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October 4, 1902 Review: Trip to the Moon

October 4, 2008

Georges Melies was one of the first great effects masters. A magician by trade, he grew interested in the new “film” technology and began making short films (although then they were just films – there were no feature length really).

The story is simple. A scientist has figured out how to build a ship capable of space travel (remember, this is 1902). A group of rich white men decide they want to be the first and the scientist builds the ship. They launch from the rooftops of the city with a large crowd watching the spectacle. When they arrive on the moon, they are captured but manage to fight off their captors and escape.

And in this film lies some of the first traces of science fiction. Some would argue it was purely fantasy, and should not be called early science fiction. But I disagree. I believe even in this early form, there was a warning about wealth and technology taking us places we don’t belong that we still find resonating in all of our major science fiction movies today.Other critics see it as a satire of the conservative scientific field at that time, and that perspective is easy to see in the story.

But, most importantly is the effects of the film. Of course one of the most notable images in film history is the rocket in the moon’s eye (seen above). Melies was a pioneer and one of the earliest auteurs, basically creating all effects, costumes, etc..while writing and shooting and directing the movie.

If you have never seen the film, I highly recommend watching it along with some other early silents in order to grasp the foundations of what cinema we see today.

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