bit cheesy, as is the force field, but they're used sparingly.  Using an invisible creature no doubt kept the effects looking good, as well as the film's costs down.  Shots of the spaceship, the alien technology and Robbie the Robot are well done.  In fact, the idea of a robot that could replicate any substance after taking a sample and analysing it, was pretty cool (and likely the inspiration for Star Trek's replicators).  In fact, Star Trek fans will find much that is familiar in this film, from the belt-clipped communications devices, to the captain, lieutenant and doctor as the exploration team.  And a womanizing captain (played by a YOUNG Leslie Nielsen).  The alien civilization is interesting in its advances and ultimate demise.

Altaira (Anne Francis) is the only woman in the film.  Her role is that of an innocent young maiden meeting men for the first time.  She is unaware of the jealousy and interest she causes, beyond the captain's yelling at her and not explaining why his crews' hormones were her fault.  The romance between the two of them is swift and undeveloped, making it feel contrived.

The film was fairly slow paced with only minimal action.  But unlike a lot of other slow films, while it did have an interesting ending, it wasn't particularly thought provoking in terms of philosophy.    

It's good to see because of the influence it had on later SF films, but it's pretty forgettable.

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