Henry Ford hadn’t even invented the Model-T, and Georges Melies was envisioning men landing on the moon, and trying to capture it on film, in the first science-fiction movie in cinema history. Clocking in at only 13-minutes (depending on the speed its played at; different versions vary), it would have been quite the production for a time when movies were not yet telling complete narratives with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. A Trip to the Moon is loosely based on a duo of Jules Verne novels, and follows a group of astronomers who put themselves in a metal capsule and are shot out of a cannon to land on the moon. When they get there, they are confronted by evil aliens and must make a harrowing escape, which literally includes pushing the spacecraft off the moon where it falls back to earth. There they are welcomed with celebration.
Is the story cheesy as all hell and require an incredible suspension of disbelief in order to succeed? Absolutely, but the director’s craft in making this film in 1902, complete with special effects, animation, and a mind-numbing hand-colorization of all 13,375 frames of film, is one that deserves to be recognized. In a way, it still holds up even today, and not just because of the wow-factor when seeing how old it is. It was produced at a time where Melies could have just thrown anything together and presented it, and people would have went bananas. Instead, he chose not to rush (three months of production) and create a product that would actually be good and stand the test of time. A Trip to the Moon truly is a marvel of cinema and a piece of history all in one. Hats off to the father of science fiction (and animation?), Georges Melies! Appearances by Francois Lallement and Jules-Eugene Legris. Click here to view the restored original color version that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, which was thought to be lost until it was found in 1993.
8 out of 10 stars.
More articles in this special “Halloween Twenty-Fifteen” column can be found here.