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Posts Tagged ‘Forbidden Planet’

Final Frontier Five

February 16th, 2012 No comments

For no reason other than the fact that I’ve been listening to a lot of Star Trek soundtrack music in my car as of late, here are my choices for the top 5 Trek feature films. They aren’t necessarily the ones you’d expect.

However, the first one most certainly is.

#1 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Every once in a while, someone may try to convince you that The Wrath of Khan isn’t the best of the Trek movies. This person is wrong, and should be shunned.

While Star Trek: The Motion Picture had its strong points–notably, its epic scope and interest in actually exploring strange, new worlds–it was rightfully criticized for its stiffness. It was missing the bombast and fun of the original series.

The Wrath of Khan has both of these, and how. The thunderous, scenery-chewing duel between Captain Kirk and his inadvertently wronged nemesis Khan understandably takes center stage, but the reasons for the movie’s emotional resonance are its central themes of age and the acceptance of death. Kirk’s past catches up with him on multiple fronts, and he learns that he can’t cheat fate indefinitely.

That doesn’t mean that he isn’t given plenty of opportunity to demonstrate that his real value to Starfleet isn’t his legendary alien-punching or -boffing prowess, but his ability to trick his way out of (almost) every desperate situation.

#2 – Forbidden Planet

“But wait!” I hear you saying, “Forbidden Planet is not a Star Trek movie!” To which I reply, “Hey, take it up with Gene Roddenberry.” The original Trek TV series cribbed a great deal from MGM’s feature film of the previous decade. You can see the show’s DNA in Planet‘s circular starship bridge, its colorful planetary environments and its scandalously short skirts.

The crew of the star cruiser C-57D doesn’t have the ethnic diversity of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but the familiar triumvirate of captain, science officer and medic are front and center.

And what really makes it a Star Trek story is the mix of gee-whiz space heroics with mystery, exploration and thoughtful examination of the human condition. Plus a hot babe and a robot.

#3 – Star Trek (2009)

The critical success and fan acceptance of 2009’s reboot is ironic given the enormous rage leveled against the first attempt at a Kirk-and-Spock origin story. In 1990 producer Harve Bennett, looking at both the box-office failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the ever-increasing corpulence of the original crew, mooted a Starfleet Academy film with younger actors. The big difference back then, I suppose, was that the old cast were all more-or-less willing and able to continue in their roles. They spurred their fanbase into furious fury, and the project was scuttled in favor of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

With Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan all long gone, new producer/director J.J. Abrams encountered less resistance. This, it turned out, was a very good thing, as the casting of the 2009 Star Trek is spot-on. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana are uniformly excellent as Kirk, Spock and Uhura. Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty channel the spirits of the departed Kelley and Doohan. Even John Cho’s Sulu and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are given moments to shine.

The film itself deftly straddles two worlds, serving as a sequel to the original series (complete with extended Leonard Nimoy guest appearance) and a new reality which charts its own course. Pairing Spock and Uhura? Disintegrating the planet Vulcan? The most recent Trek boldly goes, and I can’t wait for next year’s follow-up.

#4 – Galaxy Quest

It may appear that I’m fudging here, but hear me out: Galaxy Quest is more Trekkish than most things with Trek in the title. A big, sloppy love letter to the original series, it’s a credible space adventure, a hilarious comedy and a clever examination of the relationship between sci-fi heroes and the fans who love them.

Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub and Alan Rickman play the cast of a cancelled TV show forced to eke out a livelihood of embarrassing personal appearances.  A group of over-enthusiastic fans turn out to be members of an alien species unable to comprehend the concept of deception. They’ve mistaken the televised adventures of Galaxy Quest for “historical documents” and want “Commander Taggart” and his crew to save them from the warlord Sarris.

The conceit of interstellar fanboys and -girls doggedly re-creating a fictional TV spaceship is taken to its logical conclusion when the reluctant actors are required to navigate a dangerous corridor full of nonsensical “chompy, crushy things” that serve no purpose other than to reproduce a particularly bad episode.

While Galaxy Quest gently mocks Trek‘s tropes, it also allows “Taggart” to engage in some highly-Kirkian derring-do. Unfortunately, the further adventures of Galaxy Quest suggested by the film’s coda exist only in comic book follow-ups and unanswered dreams.

#5 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

It’s a bit of a toss-up between this one and the Next Generation-era film Star Trek: First Contact, but I’m an old-school Trekkie and must give the nod to the final hurrah of Kirk and company. Having the actors (in their final appearance together as the Magnificent Seven) literally sign off at the end may be a bit much, but really, who can legitimately complain?

This one last ride into the sunset sees the Enterprise gang confront their own racism as they play unwilling hosts to an attempt to broker peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. There’s a political assassination, a jailbreak and a rousing battle with an invisible starship.

The murder mystery is not as strong as it could be, chiefly because of the failure to woo back actress Kirstie Alley to reprise her Star Trek II role of Spock’s protege, Lt. Saavik.

Still, it’s a final helping of all the stuff that made Shatner’s time in the captain’s chair so enjoyable, as Kirk beds one more alien, battles his evil twin and crosses wits with a Shakespeare-quoting villain.

Like A Beacon In The Galaxy

January 3rd, 2011 No comments

Actress Anne Francis died yesterday at the age of 80, five weeks to the day after the death of her Forbidden Planet costar, Leslie Nielsen. I had intended to write something about Nielsen after his passing, but to be honest, I don’t know what more I could add about either him or Anne Francis other than to say that to this day Forbidden Planet remains one of my very favorite films and they were both terrific in it. Francis was perhaps better known for her roles as private detective Honey West or the living mannequin in the Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours,” and Nielsen of course enjoyed a prolific second career as filmdom’s spoofster-in-residence, but for me they’ll always be the stalwart Commander Adams and the beautiful Altaira, cruising between the stars.

My Favorite Martians: The Krell

August 26th, 2009 No comments

The Krell can’t even be bothered to show up for their role in the classic 1956 film Forbidden Planet. However, as they destroyed themselves in a single night of madness more than 200,000 years ago, I suppose they can be excused. Lacking point-and-shoot technology, the Krell left no depictions of themselves, though their general shape is suggested by their characteristic doorways: wide, upside-down diamonds. While the Krell have vanished from the galactic scene, something of them remains…

Forbidden Planet was a remarkable movie for its time. It was a big-budget, “A” picture from MGM during a period when nearly all science-fiction flicks were cheap potboilers. It boasted state-of-the-art special effects and was scored with unique “electronic tonalities” by Louis and Bebe Barron. (In some cases, the score doubled as otherworldly sound effects.) It had a thoughtful script that was allegedly inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, though honestly the resemblence is superficial at best.

And when I was growing up, it was my absolute favorite film, bar none. At least until ’77, when Star Wars changed everything.

In the early 23rd century, the Earth saucer C-57D arrives at planet Altair IV to check on the progress of the colonists who set up shop two decades earlier. All they find is a lone scientist and his beautiful, virginal, miniskirted daughter, who want nothing more from these spacemen than for them to fire retrorockets.

Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon, who’s terrific in this) has himself a sweet set-up. Both his home and his robotic manservant Robby (yes, that Robby) sport technology far in advance of human science. His immediate surroundings are a paradise inhabited by flora and fauna from Earth, brought to Altair IV not by the colonists, but by the original inhabitants. And with the rest of the colonists mysteriously ripped limb from limb by an unseen force, he’s got all the time in the world to continue his language studies.

Commander J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen; yes, that Leslie Nielsen) isn’t going anywhere. In part, that’s because he wants to find out what happened to the other settlers, but mostly it’s because he’s fascinated by young Altaira (Anne Francis; boom-chick-a-wa-wa), who has never known a man other than her father–make of that what you will–and, well, did I mention the miniskirts?

Meanwhile, the invisible beast returns to menace the saucer men, leaving clawed footprints unlike any creature known to science.

The reason that a simple professor of languages could build a machine like Robby soon becomes clear. Morbius discovered the last remaining works of the Krell, including a vast, underground complex, 20 miles on each side, still humming away with power after 2,000 centuries. The doctor deciphered their writings and used their lab tech to boost his intelligence to genius levels. But even Morbius doesn’t know what the great machine is for.

Late that evening, the invisible monster strikes again, this time illuminated by the laser fence set up around the C-57D. And soon, the truth about it is revealed.

You see, the Krell had completed their greatest achievement, a machine meant to do away with all other machines. It allowed them to create and manipulate matter in any form, for any purpose. They had, as one might say, Fucked With God’s Domain. And God wasn’t having any of it, no sir. For the Krell had forgotten about their own baser natures, locked deep within their subconscious minds. Once they went to sleep, their Monsters from the Id went on a genocidal rampage.

And now, 200,000 years later, Morbius’ dreams of selfishness and jealousy have activated the alien device and manifested themselves as a giant, angry gumdrop. Desperate to hold onto his daughter–again, you’re not reading too much into that–his unstoppable creation burns its way through several feet of nigh-indestructible Krell metal to kill Commander Adams and Altaira herself.

In the end, Morbius attempts to renounce his murderous monster, but the effort (somehow) kills him. As he heads toward his final peace, he pushes a conveniently-located self-destruct mechanism that will annihilate Altair IV in a matter of hours, giving the saucer crew enough time to clear the blast area.

Leslie Nielsen gets the final word: “Alta, about a million years from now the human race will have crawled up to where the Krell stood in their great moment of triumph and tragedy. And your father’s name will shine again like a beacon in the galaxy. It’s true, it will remind us that we are, after all, not God.”

It Seems That Hallmark Wants ALL Of My Money

May 6th, 2009 No comments

This year’s Hallmark ornaments are online, and I can already see several that I hope to find decorating my tree this December. They’ve got the geek nostalgia thing down to a science.

I’m surprised that they’ve done nothing with the new Trek film, but this year’s starship is one I’ve been jonesin’ for since they first began churning these out back in ’91: the Klingon Battle Cruiser! Nothing says “Season’s Greetings” like a ship full of pissed-off Klingons!

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And if that wasn’t geektastic enough, then there’s Robby the Robot! Forbidden freakin’ Planet for Christmas!

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I could do without the Ghostbusters theme song sound clip, but this ECTO-1 is otherwise a sweet ride.

hallmark03And honestly, this Wicked Witch of the West is pretty damned awesome.

hallmark04Okay, here’s one I most definitely do not want, which means there’s a fair chance that Vic will buy it for me anyway. It’s Musketeer Barbie. Musketeer. Barbie.

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Musketeer Barbie.