A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Is it wrong for me to say this had far better effects than what you can expect from most modern Hollywood CGI infested blockbusters? Comparatively speaking. The running time was only twelve minutes long, but the film is absolutely filled with stunning visuals and breath taking set pieces. The effects are simply mesmerizing and I can’t get over the fact that a 113 year old film can repeatedly amaze me with its visual storytelling so strongly. Méliès clearly spared no expense when making this and every single franc spent on it paid itself back tenfold. The film has really stood the test of time and it’s no wonder the film has had such long lasting and permanent impression on cinema and pop culture. It still gets counted as one of the greatest films of all time and I’ve actually seen someone who has had a tattoo made of the iconic original poster with the bullet in the Moon’s eye.

It truly is a wonderful film. You have everything you could possibly want from a science fiction film: action, adventure, weird aliens, thrills, the works. I do have some issues in the first scene where the announcement of the trip is made. There’s way too much going on at the screen, it’s filled to the brim with people moving and few of them throwing tantrums and you’re not really sure who you’re exactly suppose to be focusing on. It’s a minor gripe, but it’s a good example of how early film making was still finding its footing and learning crucial storytelling devices like good camera composition. I was wondering just how the travelers were meant to get back to Earth, given how the spacecraft they have is basically just a giant bullet shot by an even bigger cannon, and the answer turned out to be so simple that even a child could have guessed it: you just push your vessel of the nearest ledge on the surface of the Moon, and you will automatically fall back to Earth! I love this type of silly fantasy logic the story is filled with. It can snow on the Moon because Phoebe, the Goddess of the Moon, conjures a snowfall, an umbrella can transform into a large, growing mushroom because why not, and the Moon is inhabited by insect race who all go puff in smoke if you hit them hard enough. It’s fantastic and magical, just like science fiction ought to be.

Being a glutton for entertainment, I opted to watch both the black and white and the more recently discovered and restored colored version back to back and to oddly enough they have a remarkably different vibes to them. A Trip to the Moon was already captivating in its black & white film form but the colored version just takes it on a completely new level. As you can imagine, hand painted coloring on every single cell in the film gives it a very otherworldly touch and in essence transforms it into a more ethereal experience. The richness of the pallet and the added color contrast of the set pieces makes it much more vivid and captivating visual tale to marvel. You can’t truthfully claim one version of the two to be superior of the other one, both versions have their own specific charm, with their own weaknesses and strengths so the matter ends up being purely entirely subjective.

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