XL Popcorn – Forbidden Planet

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 623/1007
Title: Forbidden Planet
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Year: 1956
Country: USA

I was about to say how it feels like a long time since I last watched a science fiction film for the 1001 film list – then I remembered that Stalker would fall into this category. Other than that, the last sci-fi film I saw for the list was Arrival and that’s just a co-incidence.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that science fiction is a fairly under-represented genre on lists like this. Easy to see how it happens. Many of these films are cheap, bad, beyond cheesy or some combination of the three. Then again you get films like The Fly, Alien and The Thing which are both science-fiction and exceptional.

Forbidden Planet makes it onto the list as one of the big science-fiction progenitors. We have a robot as a fully formed character instead of just a tool, we are on a planet many millions of miles away from Earth and humans have perfected a faster-than-light ship. All these are things that hadn’t really been done before… and it feels so obvious now.

Watching Forbidden Planet did, at times, feel like I was watching a lost episode for Star Trek. I’ve seen the Kirk-less Star Trek pilot and it felt more on the level of seriousness of Forbidden Planet than what the show ended up becoming.

Similarly, the visual effects Forbidden Planet felt very much like those in Star Trek some 10 years later. They were very impressive for a film coming from 1956 hell some of the model work is better than some of the effects we see in films from 20 years ago.

Then there is the soundtrack, the first completely electronic soundtrack in cinema history. I know right! It’s one of those soundtracks that helps to make things feel alien and (for the 1950s) futuristic. Hearing this must have felt like a revelation at the time, or at least made this feel even more alien.

Whilst it is great that there is all these steps forward in film making, there are a few things in this film that bugged me. The tour of the alien facility, for example, had way too much exposition for little gain. A pity because some of the sets that they built for this sequence were fantastic.

Also a lot of the tension that could have been generated with this unknown creature just never materialised. Everything was solved way too easily… which makes me wonder if that’s due to editing or because of science-fiction storytelling at the time.

This would also be an opportunity to go into the sexism in this film… but after recently watching Pillow Talk my eyes have really been re-opened to the sexism of the times. It would be worrying if this were made now considering how there is a remark about it serving the woman right if she got raped.

So yes. Forbidden Planet really is an interesting film to see in terms of film history and it is worth seeing just for Robby the Robot and (hunky) Leslie Nielsen. It takes itself a bit too seriously at times, but I guess that’s the price you pay for a non-camp 1950s science-fiction film.

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