30/03/2016

Forbidden Planet - Innocence And The Tiger

Thoughts On: Forbidden Planet

This is the 1956 sci-fi classic about a team of workers that come upon the planet of an ancient race, inhabited by a Dr. Morbius and his daughter, Altaira.


I love these old posters. It's so apparent that they were either made before the script was written or thought-through, or that it was made without any consideration of anything but the fact that this is (on a surface, commercial level) a monster and damsel picture. This film is one in a million and I don't joke when I say it's something special. If I were to personify this film it would have to be the down-right repulsive, ugly girl that once you talk to you fall in love with and she becomes your best friend. This film has such a beautiful, complex and profound core, but manifests itself with cringy acting, dead, dry, drab, in an awkward and laughable position, dialogue and just bad writing in general. This film is 'special' because it spreads it's ugly, yet loveable and very intelligent, self across the wide spectrum of review. With its acting and dialogue especially, it sits on the far end of God awful and unseeable, yet it grows on you with the minutes that pass, leaving you at the 40 min mark with a strange attachment to everyone. On top of that, the set design, logic and world building range from questionable, to sound, to awe-inspiring. And all at the same time. Also, because its a mystery it does a good job of seeming nonsensical but explains itself well (ish). And the exposition... I liked it. I like exposition when it's apart of a film's style. For dramas, no, don't do it. But for spectacle sci-fi, yeah, go ahead, as long as you have cool ideas. And like Inception, this film definitely does. But, beyond the surface, what really makes the film special for me is its huge commentary on humanity. Yes, it seems like it's shouting ideals at you, especially near the end (as a lot of pictures of this type love to do). But, when you break the film down, it's a lot deeper than is obvious. This film is a secretly shouting, sickly diamond.

What this film is about is, essentially, being a father. Specifically, it spends a lot of time dealing with the idea and concept of the father/daughter/boyfriend dynamic or relationship. This will be clear even to the slightly perceptive audience member that is almost deafened by that shouty end. This does degrade a film as cinema requires you tell a story with pictures, images. This is true, but the film is also speaking in metaphors. So, that's what we're going to explore as well. This is one of those films that 'social justice worriers', sites like BuzzFeed, and other... things I don't want to talk about, would misconstrue so spectacularly, it'd be funny. They (BuzzFeed) do this with films like 500 Days Of Summer, explaining that the character of Tom is 'kind of a dick'. Ugh... I know. Tom's not perfect and nobody pretends to be, and BuzzFeed feel like they're making a perceptive point on the film's stance--when they're really just blind to it. I don't care to check if there is, but if they made an article on Forbidden Planet, they'd say it was misogynistic, patriarchal, oppressive and... ugh. Whilst the film can be described, in parts, with these terms, that's its purpose. The film is a question concerning the male approach to women, that is really discussing something a lot deeper about humanity as a whole. If we look at the 'seduction' scenes with Altaira and the crew members being described and behaving in terms of childish idiots, both fearing and yearning the opposite sex with laughable conduct, we can make a perfect example of this film being so 'special'. The writing is awful, yes, but what the scenes depict is the weird and immature way humans act almost all the time.

The film was almost written and directed from the perspective of an all-knowing (or at least, better-knowing) alien. That's why its tone is of such pretension--that's why anything trying to comment or pull apart something else sounds so pretentious. It's simply a characteristic given by an audience member who thinks they in fact are smarter than both commentee and commenter--that they are the omniscient commenter. Pretty pretentious, no? That's not me having a go at you by the way. We all do it. Anyway, what this has to do with the 'seduction' scenes is the way we look at them and how maybe we should give them a break, even if we don't agree with them (BuzzFeed--I told you, we all think we're the omniscient commenter). If we give the scenes a break and pay attention to what they're telling us, we can see that the film looks down on a dogmatic approach to relationships. It doesn't think that there's a right way for a woman to dress or behave around men. This is shown by the father's detachment when three guys basically come into his home, pat him on the back and say, 'excuse us, while we try and gang bang your daughter'. The characters very clearly says this and the fathers reaction is completely unrealistic (in comparison to our prejudices). But, the father's the bad guy in the end, right? His cool façade is lie. This is why his subconscious creates the monster and tries to kill all of the men. The film is about a father standing in the doorway of his own home, having just opened the front door to the twerp that's going to take his 19 year old daughter out for the night, and just wanting to annihilate the slimy motherfucker. Anyone with a sister, or indeed, a daughter, will understand this. Women, daughters, hate this though. It's the repulsive (socially unacceptable) reflexive attempt of men trying to protect the women they love. And this is the crux of the film.

This film about about tolerance and self-destruction. There are three archetypes, or symbols, in the story. There's the singular father trying to protect his daughter and home planet. He is the superego. The film uses Freudian terms to explain human behaviour--because as ridiculous as they are in concept, and despite how unscientific they are, they kind of make sense. The superego is the mediating factor of the mind--basically the grown up. The daughter is the second archetype and the represents the last woman on Earth--a sorry position to say the least. She is the ego--self-centred but realistic. The men are clumped together (giving reason for their poor characterisation--not that there are many strong characters in the film). The men represent a crowd of horny frat bros. Horrible, I know. They are the id--the animalistic and entirely self-centred part of the mind. Now, these archetypes portray humans as a whole through the Freudian terminology. There's the rational, the realistic and the unrealistic. Basically, the film symbolises our contradictions concerning love, war, hate and peace, whilst citing our ability to mediate and try to control our polarising tenancies. That even harks back to the cluster of good, bad, perfect and horrific that this film is. You starting to see why I think it's so special?

Whilst the film sets up these ideas of opposites and mediation within the human mind, portraying a world where a father, daughter and an invading horde of men can coexist, it ultimately devolves. The film sets up these solid archetypes of id, ego and superegos, but lets them break down, with the father not being to cool and mature, to portray how imperfect people are. Like the alien civilisation before them, humans are more than capable manufacturing their own end. This is why since the 40s films like Godzilla, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Terminator have resonated so well with audiences. What these films are all about is the idea or concept of the atomic bomb. This is one of the biggest and most used symbols in all art forms from pre-war time until now. With the massive technological advances of the early 20th century culminating in quantum physics and the atomic bomb, came the realisation that humans are very capable of ending it all, and pretty quick. With that comes paranoia and a lot of questions. What it has best done is given rise to mentalities presented in Cold War times through films like The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers or even more recently Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is basically about not letting the commies take over your mind. Star Wars in general calls back to Nazis and totalitarianism--as is very, very, obvious, just look at the uniforms and the huge red Nazi flag that Domhnall Glesson gives a speech straight from The Triumph Of The Will right in front of in the new Star Wars. Heck, I know I keep coming back to it, but look at Batman V Superman. It embodies the very American paranoia that has been ingrained in society from 9/11. I don't need to go too deep into how war and conflict shapes cinema, I think that's pretty obvious when you look for it. But he point it, this film is so nearly among this type of art. However, it takes a step further...

Whilst the film is about change, about forgetting dogmatism and totalitarian-esque power, it also portrays that these are inherent to humanity and self-destruction is the only solution for those who want complete change. The only way Dr. Morbius--by the way, what does his name sound like? Morpheus. But that's not another pathway for me talk about The Matrix yet again. Morbius is nearly Morpheus because the character so nearly changes (morphs). This is why Dr. Morbius can only let his daughter go and accept Commander Adams as a 'son' (one of his last few words) by committing suicide and blowing up the planet. True tolerance is only achievable by betraying who you are. Fathers would rather die than leave their daughter in the hands a rabble of frat bros on a confined ship for years on end. What? You think there's a happy ending? Wrong! People are going to die, rape and enslave on that ship. Shit is going to hit the fan, big time. No one's going home. Best situation is a Jabba The Hutt/Slave Leia thing on a ship flying a skull and crossbones stitched from the charred and beaten skin of what were once crew members. How could this come to be? Over the father's dead body. Here is the film in its essence. The film doesn't pretend that people can change, only the ideas that they represent be wiped out along with themselves (look at how ISIS is being dealt with). The only way preserve the human race is to take away all its toys and sit it down in a nice comfortable--very secure--play pen. No toys of mass destruction. No omniscience. No omnipotence. It's not going to do anyone any good.

So, here is the profound and impossible situation the film gives us. It asks us what would we do if we were in Morbius' shoes? Would you want to let go of your daughter, the secrets of mass destruction? Could you change your ideals set so deep within you? Could you suppress your monster? Hard questions, right? If not, then you don't know what they're asking and don't know how to deal with a hypothetical beyond feeding yourself lies. These are questions you shouldn't be able to answer, merely hope you don't ever have to face in real life. Maybe they make the Dad standing before that slimy motherfucker you want to go out with a little more understandable? Maybe it makes the leaders of countries a little more human? Humans create atomic bombs, we get lost in paranoia, we have ideals of peace, but we do not change much (never entirely) because we're not that simple. Let any one solution come to full effect (even though no one like totalitarianism) and you've ended the human race, or your own life at least - as the film shows. Things hang in the balance because that's how things seem to work. There's the id, ego and superego so humans can balance themselves. We fight, have perspective, love, hate, want peace, because humanity is simply a projection of the individual human. We are made of contradictions because a solution to a problem as complex of self-sustaining life cannot be elegant and cannot simple. In other words, the film is against change. It only wants to show you the atom bomb, then destroy it, only to show its still there and that it ain't going anywhere. That's why Robbie, the robot, and Dr. Morbius' daughter zip away in the end with the crew. Stupid is a runaway train. No one's ever going to catch it and it's setting down its own tracks so it can go where ever it needs.

All in all, this film is about navigating worlds, paths, that we as humans maybe shouldn't tread. It's about naively exploring forbidden planets. In short, this film shows that tigers cannot be tamed, yet people will always believe they can be. Curiosity, however, is what kills the cat, no matter how big. Who, what, is the cat? We are the cat, we are the innocent, we are humans. Id, ego, superego, however you want to say it, we are all three, made up of numerous facets, never just one or two. Try and cut one lose and you're only cutting into your own flesh. In the end though, the whole point is null. There's no changing who we are as a race, no changing the path we tread, Earth is the Forbidden Planet and we're lucky we're still here.

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