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Movie Review: Forbidden Planet

Updated on September 1, 2012

Forbidden Planet was a science fiction move released in 1956 and it is to this day still considered a classic. Based on the Shakespearean play “The Tempest ”, this movie takes the story far into the future. This is one of the truly golden classic movies that are still considered relevant and entertaining more than fifty years later. The movie starred the late Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis and Walter Pidgeon. The screenplay was written by Cyril Hume and directed by Fred M. Wilcox. Forbidden Planet is a movie that was ahead of it’s time with a strong story and simple but effective special effects which make this a movie that will remain a classic for another fifty years.

A starship from Earth is sent to the planet Altair to find out what happened to a scientific mission that was sent twenty years ago. What they find are two survivors and a deeper mystery. How did they survive and what killed the rest of the scientific crew. As they delve deeper into the mystery the killings begin again as an invisible monster stalks the ship and crew.

Forbidden Planet is a movie that never gets old. It has become a classic purely on its own merit with an excellent script and special effects that were ahead of its time. The movie received an Oscar nomination for those effects. When looking back on the movie from the perspective of all the technology and special effect we now see in movies made in today’s movie media, in comparison Forbidden Planet stacks up well against modern technology.

Viewing the Krell power source
Viewing the Krell power source

It was filmed completely on set which was not the usual method at the time. Most science fiction films will find a real location that can use to double as the surface of an alien planet. The deserts and canyons around Los Angeles have been used so much there are people who create trivia games to name the location in a movie. Instead the producers and designers of Forbidden Planet chose instead to use a full size mock up and matte paintings to give the illusion of being on another world. Our jaded eyes can easily see the technology they used now, but it was done so well that even now the suspension of belief can be easily achieved.

The science of Forbidden Planet was handled well without giving too much away. At the time of its production, nuclear energy was believed to be the ultimate power source and it was used in such a way to make it workable. The techno-babble, the language that makes pretend technology sound plausible, was kept to a minimum thus avoiding the danger of losing its audience through general confusion as well as become obsolete to later audiences.

In “Forbidden Planet,” Chris Barsanti (2006) said, “The plain truth is that a large measure of Forbidden Planet is extraordinarily dull, consisting mostly of stiff-necked military types standing around and debating how crazy Dr. Morbius is, whether his research into the vast artifacts left behind on the planet by a vanished alien race is of any use, and how they're going to defend themselves against something that they can't see” (para. 2).

Mr. Barsanti is looking at a movie that was made over fifty years ago through the jaded vision of movies that have been made since. In his review he stated that many science fiction movies and television series made since then had been strongly influenced by this movie. A lot has changed since Forbidden Planet was made from scripts to special effects. The script is simple and isn’t overwhelmed by special effects. The basic root of the story is power corrupts. He also quotes Star Wars being the movie that replaces Forbidden Planet as one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Remove the special effects and the question becomes does the story still hold up and remain entertaining.

The great machine
The great machine

In “Wonderful Trip in Space; 'Forbidden Planet' Is Out of This World” Bosley Crowther (1956) said “FASTEN your seat belts, fellows. Get those space helmets clamped to your heads and hang on tight, because we're taking off this morning on a wonderful trip to outer space. We are guiding you to "Forbidden Planet," which is appropriately at the Globe. And we suggest you extend an invitation to Mom and Dad to go along” (para. 1).

Mr. Crowther’s excitement about this movie is the same as reviewers in the 1970’s when Star Wars came out. It was new and different and gave a different perspective of the world around him.

Just as everyone was excited when the movie Avatar hit the screens in its 3-D glory, when Forbidden Planet was released, the reaction of science fiction lovers was the same then as it is today. This classic science fiction movie is a ‘must see’ movie for every fan of the genre.


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    • Gemsong profile image

      Madalain Ackley 6 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      thank you for reading.

    • Wayne K. WIlkins profile image

      Wayne K. WIlkins 6 years ago from Birmingham, England.

      Awersome Hub for a classic movie. Would love to read more of your work. Keep it up!