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Film / A Trip to the Moon

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A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 black-and-white French science fiction film about (surprise!) six Frenchmen going to the moon. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells, though some sources claim otherwise on the latter. Another major source of inspiration was an 1875 operetta of the same name.

The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, and runs about 17 minutes at Méliès's preferred frame rate. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is the best-known of the hundreds of fantasy films made by Méliès. However, Méliès never saw a penny because Thomas Edison stole the film and exhibited it in the United States first. Copyright? Creator's rights? What's that?

Notable for being one of the Ur Examples of science fiction film and associated tropes, and for its innovative animation and special effects, including the well-known image of the spaceship landing in the moon's eye.

Plays a key role in the Brian Selznick children's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret and its Martin Scorsese-directed film adaptation Hugo. The movie also served as the main inspiration for the music video of "Tonight, Tonight" by The Smashing Pumpkins. The story of the film's production was also used in the final episode of From the Earth to the Moon as a contrast to the parallel story of the final Apollo flight, the only one to have actual scientists.

Can be seen in its entirety on YouTube. A hand-colorized version is now available through Netflix's subscription streaming service. RiffTrax did their usual MST of the short film, bragging it was the oldest film they'd ever riffed.

A Trip to the Moon contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells, though some sources claim otherwise on the latter. Another major source of inspiration was an 1875 operetta of the same name.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The idea that subjecting a human to the force needed to send a capsule to the moon via cannon being probably a bad idea was actually pretty well understood at the time, but in this fantasy ignored.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The film was coloured by handpainting each frame of the film. This was a few years before tinting became possible and over a decade before the earliest technicolor processes.
    • The scene where the ship approaches the moon was filmed by mounting the oversized moon prop on railings and sliding it towards the camera. Why not do the smart thing and just move the camera? Because the technology was new and the people involved were still transitioning from theater performance and theater thinking. The camera was seen as a stand-in for the audience, and who would be insane enough to move the audience around while the props sit still?
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Artistic License on the part of Méliès, since even in 1902, astronomers knew from telescopic observation that the Moon had little to no atmosphere.
  • Crazy-Prepared: It was certainly handy that all the men thought to bring umbrellas with them to the Moon.
  • Deface of the Moon: Crashed a spaceship right in its eye!
  • Epic Movie: By the standards of the day, at least. This film is more than fifteen minutes long, when its contemporaries averaged around five minutes or so. It was also one of the first Science Fiction films to be made at a time when most films tended to be about mundane, everyday things.
  • Eye Scream: The iconic scene of the ship landing in the moon's eye.
  • Fanservice: All the girls in hot pants standing by at the launch.
  • Genius Loci: The moon, as evident in the picture above.
  • Gravity Sucks: How are they going to get off the moon and back to Earth? By going over the edge. The assumption here being that the Earth is providing the gravity on the moon.
  • Human Aliens: Averted here (see the Humanoid Aliens entry below), but played straight in The Remake An Excursion to the Moon, made by Segundo Chomòn without Méliès's blessing or participation. In that unauthorized remake, the aliens seem evenly divided into Fu Manchu lookalikes and attractive French ballerinas.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Selenites look and move basically like (very acrobatic) human beings, but their heads are somewhere between birdlike and insectoid, and they appear to have exoskeletons as well.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Not only do they slam a rocket into the moon's eye, they kill a bunch of aliens with umbrellas and bring one home on a leash! Played for Laughs in the final scene, where everyone dances around a ridiculous commemorative statue of the conquering astronomy professor, with "SCIENCE" inscribed on the base.
    • Lampshaded by Rifftrax:
      Mike: (as scientist) Hold on, we're going back to kill the rest of them, right?
      Kevin: (as scientist) Yeah! It's so addictive!
  • Interplanetary Voyage: It's called A Trip to the Moon, you know.
  • Made of Explodium/Made of Plasticine: The Selenites will vaporize if you hit them hard with an umbrella, or really, any strong impact will do. Which makes the astronomers' aggressive behaviour towards them seem all the worse.
  • The Man in the Moon: Hi there!
  • No Body Left Behind: The Selenites disappear into a puff of smoke when struck.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Despite being ostensibly part of a scientific expedition, the travelers seem to be much more interested in killing the local fauna than studying them or their environment.
  • Pop Culture Osmosis: That trope image of the "spaceship stuck in moon's eye" is about the only thing most people know of the film.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Sort of; Air made the soundtrack for restored color version, nearly 110 years later.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: How the astronomers are dressed.
  • Rule of Cool: Méliès' priority was in entertaining with an impressive spectacle, not advancing astronomic theory.
  • Satire: The behavior of the astronomers and their interactions with the aliens is said to be critical of colonialism.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Despite its reputation as a movie which inspires a sense of childlike wonder, the movie lies on the cynical end. The scientists are madmen who murder as many aliens as they can for no reason, suffer no consequences and are rewarded at the end with a parade in their honour.
  • Soft Water: The ocean when falling from the height of the moon without any slowing mechanism.
  • Stop Trick: Trope Maker.
  • Trip to the Moon Plot: It's all about a bunch of people who slingshot themselves into the moon and then come back.
  • Villain Protagonist: Our 'heroes' invade another world, murder a bunch of their inhabitants, commit regicide, accidentally drag one of the natives home and put him on a leash for a parade.
  • Weird Moon: Aliens and giant mushrooms, hm?
  • When Elders Attack: The head professor is battling against the aliens.
  • Zeerust: Considering it's over a century old...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Le Voyage Dans La Lune


Hitting the Moon in the Eye

A spaceship lands in the moon's eye

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheManInTheMoon

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