A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902)
Article #135 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-29-2001
Posting date: 12-12-2001
Scientists are shot to the moon from a big gun. There they encounter exploding moon men.
This is perhaps the most famous movie of the very early years of cinema; only THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY really gives it any competition in this regard. Certainly it is the best known work of Georges Melies, a stage magician who became enamored by the magical possibilities of film, and then proceeded to make more than five hundred shorts that experimented with visual special effects. If you haven’t seen it, at least you’ve probably seen the most famous moment in stills, where the capsule embeds itself in the eye of the moon (I love the description of this moment in the narrated version of this short, where the rocket is described as “kissing” the eye of the moon).
The movie was never intended to be a realistic depiction of a trip to the moon; it was meant as a witty spectacle, and on that level it succeeds. Unfortunately, Melies never quite mastered cinematic story-telling techniques, so it can be quite difficult to tell what is going on at times. If you can find a narrated version of the short, it will help, even though the narrator has a very thick French accent.
This wasn’t the earliest SF movie, but it may be the earliest one that can be found easily; most of the other early ones involved sausage-making machines. Melies himself had been making movies for four years before he made this one; he would go on making movies for another eight, but he was never really able to surpass this one.