A Trip to the Moon (1902)


Director: Georges Méliès Cast: uncredited

A group of astronomers take a trip to the moon. (Who would have guessed from the title?)

Bit of a weird one this, but bear with me. In the numerous coffee-table books on films that I’ve collected, this is pretty much always the first one on the list of ones to watch. This 1902 short film (12 minutes, and it’s on YouTube) is generally credited as being one of the first popular films. It brought special effects into the mainstream, and despite its length manages a substantial plot and even some anti-imperialist satire.

It definitely helped to watch this film with my 1902 Edwardian-era hat on, in order to appreciate the film in the way that it would have been appreciated at the time. I was actually really surprised at how good the effects were for the time. For example, the aliens that live on the moon suddenly vanish in a flash of smoke, and it doesn’t look clunky by any means. The face on the moon (which admittedly is the stuff of nightmares) is cleverly superimposed- I didn’t even know they could do that as early as then. It’s also interesting to remember that no one had actually been to the moon at that time- so it really was just science fiction for people to travel there from Earth.

This, clearly, is a film you’d watch to study and appreciate the history of film, and not for settling into the sofa with a bowl of popcorn. Definitely recommended for discussing at dinner parties to make you seem sophisticated and erudite.

Hard to rate this one… 3 stars?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Ⓒ Solofilm
Ⓒ Solofilm

Director: Philip Kaufman Cast: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams. Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy

Organisms come from outer space to San Francisco, and gradually copy the form of various locals and take their place. The result is a city of emotionless citizens, aiming to do away with the humans that still remain, including Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), who works for the health department.

Sci-fi is a genre that I find can be a bit hit and miss- some films of the genre have become among my favourites of all time (just over a month till The Force Awakens ahhhhh), while others can just be a bit weird. So for this one, I tried to go in with few expectations- and I really liked it. The film is creepy from the outset- it begins with showing the mysterious organisms floating around San Francisco while unsuspecting people are ignorant to the terror before them. I found it was made even creepier by the soundtrack- it’s very minimal, and sometimes there’s not background music at all, which means that the viewer can’t tell when something creepy is about to happen because the soundtrack gives no clues. There is tension throughout, and a lot of it takes place at night which always adds to the drama.

I would say however that there were some parts of the plot where it took quite a long time for something to happen; although the film is effective in building tension, sometimes it moved just a little too slowly. Another very minor issue was, and this was probably just in my own case, was that the film seemed to be a bit grainy in terms of quality of the picture- but like I say, this is probably just the particular version that I watched.

I wouldn’t say this film it totally appropriate for kids, since it does have a very creepy or eerie feel to it. I would say, however, that those who don’t usually like sci-fi films would still enjoy this because it’s effectively low-key rather than over-the-top.

3.5 stars

Pacific Rim (2013)

 Ⓒ Warner Bros
Ⓒ Warner Bros

Director: Guillermo del Toro Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman

In the near future, the Earth finds itself being invaded by Kaiju; giant aliens using some kind of portal from underneath the Earth’s crust (the Pacific Rim, to be exact) to get in. The government is useless and it’s left up to a recently decommissioned alien-fighting organisation to finish off the Kaiju once and for all using Jaegers, which are huge weaponised robots controlled by the minds of two pilots. Enter disillusioned and brooding Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his old commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to save the day- and the world as we know it.

I can unashamedly admit that I greatly enjoyed this film. I had very small expectations and only stumbled across it one rainy weekday evening when there was nothing else on the telly- but actually it was the perfect mindless film after a tiring working day. The plot sounds terrible, but it’s easy to follow and actually rather enjoyable. It’s full of fun and ambitious fighting sequences (the Jaegers are pretty awesome inventions) as well as good one-liners and funny moments- basically pretty much any scene featuring Dr Geiszler (Charlie Day). There is some pretty good characterisation: young Jaeger trainee Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) has a good backstory, and Charlie Hunnam plays the reluctant hero well.

What I appreciated most about Pacific Rim was the lack of unnecessary romantic storyline. In most action flicks like this, the male lead predictable falls for his female supporting character, which I usually find to be tedious and a distraction from the far more thrilling action and heroics. However, contrary to what I was expecting there was very little of this, right up until the final scene, when even then romance is implied rather than plainly obvious. For some mindless action, easy-to-follow plot line and some pretty effective CGI, Pacific Rim is a great shout for a lazy evening in.

3 stars