A Trip to the Moon

A Trip to the Moon

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At a meeting of the Astronomic Club, its president, Professor Barbenfouillis, proposes a trip to the Moon. After addressing some dissent, five other brave astronomers—Nostradamus, Alcofrisbas, Omega, Micromegas and Parafaragaramus—agree to the plan. They build a space capsule in the shape of a bullet, and a huge cannon to shoot it into space. The astronomers embark and their capsule is fired from the cannon with the help of “marines”, most of whom are played by a bevy of young women in sailors’ outfits. The Man in the Moon watches the capsule as it approaches, and it hits him in the eye.

Landing safely on the Moon, the astronomers get out of the capsule (without the need of space suits) and watch the Earth rise in the distance. Exhausted by their journey, they unroll their blankets and sleep. As they sleep, a comet passes, the Big Dipper appears with human faces peering out of each star, old Saturn leans out of a window in his ringed planet, and Phoebe, goddess of the Moon, appears seated in a crescent-moon swing. Phoebe causes a snowfall that awakens the astronomers, and they seek shelter in a cavern where they discover giant mushrooms. One astronomer opens his umbrella; it promptly takes root and turns into a giant mushroom itself.

At this point, a Selenite (an insectoid alien inhabitant of the Moon, named after one of the Greek moon goddesses, Selene) appears, but it is killed easily by an astronomer, as the creatures explode if they are hit with force. More Selenites appear and it becomes increasingly difficult for the astronomers to destroy them as they are surrounded. The Selenites capture the astronomers and take them to the palace of their king. An astronomer lifts the Selenite King off his throne and throws him to the ground, causing him to explode.

The astronomers run back to their capsule while continuing to hit the pursuing Selenites, and five get inside. The sixth astronomer, Barbenfouillis himself, uses a rope to tip the capsule over a ledge on the Moon and into space. A Selenite tries to seize the capsule at the last minute. Astronomer, capsule, and Selenite fall through space and land in an ocean on Earth, where they are rescued by a ship and towed ashore. The final sequence (missing from some prints of the film) depicts a celebratory parade in honor of the travelers’ return, including a display of the captive Selenite and the unveiling of a commemorative statue bearing the motto “Labor omnia vincit”.

REVIEW:

I do believe in all my years of watching movies, A Trip to the Moon is the oldest and shortest film that I have seen. Does that mean it isn’t quality filmmaking or superior? Not necessarily, it was just an observation. As this is a short film, this will be a short review…at least that is the plan, anyway.

What is this about?

An association of astronomers has convened to listen to the plan of Professor Barbenfouillis, their president, to fly to the moon. With the one dissenting voice quashed by Barbenfouillis and the other members, the plan is approved with Barbenfouillis choosing five others to accompany him. Most of the preparation for the trip is in building the vessel and launching mechanism, which resemble a large bullet and a large gun respectively. Hitting the moon in the eye, the six land safely at their destination. They find that much about the moon is wonderful and fantastical, but also that much is not what they would have liked to encounter as it is life threatening. They have to find a way to get out of their alien predicament to get back home safely.

What did I like?

Then and now. Last night, in my review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I mentioned how far CG has come. Well, that is nothing compared to how far filmmaking in general has evolved. Here we have one of the first pictured to be put on film, so obviously it isn’t going to look or feel like what we get everytime we watch a movie today, but the history that is on display while watching this picture is a sight to behold. Be it the way it plays out like a stage play, the plot about man traveling to the moon (60 years or so before it happens), or the simple camera work. I was in awe.

Bullet time. Why can’t spaceships, shaped like bullets and fired by a group of sexy female sailors, today randomly transport a group of people to the moon? Who dropped the ball with that technology? Seriously, though Professor Barbenfouillis’ plan to explore the moon is way ahead of its time, as good science fiction tends to be. I’m actually a bit surprised he only shot for the moon and not another planet. As fantastical as this version of the moon was, complete with alien creatures, dream flares, etc., one can only imagine what they would have encountered elsewhere.

What didn’t I like?

Silence is golden. This may actually be a complaint aimed more towards Netflix, but for a silent film, this wasn’t very silent. Someone was narrating and delivering these lines, and not very convincingly. Realizing that some people just don’t like to read, I can fully understand why they did this, but some of us do enjoy silent films for what they are. Surely there should be an option, yes? I hear this film is on Youtube, I may have to go check it out there. Hopefully, it will be the silent version.

Let me be clear about one thing, A Trip to the Moon is a weird film. It may not have been back in the time it was released, but today it is just odd. That oddity, though, is what gives it a distinctive charm. Thanks to the film Hugo, new generations are discovering this picture and some are loving it. What did I think of it? Well, it is a bit strange to be sure, but it is a story of space travel. How many of those are “normal”? Do I recommend this? Yes, while not the creates film in the world, it is an important part of cinema history. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

 

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