Monday, September 01, 2014

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Every so often, I feel the urge to see a movie that falls just outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes, it’s a romantic movie. Sometimes, it’s a foreign movie. Sometimes, I find a new type of movie to like. Usually, I don’t. I’ll admit that science fiction isn’t that unusual for me to watch and I have nothing against older movies, but one thing caught my attention: Leslie Nielsen was in this movie. I’ve always seen him in comedies, such as the Naked Gun movies. I had to see this movie.

Nielsen plays the Commander Adams. He’s commanding a space ship sent to check up on a colony that hasn’t been heard from in a while. When the ship arrives, the crew finds Dr. Morbius, the only survivor of the original landing party. Morbius warns the ship to stay away at all costs; Adams decides to land the ship anyway.

Shortly after landing, the crew is greeted by Robby the Robot, Morbius’s robotic servant. Adams and two other crew members go back to Morbius’s house to find that there’s one other person on the planet: Morbius’s daughter, Altaira. Morbius reveals that some mysterious monster destroyed nearly the entire colony shortly after everyone set up. Only the doctor and his wife were spared. (The doctor’s wife died a few months later due to natural causes.) For some reason, the monster never attacked Morbius or his family.

Further inspection by Adams prompts Morbius to reveal that there was an ancient race on Altair IV known as the Krell. Having plenty of time on his hands, Morbius spent the past 19 years studying them. He’s unlocked a few of their secrets, but there’s so much more to the Krell that he hasn’t even touched. The Krell were an advanced race, eons ahead of humanity. They could harness great energy and build vast structures, but died mysteriously in a short span of time. Nothing exists above ground, but a great deal of technology exists below ground. Adams and Morbius have differing opinions on whether or not the technology should be brought back to Earth.

I figured that a science-fiction movie released in 1956 was bound to have cheesy special effects, and to a large extent I was correct. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t like the movie. Both the story and the characters were well developed. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like the science fictions movies of today seem to be more about show rather than story. Sure, there are exceptions, but I find that there are a lot of older movies that I find myself interested in because of an engaging plot. I want to know more about the Krell. I want to know more about Dr. Morbius and Commander Adams.

That’s really where a movie stands out. Things like special effects will eventually be replaced by bigger and better. The acting in this movie was great, as were the sets. Both statements will hold true in another fifty years. It looks like people spent a lot of time designing and assembling the underground structures. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get to see more of it. (Since I know someone will ask, Walter Pidgeon played Dr. Morbius and Anne Francis played Altaira. Robby the Robot was credited as himself.)

This movie gets four stars. Most of the material is appropriate for all ages. There are only two exceptions that I can think of. One is where Altaira receives ‘kissing lessons’. The other is a scene where the crew battles the monster. (Only the battle is something that I think young children might have a problem with.) I would definitely recommend this movie. 

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