I thought it would be fun to check out the oldest film on the list, the 1902 silent French film Le Voyage dans le Lune, or A Trip to the Moon. While not the first film in cinema history (check out the Lumiere brothers if you’re interested as far as that goes), A Trip to the Moon is the first considered science fiction movie and more importantly, it was the first full film to use extensive special effects with a strong narrative. For this reason, it has become very influential and an iconic work of cinema.
A group of men with funny hats decide to go to the moon. They build a rocket, crash right into the moon, fight some aliens, and fly back home as heroes. The plot is a simple one, of course, but it has received heavy praise. Many see it as a critique of imperialism, a fascinating interpretation that I do not doubt was intentional in 1902. There is certainly an element of creativity to the plot with expansive landscapes on the moon, indicating some mystical place up there of which we are all unaware.
The special effects are really what make this movie worth the watch. It is fascinating to see how filmmakers in 1902 tackled these visual challenges. Overlays were drawn and used to create fantastic atmospheres, and scale is also used to trick the viewer into seeing much larger objects. These tactics were primitive but incredibly influential, especially moving into films such as King Kong which took these ideas and perfected them on a mass scale.
It is interesting how the film always seems to pack as many people on the screen as possible. They are always waving their hats or doing some kind of jumping about. Naturalism was the farthest thing from what the early silent film was going for. I suppose taking advantage of this new moving picture medium meant having as much physical action going as possible to impress people as a spectacle, a technique that Michael Bay still implements today.
I would suggest checking out this movie for anyone interested. It’s only about 12 minutes long and can be seen at the link below. You really see some creative genius if you understand the limits of filmmaking in 1902. These people had to invent special effects, and this first attempt at doing so was a major success that sparked an immediate interest in seeing how big this whole film thing could get. Maybe one day if we keep up this level of innovation, we could actually get a man on the moon and see what’s up there for real. Only time will tell.
The movie can be found on Youtube here.
Films Left to Watch: 995