Bedford is an unsuccessful businessman on the run from his creditors who hides out in a remote farmhouse. He encounters Cavor, an eccentric scientist who has invented a material that blocks the effects of gravity. Bedford sees a way of getting rich. Cavor sees a way of going to the moon. The scientist gets his way first and they travel to the moon in a sphere only to find that it does have an atmosphere and there are creatures that live below the surface called Selenites.
HG Wells classic tale scientific acheivement, peace being undone by man's innate violence and the futility of greed is reworked here by Mark Gatis who gave us the Christmas ghost tale CROOKED HOUSE. Sticking with the period setting of the Wells' story (with the exception of the bookending device of a small boy being told the tale by an old man at a carnival) Gatiss appears to eschew what we know of the moon (ie no air), but has a neat little trick up his sleeve to pull out at the end to redeem all that.
The two questions that anyone needs to ask when redoing a work that has been done before is 'what can I do better?' and 'what can I do different?'. Wells' novel was originally filmed in 1964 with Lionel Jeffries (to whom this version is dedicated) and Edward Judd and inimitable charms of stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. It's a fondly remembered film thanks to the cast and the effects, so what can this version improve on and what can it do differently? The answer is simply that it can remove the female character added in the film and that is about all. Which begs the question, why bother?
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this version of THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON. It is a joyous romp with a great character is Cavor and a less charming version of Bedford. There is a lot of humour and the plot zooms along with all the energy of a sphere coated with cavorite. It all just seems a little, well, redundant. Unless, of course, you haven't seen the original. Even the effects of the selenites are so reminiscent of the Harryhausen ones that you have to wonder if the production staff are paying tribute or just don't have any new ideas. The 'walking on the moon' effects are also pretty poor.
One dream sequence, which plays homage to the films of Georges Melies, is completely pointless in terms of plot and is simply there to shout 'look, we know our Melies' and whilst Gatiss' facial hair is absolutely convincing and fits the period beautifully, Rory Kinnear gets saddled with as straggly growth at one point that is so distracting in its apparent falseness that it ruins the illusion.
If this is your introduction to HG Wells' novel then you're in for a good time, but if you've seen the Harryhausen film then you'll probably spend your time thinking that this doesn't quite stand up to the comparison.Top
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