Le Voyage Dans La Lune
(A Trip To The Moon) (1902)
Voyage dans la Lune, Le/A Trip to the Moon (1902), the screen's first science fiction story was a 14 minute masterpiece, created by imaginative French director Georges Méliès in his version of the Jules Verne story. [Mélièswrote the script, acted in the film, designed the sets and costumes, directed, photographed, and produced the film!} He was making up and inventing the film medium as he directed. The sets or scenery backdrops in the film are simple, painted flats. It has all the elements that characterize the science-fiction genre: adventurous scientists, a futuristic space voyage, special effects and strange aliens in a far-off place.
The primitive, nostalgia-inducing film, composed of approximately thirty scenes (or skits) opens in a meeting/congress of a French astronomical society. The astronomers are given their telescopes by six female assistants. An academic professor, the president of the society, enters and takes his chair, and explains to the members of his plan for a trip to the moon. On a blackboard behind him, he illustrates how a rocket will be fired from Earth toward the lunar surface.
His scheme is approved by many, but one member violently objects. When order is finally restored, the trip proposed by the president is voted upon. Five learned men/explorers make up their minds to go with him. The female assistants bring traveling suits for them to wear.
The five men who accompany the president arrive at the interior of a workshop where smiths, mechanics and inventors construct the projectile rocket ship for the mission. The astronomers are told that if they ascend to the roof where the foundry will cast the space-gun, they will witness "a splendid spectacle" - the casting of the cannon. They climb onto the roof, where against the horizon they see chimneys belching smoke. Suddenly, a flag is hoisted, and at the signal, the mass of molten steel is directed from the furnace into the mold for the cannon. The molding process produces flames and vapors, causing the enthusiastic astronomers to rejoice.
On the tops of the roofs in the town, pompous preparations have been made. At the launch site, the rocket shell is in position, ready to receive the travelers. The travelers respond and reply to the acclamations of the crowd and then enter the shell. A scantily-clad female assistant closes the door behind them. Many more female assistants push the shell up an incline into the mouth of the cannon. Everyone anxiously awaits the signal to start the shell on its voyage. An officer gives the signal and the rocket shell is fired out of a monstrous iron cannon into space.
The moon approaches and, like in a fairy tale, it turns out to be a huge smiling face. The rocket ship shell moves closer and closer to the moon, and then crashes into the face, smack into the right eye of the Man in the Moon. Extremely unreal but very memorable. After "landing," the scientists' team steps onto the desolate lunar surface, delighted by the landscape which is new to them. Against the horizon, they look back and see the Earth which is slowly rising into space. A violent explosion (volcanic?) sends them in all directions. To rest their fatigued bodies, they stretch themselves out on the ground under blankets.
(In their dreams?), seven gigantic stars appear slowly. Out of the center of each of the stars comes faces of beautiful women who seem annoyed by the presence of the intruders. The astronomers see passing comets and meteors. Then, the stars are replaced by a lovely vision of Phebus on a crescent moon, of Saturn in his globe surrounded by a ring, and of two charming young girls holding up a star. They punish the terrestrials by causing it to snow, covering the ground with a blanket of snow. The unfortunate voyagers wake up half-frozen in the cold. They decide without hesitation, and in spite of the danger, to descend into the interior of a great moon crater.
In the lunar underground kingdom, the scientists arrive at a grotto filled with enormous mushrooms of every kind. One of them opens his umbrella to compare its size to the mushroom, but the umbrella suddenly takes root and transforms itself into a gigantic mushroom. Strange beings, moon inhabitants (Selenites), emerge from under the mushrooms. One of the fantastic beings rushes at one of the astronomers, who defends himself with his umbrella. With a jab of the umbrella, the creature bursts into a thousand pieces in a puff of smoke. A second creature suffers the same fate.
But the astronomers are captured when overwhelmed by large numbers of moon people. They are bound and taken to the palace of the king of the moon people. On his planet's throne, the king is surrounded by living stars. One of the astronomers makes a dash at the king, picks him up, and violently dashes him to the ground, causing him to burst like a bombshell. Although pursued, they manage to escape back to the rocket ship shell.
All the astronomers enter the rocket except for the president, who is left outside the shell. To propel it back to Earth, he climbs down a rope which hangs from the front of the shell. His weight gives the rocket enough impetus to cause it to fall off the edge of the moon. Hanging on the projectile, he accompanies it on the trip "down" to Earth as it drops into space. The brief journey is a vertical tumble through space, landing them in the Atlantic Ocean. The shell continues down to the bottom of the ocean, balances and rights itself, and then slowly rises to the surface due to the hermetically-sealed air in its interior. The shell is picked up by a steamer and is towed to a French port, where the scientists are greeted by a general ovation for their happy return.