The very first film in the history of sci-fi showed a mission to the Moon and another archetypal and timeless – beyond genres – movie narrated a… space odyssey. It is thus easy to understand the scope of the vision, but also the difficulties (or even the comparisons) Christopher Nolan had to face with his «Interstellar». What follows is a list of 25 films that paved the way towards the evolution of this journey, beyond the borders of our galaxy…
Christopher Nolan’s «Interstellar» has been one of the most highly anticipated «event movies» of 2014, taking us back to the sub-genre of sci-fi cinema which, since the early 1900’s, has been exploring the unknown universe, its possible interpretations and the human kind’s hopes of creating new civilisations when the Earth becomes unsustainable. The space travels and the explorers of the Moon and various (imaginary or not) planets were glorified in the 1950’s, providing visions but also threatening to destroy the – so called – «American Dream» which featured as the main social prototype for development and prosperity on our planet.
The following list (in chronological order, to avoid potential bloodshed!), consists of 25 film titles from 1902 to today. In it, there are some films which may not be the groundbreakers or the best of their kind, yet they influenced their genre and the pop culture, they became reference points, they suggested something original, they belong to the «cult» sphere or they found the farcical elements of the «fashion» of the space missions, which seems to be back, judging from last year’s «Gravity» and from the critical and audience acclaim for «Interstellar».
So, please, make sure your oxygen levels are sufficient for the journey and… we have a blast off!
TEXT: Elias Fragoulis
ILLUSTRATION: The Comeback Studio
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Katerina Andreakou
Astronauts on a mission to the Moon find a cave that leads them to the temple of…cat-like (i.e. black tights!) Amazons, the remaining survivors of a 2.000.000 year civilisation. With the help of the only female crew member (because «we have no contact or control over them [men]»!), they endeavour to steal the spaceship and escape to Earth, as the oxygen levels on the Moon are running out (don’t ask…). An indie b-movie (in 3D as well!), this is the first example of the exploitation sci-fi films, depicting beautiful females with bad intentions against humanity. The line «Show us their weak points. We’ll take care of the rest…» is the mother of all sexist innuendos of the genre!
Here is a film which partly upsets the theme standards. It is the aliens who launch their first mission to Earth, seeking help to save their planet, Metaluna. They will need uranium deposits but also some human scientists, who attempt to find a solution to the war with the hostile Zagon tribe. Seminal scene in this film: the flying saucer landing on Earth. It was well received in its time and it is definitely still considered a classic (even referenced in Steven Spielberg’s «E.T.»), yet it is also treated like trash by some, due to its use in «Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie» (1996).
23rd century. The C-57D spaceship travels in space, its destination a planet far, far away, its purpose to find traces of an explorative mission sent there 20 years ago. Instead of a human colony, they will encounter Robby the Robot and the only survivors, Dr Edward Morbius and his daughter Altaira. The scientist urges them to leave the planet before it’s too late and the subsequent storyline is inspired by Shakespeare’s «The Tempest»! The most important film of the genre for the 50’s and the first one to be set entirely outside of planet Earth, it still influences pop culture (even a cult chain of stores is named after it!). It was nominated for a visual effects Oscar.
The title’s seventh planet is Uranus, where a mission of human explorers from the United Nations arrives. An alien entity takes over their minds and manipulates their subconscious, making them face their inner thoughts and secrets, their memories of their past and of their loved ones back on Earth. A cheap production shot in Denmark, yet a storyline quite similar to that of «Solaris», ten years before Andrey Tarkovsky’s classic, so it could have possibly been inspired by the same-named novel by Stanislaw Lem, published in 1961.
In 1964, United Nations sends a spaceship to the Moon, manned with astronauts of several nationalities. Is this the first time for humanity to make this giant leap? No! The crew finds, to its utter surprise, a…British flag on the lunar surface and the rest of the film uses flashback sequences to narrate a story that began in 1899. The best British contribution to the genre, this film was based on the H.G. Wells’ original story and even features stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen (his only film to be shot in Anamorphic Widescreen, due to the difficulty of compositing images in his Dynamation Process). Méliès’ Selinites also make an appearance.