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Which would you take home - the robot or the girl?,
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This review is from: Forbidden Planet [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Few sci-fi movies capture ordinariness in the strange and wonderful worlds that they create but The Forbidden Planet does so in a masterly fashion. This is a great film and a game-changer in the history of sci-fi. When you watch sci-fi and think "those are great special effects" then that is a sure sign that the film has failed because if it was a good film then you would not be looking at the technicalities you would be engrossed in the characterisations and the plot. The Forbidden Planet has a superb plot so the effects are just a part of staging the story. Having said that the effects here are primitive by today's standards - the dust cloud left by the speeding vehicle being perhaps the least convincing. Yet at the same time the animations used for the monsters and the portrayal of the underground world can stand alongside what could be done today. When they edited this film they realised that, given their limitations, the effects should not be pushed too far and so the whole piece benefited from understatement forced by the basic contemporary working methods. So many modern films could so learn from that same tempered approach. The creators of Forbidden Planet got pretty much the right balance between delivering you to another world and keeping your feet firmly planted in the basics of life, love and ambition. Also; luckily for us looking back from the second decade of the 21st century Forbidden Planet was made in colour.
In terms of portraying an extraordinary world in ordinary terms Forbidden Planet was not equalled until Star Wars in 1977; 21 years later. However where the Forbidden Planet scores over Star Wars and the best of the genre, but also by some huge distance over lesser sci-fi, is in the sophistication of the plot. In one of my favourite scenes the writers find the most imaginative way of portraying the enormity of the available power that the vast underground machine can deliver. Sci-fi films, like action movies, too often fall into the trap of straightforward goodies where everything about them is super-wholesome and worthy pitched against baddies that are completely evil. The main plot here is so much more interesting and real than this classic reduction. OK; so there is not enough dialogue to really explore the ideas properly but in terms of direction it is spot on. The characterisations are also somewhat one-dimensional because they have to share the film with this wonderful plot and with all the explanation necessary in any sci-fi. However this helps make this an easy watchable film. It may be based on Shakespeare but it does not demand the endurance that the great bard's work often can.
As for the packaging here on the Blu-ray; you get a very good rendition of the film in HD alongside a good set of extras. A couple of documentaries rub shoulders with pretty much all of the work Robby the Robot ever did (I think). The other Robby vehicles are eclipsed by the main feature of course and no more than a curiosity for me but the documentaries are great at reminding you of the context of the film and giving some insight into its creation. For the Robby stuff; contrast "let's write a film that explores man's inner struggle from the primitive and the power of the mind" with "can we do something with this darn robot - after all it cost a fortune to build". Outtakes feature too and this all adds up to give you a reasonable backdrop - the kind of material you want to see as extras on the Blu-ray or DVD release.
Anyway; that is my humble opinion on what I consider a must-have addition to my collection.